CSLJ Book Club Discussion of The Secret Garden – Day 3

CSLJ Book Club Discussion of The Secret Garden – Day 3

The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in no one knew where she was.

Hello again and welcome to Day 3 of our Secret Garden discussion! Today’s questions are:

  • Did you ever have a place that you loved as much as Mary loved the Secret Garden? What made it so special?
  • If you had a Secret Garden of your own, what would it look like? What would you plant in it? Do you agree with Mary and Dickon that a “lovely wild place” is better than a “gardener’s garden?”
  • Do you think that the Secret Garden was able to retain its Magic once it was no longer secret?

Join in the conversation by leaving a comment here or head over to Facebook and chat with us there!

Missed a day? It’s not too late to share your thoughts on our earlier posts. You can see them here.

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10 Responses to CSLJ Book Club Discussion of The Secret Garden – Day 3

  1. I had “secret garden” before it was an area in my grandmother’s field behind her house that my brother and I would go play at. We always made up these huge adventures like we were on the frontier. What made it special was that it was a place for just us and we got to spend time together. No one else would have thought it was special but to me it was our own Wild West. If k got to have my own gardens to grow items in it would probably look like a little bit of a modge podge of all my favorite flowers. It would have lots of garden sculptures, willow trees, apple trees, peach trees, honey suckle, roses, hydrangeas, Chinese lanterns and so much more. Id like to think the garden kept its magic forever as it was passed down in stories

    • I used to play Little House on the Prairie when I was a kid and would have loved to join in all the fun in your personal Wild West!

  2. I have several spots that really speak to me. They aren’t exclusively mine and not particularly secret but they never fail to ease my heart and gladden my spirit. I am really partial to hidden little nooks and spots off the beaten path but sometimes, even in a space full of people, the light hits me in this sort of soft, glowing way and it just makes me melt.

    When I was a kid, my family used to have a yearly reunion in upstate NY. We all stayed a farmhouse, camping out on the big rolling lawn. Next to the house there was a little stream that had worn down into rocky little valley. The stream itself was wonderful for exploring but if you crossed over the little bridge that crossed the stream, you came to this grove of trees with a wooden swing hanging from one of the trees. There was a firepit and a BBQ and tables for the whole family to eat but I loved getting up before everyone else and playing in the stream and in the grove when grass was still wet and cold with dew and the light streamed green and gold through the leaves of the tree. I haven’t been back in years but there was something about that spot that always stayed with me. It was kind of like Terabithia to me growing up – only without the crying at the end.

    The only other spot that I ever found that felt the same was the Maryland Renaissance Faire. It’s gorgeous fair that takes place in this gorgeous, gorgeous wood. The buildings are there year-round and the whole place looks like something out of an old-fashioned English folktale. Rob and I like to go in the fall when its just chilly enough to enjoy walking around. The trees are all so tall that the lights make the leaves glow all golden and scarlet. It like something out of a Midsummer’s Night Dream and if I could, I would live there and never leave.

    There’s a willow tree in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. It’s huge and beautiful and very easy to admire from a distance but when my husband and I got up close and were pushing back the long swaying branches so we could step under the umbrella of the tree, we discovered this tiny little brook that we had totally overlooked until we got up close. Just beyond the Willow Tree, there was this little wooden bridge that crossed the brook and led into a grassy little spot that was just perfect for sitting and talking and relaxing on.

    Lastly, I have my favorite Arboretum, Old Westbury Gardens. It’s one of the old Gold Coast mansions – think East Egg from Gatsby and you would have the general idea but what I love about it is that there is this little thatched roof cottage with a picket fence and an old-fashioned English Garden. It was built as a playhouse for the daughter of the family who owned the estate but it had a working kitchen and everything. You can see a picture of it here.

    It is really one of the most charming places I have ever seen and I can spend all day there but if you can tear yourself away, you can slip out the back, walk down a path with a wooden arbor and climbing roses overhead, through a rose garden and then into a lovely walled garden that reminds me of a more formal version of the Secret Garden.

    But truth be told, I sometimes don’t even make it that far because sometimes I get distracted by the “Ghost Walk” that is just around the corner from the walled garden. It is a mossy path flanked by two lines of tall, tall trees that leads to a lovely little spot that is all cool and quiet and tucked out of sight. I cannot tell you how calm and peaceful it is under those trees and it is so easy to believe that you have wandered back in time and are the only people on a brand new earth.

  3. I love old-fashioned, sweet little gardens with lots of nooks and corners that you can sit and read in, with low stone walls covered in moss and ferns and creeping flowers and picket fences and trellises with ivy and climbing roses draped all over them.

    I’d have birdhouses and fairy doors tucked into corners and big, deep wind-chimes, and strings of tiny chiming bells that would ring whenever the wind blew and little fountains where water burbles and bubbles and flows.

    I’d have creeping ground cover flowers that would take over entire sections of the garden and soft mossy spots where you could run around barefoot on. Lot’s of shade and little abors and nooks to curl up in. I think I am part dryad so lots and lots of trees are a MUST, especially a willow tree and a grove of silver birches, and any kind of flowering tree I can get. And I would have to have a wooden swing (or two) hanging from one of these trees!

    Lily of the Valley, Lilacs, Lavender, Daisies, Cosmos. I have to have Forsythia. I know a lot of people think of crocuses and daffy-down-dillies when they think of spring but for me the herald of spring has always been a bright yellow wall of Forsythia and I cannot think of a garden without it. In the late summer, I’d have to have lavender and sunflowers, and tiger lilies. Nothing says August to me like rows of bold orange Tiger Lilies.

    I’d love a spot where I could have a little fireplace or firepit and sit out after dark with fairy lights and lanterns and tealight candles set out in mismatched teacups and listen to music and watch the fireflies and the stars come out.

    And I would need a pretty little table where I could curl up with a book and a cup of tea and enjoy an afternoon in my garden.


  4. Personally, I think the garden would change – a little – once the secret was out. Mary and Colin had so much fun keeping the secret and outwitting the grown ups and that would be gone.

    But even though they were both much improved in their manners and attitudes, they could turn imperious when the situation called for it and they would have defended their garden from anything that would have chased off the magic of it.

    Since it had a door and was a specific space, I am sure that access to the garden was very much by invitation and it didn’t get overrun by people who didn’t understand the magic.

    Also, I am sure that no gardener other than Mary, Colin, Dickon and Ben were ever allowed to tend that garden and turn it into a proper gardener’s garden.

  5. I have had favorite/treasured garden or forest nooks. I wonder, though, if it has to be a garden. Maybe for Mary, Dickon and Colin, but if you grow up in a city, is your secret spot in the park or can it be a cafe table or museum bench? I guess I don’t think wild garden is necessarily better than a gardener’s garden. I have been to some charming, sculpted, proper gardens that were still magical.

    • It doesn’t have to be a garden at all Kirsten just a spot that speaks to you and I can definitely see all the kinds of spots you mention being magical. For the longest time, the music room at my school was the place where I felt the most at home so I can definitely understand enjoying the Magic where ever you can find it!

      But since you mentioned it, do you have a favorite “proper” garden that you like to visit?

  6. While it’s not as exotic as a secret garden, the place I loved to go to be alone as a kid was a tent on my bed. I am not sure how I got it, maybe it came in a bag of used clothes. It was a fitted sheet with a snoopy cartoon tent attached. You see, I lived in a house with 3 sisters and 1 brother. I shared a room with one of my sisters and I had the top bunk. Our room didn’t have any outlet so there was no TV. or radio. I would crawl up in my tent, zip it closed and read. I could spend all day in there  My mom always encouraged us to read and I think not having any electronics helped! I loved closing myself up in there and getting lost in a book.
    If I had a secret garden it would be a “lovely wild place”. I would have several lounging spots for naps, oh how I love a good nap. Purple lilacs, morning glories, hibiscus, all kinds of climbing flowers and ones that attract butterflies.
    I think the secret garden was able to maintain some of the magic once the secret was out. Of course all things change but since the garden does have a wall around it and like someone else said, access to the garden would likely be by invitation only.

    • I had to smile when I read your comments Robin because I had something very similar when I was a kid. I have 3 sisters and at one point, I was sharing a room with two of them. They were much younger than me and this got a little crazy at times. But I had the bottom bunk in a bunk bed. It was against the wall in a corner and my mom tacked up curtains that closed off the outer edges so it closed off into a little tent. I could decorate my space by hanging things on the walls and it was almost like having my own room – albeit one with very thin walls. I used to bring a light and my books into my bunk and just close out the world around me.

      I have very fond memories of that bunk bed space but I never connected it to the Secret Garden with its protective walls until I read your comment. I guess it’s true that you can find Magic almost anywhere you look!

  7. When I was little, we had a willow tree. I used to play under it for hours, pretending that each branched archway led to another room or another place. It must have looked odd – a little girl behaving differently every few steps – but it was magical to me.

    Old Westbury Gardens! It’s where I first saw an image I’d only seen in cartoons come to life: a frog on a lily pad, croaking away. My favorite garden in that complex is the Grey Garden, filled with grey-green plants, which you enter between two stone-grey lambs. I’d love a retreat like that. The walls around the formal English garden have nooks that are perfect to hide in; perfect places to just sit and open yourself to the beauty. When I read The Secret Garden, it’s Old Westbury I imagine, with its variety of gardens and paths and delights.

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