In the Garden

A Secret Southern Garden

A jewel box garden in Raleigh, North Carolina

Patricia Lyons

The slate-roofed dovecote in a secret garden dreamed up by Greyson and Garland Tucker at their home in Raleigh.

Greyson and Garland Tucker had plenty of room in their 1⅓-acre backyard garden in Raleigh for their daughter’s wedding. There were tents, tables, a grand expanse of parquet flooring for dancing. And when it came time to cut the cake, guests followed a shady flagstone walkway bordered by elaeagnus and osmanthus to a hidden garden. There they found a tucked-away square of green lawn surrounded by scores of flowering plants. And one bodacious wedding cake.

Inspired by gardens they’d visited in England, the Tuckers began toying with the idea of a concealed garden in the 1980s. “No one we knew had done it,” Greyson says. “We went through books and photos and had such a fun time drawing it on paper.” When they heard about the planned demolition of a nearby furniture warehouse, they asked about buying its old hand-fired brick. “The next thing we knew, we had all these bricks just dumped in our front yard.”

They had the four garden walls built with a corner dovecote, which they use as a garden shed rather than a nesting spot for birds. Then Greyson brought in six hundred kinds of plants. “I had lupine, delphinium, hollyhocks, you name it.” Now she has fewer plants, but enough variety so the garden blooms all the way from mid-May to first frost. With such an explosion of plant life inside this hidden space, it brings to mind the classic tale by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Had Greyson read it as a child? “Of course,” she exclaims. “Every girl wants a secret garden.”