Indoor Eden: The Secret Garden Room…

Where does the Secret Garden lead? The Garden Room, of course…

Brrrrrrr… There’s a chill in the air this morning! Low temps hovered around 34 degrees fahrenheit last night, and in spite of the bright sunshine, it sure feels like fall now. Jack Frost hasn’t yet made his inaugural, autumn visit to the garden, but I am already preparing for his arrival. Out in the potager, hoop-houses have been set in place to protect the tender crops from freezing nighttime temperatures (click here for tutorial). And in the ornamental gardens, potted tropicals and houseplants have begun their seasonal migration indoors.

Deep within the Secret Garden, behind the high stone walls and below the rusty steel balcony, there exists yet another hidden door. This dimly-lit Garden Room —a glorified walk-out basement, really— is my secret-within-a-secret. Though dark —and I suppose slightly mysterious— the Garden Room receives considerable filtered light through a wall of glass doors. Here the Streptocarpus, Begonia, Asparagus densiflorus, as well as other tropical and tender perennial plants will make a winter home…

A Wooden Giraffe Gazes Out the Garden Door

An Enormous Old Pot, Filled with an Asparagus Fern (wheeled in and out with a handcart each year)

What else can be found in my Secret Garden Room? Well, I supposed it’s becoming something of a repository for treasured old pots and urns, hand tools and various curios and natural collections: birds nests, bones, feathers and skins, books, and winter gardening projects. In summer, this spot is a cool oasis for reading and visiting on humid days. In autumn and winter, the Garden Room becomes a place for indoor garden projects, study, quiet reflection and intimate conversation. Someday, I hope to build a conservatory for overwintering plants. But this special, secret space —secluded from the rest of my home— will always be a favorite garden retreat…

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall – Reflective Windows Add Light to the Dimly Lit Garden  Room…

Collected, Natural Curios Line Shelves and Fill Glass Jars in the Garden Room

Tools, pots, plants and curious fill the shadowy Garden Room. Candles add Warmth at Twilight, and on Dark, Rainy Days…

I finished the Garden Room walls by hand, with layer upon layer of plaster; in naturally occurring colors, ranging from buff to terra-cotta.

Looking Through the Garden Room Doors, into the Secret Garden Surrounded by Stonewalls and A Vine-Clad, Steel Balcony

Rusty Old Chairs and Candle Sticks will Remain Outdoors, Well Past the Frost

A Potted Agapanthus Settles into Her Winter Retreat

An Enormous Pot Filled With Asparagus Fern (moved back and forth annually from one side of the glass door to the other). The Old Settee was Found in a Church Tag Sale.

My Indoor Gardening Projects Include Terrarium-Making and Potting Bulbs for Winter Forcing – See More Ideas and Resources on the Indoor Eden Page Here. This Lovely Wardian Case was a Gift from H. Potter.

The View of the Secret Garden from the Hidden Glass Doors

The High, Moss-Covered Stone Walls Surrounding the Secret Garden at Ferncliff  Were Built by Vermont Artist Dan Snow.

A Peek Outside the Secret Garden Door in October…


Article and photographs â“’ Michaela at TGE

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10 Replies to “Indoor Eden: The Secret Garden Room…”

  1. Carrie

    Hi, Can you tell me how to winter over my Mandavilla? I live in Massachusetts. I dont want to lose this beautiful plant.
    Thank you

  2. Michaela

    Hello Carrie, Thank you for posting this great question. This is what I would do: Mandavilla, like most tropicals, should be overwintered indoors. A greenhouse is of course ideal, but most of us don’t have one! Tropical plants can be grown indoors in bright and sunny place. It is important to slowly reduce watering as they days grow darker. The plant will begin to go into dormancy. As this occurs, keep the soil on the dry-side. Although it may look like it is dying (leaves may drop) this is a natural process for the plant… a period of rest. You can also cut the plant back to under one foot, and store it in a cool, dark spot in the cellar (50 degrees or so). Leave it there to sleep, water only very lightly and do not fertilize. Bring the plant upstairs as the daylight returns and give it water and fertilizer. Place it back outside after last frost when the temps are back up in the 60’s.
    You are welcome. More may come from John Miller a bit later….

  3. Lynda S

    As I was reading through your article I kept thinking, “How did she get that effect on her walls?” I was going to ask and then you told! Guess you knew some of us would want to know.

    So now I want to know more. Like where does one find plasters in natural colors? Or did you add pigments?

    Also, I am glad to see that I am not the only one who, to quote a good friend, “…collects creepy dead things.” I love how you took two incongruous objects, a covered glass apothecary and a shed snake’s skin, and used the one to display the other.

    As always, you inspire me to do lovely things here on the Farmlet!


  4. John Miller

    Speaking as someone who has regularly killed plants by overpruning at this time of year I would encourage caution when trying to make plants fit available space in your home. The general rule is to cut plants back by no more than a third as this mitigates the stress on the plant caused by removing what is the actively growing part of the plant.
    I cannot emphasise too much how vital it is to really cut down on watering. Even in our greenhouse, where we have actively growing plants all through the winter, Diane and I will allow almost all plants to wilt before we water. With our succulents if the soil has not contracted away from the sides of the pot we will not even think of watering. Again, that will include succulents such as Kalanchoes which are in their active growth phase and flower in the winter. With a pruned Mandevilla I would apply the same standard as drowned roots will kill your plant.
    As Michaela comments once you see active growth (little green shoots), slowly start to increase the water and add some very dilute fertiliser, and bring the plant into a well lit window. Even doing that the plant may etiolate and I would prune it fairly hard a month before it can be put outside again. You may find that painful but you will produce a more robust and attractive plant!

  5. Michaela

    Hi Lynda, Sorry for the delayed response! Earthen plasters are available from small companies in natural colors, and those natural colors vary by area. I did both. Some of the plaster is natural and some has been tinted with natural minerals. You can also “wash” natural plaster (particularly the light grey and off-white tones) with earth pigment to get red-tones (iron in stone makes red), or other natural materials to get different colors (like yellow, browns, green and some even some blue washes). It all depends on the look you want. I am a painter, and I am comfortable mixing paints. If you are not, there are many guide books with recipes.
    And yes, I am a bit Gothic. I can’t help it. Nature is lovely… Even {especially?} her dark side.
    Thanks for your lovely comments, Lynda
    xo Michaela

  6. Laurie Fraser

    Michaela, I happily came across your website a couple of weeks ago and felt as though I had met a kindred spirit…gardening, cooking, art….are all part of my soul and your website is full of inspiration. In a few weeks my husband and I are having a ‘patio door’ installed in a north facing bedroom wall that leads out into the backyard…right now it is nothing but an enclosed area of privacy fence with nothing but bare soil and potential…the gardener’s tabula rasa! The courtyard garden is living in my mind and will draw inspiration from 50 years of gardening…to include your beautiful spaces…happy Spring…happy gardening! We live in a 100 year old farmhouse in a little town in Kansas that has seen much drought the last few years but hope springs eternal in a gardener’s life!

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