In Praise of Secret Gardens
It’s no secret – I like secret gardens – those little hideaways tucked into nooks and crannies – or surprisingly, sometimes even right out in the open. They are like little sanctuaries within larger sanctuaries – even within larger sanctuaries, depending on your view of life – and if your garden is starting to feel like a slave labor camp, then all the more reason to have a place where you can take a break, and in the process, maybe even find the unexpected. They are little get-away places to relax, read, escape, dream, create…transport yourself to another world…hunker down and drink wine and eat chocolate…. Seriously, whatever you want to do – no one is going to judge you here.
Eventually, I will have little secret gardens scattered here and there throughout the larger landscape of what I am trying to build, which is something akin to an ecogarden / food forest / ecological sanctuary.
Birth of the Willow Room
And so started the idea of the willow room, which I thought might be a rather large focal point in the scheme of things–a place for the grandchildren (and me!) to hide out and eat berries and other treats, which are always more fun to eat when you are in a secret place where no one can see you. It would have tunnels from four directions for entrances and open up into a cathedral in the middle.
In the beginning (early spring 2011), it was nothing remotely close to the vision: some ugly cardboard over a lot of weeds; some stakes; some twigs that looked nothing like willow or much of anything really. I should have taken a picture, but there wasn’t much to see. I covered it up with mulch and walked away.
By summer, it was taking on a bushier form, but still not large enough to shape into arches. Still, it showed undefined promise.
By last winter, it was barren twigs again; more this time; still nothing all that remarkable.
This spring, however, was a different story. The willows thirstily drank all that rain and thrived. New growth burst forth on the edge of alarming! Uh oh! What have I done?? I stood back in awe. The spindly tall stems swayed gracefully in the breezes. This thing was alive!
This summer, I made an attempt to tame the wild growth, but most of the leaves were in the way, and it was a bit difficult to determine which way to point the massive branches, which often seemed to take a direction of their own. I was clearly not in control.
Even so, I could see the early stages of the fantasy taking shape. The grandkids and I chased each other in and out and played hide and seek. I often found the dog snoozing in the center, taking advantage of the afternoon shade. The middle of the willows was indeed transforming into a room, lit with the lime-green of the sun filtering through the leaves.
This fall, we have been so fortunate to have so many warm days, allowing us to ease into winter. The Willow Room has truly come into its own. The hues of gold are spectacular in the autumn light. The transformation has been nothing short of magical.
This winter, when the leaves are all fallen, I will take time to better shape the arches and prune back side branches that can be used for basketry and other crafts. It will be fun to see what next year brings.
For now, though, while the weather permits, the secret garden of the Willow Room has a bigger purpose: it is a place to dance!
The Willow Room Dance (a poem)