The Willow Room Dance

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

Willow Room, first winterWillow Room - spring

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.

Willow Room - beginning arch

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!

Willow Room - summer growth

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)

4 thoughts on “The Willow Room Dance”

  1. Blythe: really nice everyone needs a hideaway to collect their thoughts. going through Gurneys cat. they have willow trees that grow rapidly and in a year or two one can have a hideaway. I have several but in the firs and one under a large Elderberry tree where I can watch my Bees. I sit, listen, watch and think my thoughts. It’s amazing how much more wildlife you can see and hear when you blend in with them.

    • I’d be glad to share some cuttings with you, Walt! but mine are basketry willows & willows for “structures” – not the weeping type. We also have that big corkscrew willow that is just so beautiful in every season – (I just wish I had planted it a little further away from the barn – I had no idea it would get so huge!) The wildlife corridor I planted still needs a couple of years to provide a better hiding spot. I like what you say – how much more you can see & hear when you blend in – yes! My feelings exactly!

  2. Blythe, thank you for sharing your Willow Room Dance. Honestly, you seem a true Spirit of Nature, rejoicing in the golden light of Autumn. I’m sure your benevolence and joy spreads to everything around you. No wonder you grow such incredible garlic!

    • Ah, such kind words! Thank you, Irene! I am always humbled by the beauty and intricacy of the world around us – such a neverending source of inspiration, is it not?! So fun to encourage things to grow that start so small and then end up amazing us! We are so very fortunate!


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