The Secret Garden and my discovery

It is often when I am out walking, or more lately commuting on the train, that ideas for the blog post come to me.  Then, I mentally start to write what I am going to put down  in words when I get home.  Today when thinking about the recent book I have downloaded on to my Kindle, it sparked off an idea.   I have, however,  had trouble sorting out how I was going approach this and even now, as I type, I am not sure in what order it should go, so bear with me and I will try to make this seamless.

I am going to start with my choice for a new book to read on my Kindle.  I have read more books in the last month than I have done since Christmas, and there is a temptation to spend a lot of money downloading this and that from Amazon , thinking they will be good to have.   Not wanting to fall into that trap and in an attempt to save money, I looked at the Classic Reads which are FREE!!!

After a lot of browsing, I decided to look at books that I had read before and came across The Secret Garden.  I loved this book when I was a child and when it was televised on the BBC in 1960, the black and white images of Mary, Dickon and the robin are indelibly stuck in my mind.   There have been other adaptations of The Secret Garden, 1975, 1987 and 1993 but it is still the black and white version  I always remember.

I love the idea of secret gardens, and always think of Mary and Dickon and their secret garden when going through doors in garden walls not knowing what I am going to find.   It is the suggestion of something hidden from sight until you enter.  If there is not a door in a wall, the next best thing is a small entrance that opens into another garden the other side.

Examples gardens that have this effect on me are:

The photo above is Borde Hill Garden near Hayward Heath.   The entrance takes you into a beautiful rose garden, hedged with lavender.

The Weir, a National Trust Garden near Hereford.   The door in their walled garden takes you into a kitchen garden.

Below is Highdown Garden near Worthing.  The steps take you into a rose garden.  There is also a wisteria covered arbour leading you into yet another part of the garden.

Like going through a secret entrance, it is fascinating what you can discover when you first start to investigate the history of someone famous.   I Googled “Frances Hodgson Burnett”   and found that she was born in Manchester in 1849 and she lived in America and France before finally becoming an American citizen in 1907.    Although mainly a writer of children’s stories,  The Secret Garden was  initially serialised in a publication aimed for adults and was published as a novel in 1911.

The idea of  The Secret Garden came from a time when Frances was living at Great Maytham Hall in Kent, where she restored an overgrown garden  found behind an old door in a wall.   Sir Edward Lutyens redesigned the Hall and the garden, which was planted up by Gertrude Jekyll.

In the late 60’s the house was converted into luxury apartments by a charity dedicated to saving and preserving historic stately homes.  It was the residents of those apartments who set about restoring the gardens.  The property is now owned by Sunley Heritgage and the gardens at Great Maytham Hall near Tenterden are open through the National Garden Scheme.  This year they are open on 20th and 21st of June – what a great discovery!

I said at the beginning of this post that I wasn’t sure where it was going to take me.  I had in mind that I was going to comment on the old fashioned vernacular used and how simple and descriptive the writing is, but clearly have gone off at a tangent.

I have only just started to read the book, and have reached the part where Mary has spent her first night at Misselthwaite Hall and  woken up to find Martha clearing out the grate in her room.   Now I know that there was a real garden in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s mind when she wrote this story, I will read it with all the more interest.   Also I have marked the 20th and 21st June on my calendar and will make every endeavour to visit Great Maytham Hall on one of those days.

Funny the route ideas can take you when you follow them through and hopefully I will have the necessary ingredients for a post, and photos, to write about The Secret Garden at the end of June.


  1. The title of my blog is a FHB quote. I loved the 1960 version on BBC. The shadows on the walls of long corridors. The mysterious cry in the night. I was hooked. I like gardens with a touch of mystery too. I often pick so called children’s literature over adult fiction, they almost always have strong plots. Enjoy every minute of the Secret Garden.


    • “As long as you have a garden you have a future and as long as you have a future you are alive.”
      -Frances Hodgson Burnett … what a fabulous quote on your blog and how very true 🙂


  2. I look forward to pictures and story.

    I’ve had to stop writing posts in my head. When it comes time to type them, I think, “Oh, I already wrote about that!”

    I spend a lot of time creating little entrances into and out of parts of my garden. The dog enjoys what she considers shortcuts made especially for her. .


  3. Would absolutely love to see that garden…this is one of my favorite books and movies from the 1940s…black and white until they open the door in the wall and then a garden of dreams in color is presented…I look forward to your June post!


    • I have booked the 20 June off from work and run rain or shine I will be there even it if means wrapping my camera in a plastic bag to protect it from the rain…”think positive, Ronnie” 🙂


  4. I read your post! See, how that book effects us all these years later? Have you ever seen the musical version. I found out that both my sister’s loved this book too? I never knew it before I wrote this post.


  5. longing to see your pictures of the real Secret Garden, and fascinated that there was an actual growing garden behind the story. The more I think about it, the more obvious it seems that we love that book because it is written by a gardener!

    (commuting inspires good posts, I often ‘write’ while he drives us to Cape Town)


    • It was a great find and not too far from me – a definate must to visit. I may have to find out how to use the voice recorder on my mobile phone, often I get home and can’t always remember what I was going to write so only have the bones of an idea and usually have to start from scratch to fill it out – such is getting older!!


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