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  • Writer's pictureSofias Country Gardens

Making a secret garden

Just above the house at Humlegård there is a wide crevice in the hillside, and seeing it was placed so perfectly with views over the water and a beautiful backdrop of bare rock I decided it would be the prefect place for a small secret garden.

Before we started, it was filled with bracken, nettles and rocks, so I called in the heavy duty machines to help. After digging out the top layer, a thick layer of good garden topsoil was added and spread out as can be seen from the picture left. To the one side (behind the digger in the picture) large boulders were placed to keep the soil from eroding into the slope beside it, as there the hill merged with the surrounding gras, while on all other sides the stone hill makes for natural boarders.

The crevice is formed on two levels, so we added old stones from a stone base of a house to make steps between the levels. It is part of the same stone base that was used in making the wall around the terrace of the house, and for the terrace of the sauna as well. I like to use the same material where possible in different parts of my garden, as I find that it is more restful for the eye when there is uniform use of material.

I find that the best time for new projects is in early spring, after the deep frost has has thawed but before things have really started to grow, while the ground is quite bare. In Finland we have a much more extreme climate than in central Europe; winters can see -20 C and summers +25 C. Spring comes rapidly and you can almost hear it saying "whoosh" when everything goes from a million shades of grey and brown to bright green within a matter of weeks. Once the danger of night frosts is over, planting needs to be done immediately to benefit from our relatively short summer.

On the upper level I planted strawberries to one side, and mint to the other. Both tend to spread so it is perfect to have them in a place where it doesn't matter if they do.

After the building work to the house was finished, we got left with a large slab of stone, which of course I reused to make a tiny patio for a table and chairs. I try to use all leftover material rather than through stuff away, and if I can't find any immediate use for it I usually store it in one of the outhouses on the farm. The patio is in a warm and sunny spot, with the stone hill behind it and a perfect view of the garden and the sea in front of it.

In one season the plants grew enormously, as can be seen from these pictures below:

I wanted to keep the colour palette in the lower part of the garden soft and harmonious, so I settled for planting many of my usual favourite perennials and bushes. Amongst these are perennials such as Catnip Nepeta x faassenii “Six Hills Giant", Trollius chinensis “Golden Queen”, Salad burnett Sanguisorba minor, pale pink Bistorta officialis and of course Alchemilla Mollis (which I love to bits as it is both a great insect flower and also a wonderful pale lime green colour). Of the the bushes Flowering currant Ribes sanguineum, Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diabolo' (which has dark red leaves) and also edible red currant bushes grown as currant standards.

The red currant standards were an impulse buy at the plant nursery; I saw them and just couldn't resist the temptation! And indeed, it was a pleasure in late summer to nibble on them in the afternoon sunshine with a glas of rose wine at hand.

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