S E C R E T  G A R D E N S
Kathryn Mathewson Associates


Water-Wise Gardening

As recipients of both National Design and State Xeriscape Awards, Secret Gardens understands the value of aesthetic drought tolerant gardens. We use organic amendments and natural, slow release fertilizers to improve the structure, fertility and microorganism activity of the soil. Our environmental approach has been featured on "Good Morning America".
  • Our goal is to have one handful of healthy soil in each garden with more alive organisms than there are people in the world. This is a process which needs to be started for all gardens.
  • Healthy soil helps plants resist pests and diseases and also helps them tolerate stresses like drought, frost, and fire.
  • With healthy soil, plants more easily take up the minerals in the soil. The soil organisms aerate the soil, reduce weeds, reduce plant water needs by as much as 75 percent, create healthy plants, balance soil pH, fertilize plants, and reduce weeds. They become free garden workers.
  • With plan biodiversity soil retains more nitrogen and nutrients which develops more fertile soil. This creates healthier plants with less water needs.
  • Plants in healthy soil need at least fifty percent less water than in unhealthy soil.
  • Placing plants within similar ecological niches reduces maintenance and water needs.
  • Composting garden trimmings and kitchen waste creates healthier, better textured soil. We suggest plants which contribute to compost health and place uniquely designed composts into the garden so they can become part of the garden’s experience.
  • Collection of winter rain water is important. Water storage tanks or cisterns and grey water collecting are important ways to reduce water bills, ensure future garden water in drought years as population increases, and protect buildings from fire. The average home could collect 30,000 gallons per year from the roof.

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As gardens evolve, irrigation systems need to be modified to meet the plants' changing form, root structure and water requirements. Our expert irrigation services include:  

We design irrigation plans using both drip and spray systems. State of the art computerized irrigation timers create high, low, occasional, deep watering, and weaned off of water zones. Special attention is given for the need to deep water trees to develop deep tree roots thus creating more drought tolerant trees which are less likely to break up hardscape surfaces and less likely to compete with shallow rooted plants. Irrigation planning for pots is essential in order to have an abundance of plants in each pot.


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Creative Biodiverse Solutions

Companion Planting

Secret Gardens promotes natural pest controls by selecting a variety of plants that adhere to an ecological principle of biodiversity. Many of these plants repel pests, attract beneficial insects and are healthier in combination than they would be alone. Insectory plants such as yarrow and alssum provide food for beneficial insects. Natural controls and cultural practices are used to control pest and disease problems.


Consider reducing or replacing your lawn with an alpine, herb or native wildflower/grass meadow. These meadows require less water and maintenance than lawns, increase biodiversity, and provide food sources for beneficial insects and birds. Small spaces appear larger as meadow edges meander in and out of beds. As diversity increases, the garden grows as never imagined.

Berry Patches, Fruit Trees, Herb & Vegetable Gardens

Even with limited time and space fresh herbs, vegetables, berries and tree-ripened fruit can be grown for eating and preserving. We're a source for old and unusual fruit trees. Let us help you discover the joy, health and satisfaction that comes from growing your own edibles.

Natural Hedges

Plants can create a living screen which will hide or soften neighbor's windows and roof lines even within one foot of space. We specialize in natural hedges with the added benefit of fruits, flowers and nesting sites for birds and butterflies. Hedges also protects the garden from wind, frost, weeds and diseases.

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Unusual Plant Source

Secret Gardens is the source for unusual bulbs and plants adaptable to our unique soil and climate. We have bulbs which will bloom year after year and multiply in number and impact! Look to us for unusual specimen trees, shrubs, conifers and color combinations to complement interior decor, architecture, personal tastes or seasonal themes.  
The varieties of plants we select are not normally accessed by standardized design approaches. They can be used in unique decorations and flower arrangements, to create special meals or to remedy home and garden problems.  

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Container Gardens

Even small spaces can be comfortable garden rooms with lush decorative containers, fountains, garden art, lighting and furniture. We'll help you say "welcome" with an artful entrance and fill your garden pottery and window boxes with seasonal or permanent displays.  

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Environmental Gardening

Since 1979 Secret Gardens has been creating and maintaining healthy, beautiful gardens that develop and flourish over time. We provide ecologically-sensitive, low maintenance solutions to landscape problems and work with nature to ensure a healthy beginning and a long life for the garden.
We can help your garden move in these directions no matter how small the first step. By collaborating over time with our clients we are able to help them phase special projects and realize their visions.  

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Creative Garden Maintenance

Central to our services is helping clients understand their garden's maintenance and the timing for each activity. A garden, whatever its siz, most often needs several kinds of "coordinated" services. Our garden services are available as gifts for your family or friends.

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Theme Gardens

From formal to natural, ornamental to edible we create gardens including:
  • Mediterranean
  • English
  • Japanese
  • Herb
  • Native
  • Cut Flower
We also design and decorate gardens for special events such as Weddings, Anniversaries and Memorial Services. Garden spaces are memorable gifts for loved ones.

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© Kathryn Mathewson Associates and Secret Gardens 1979-2008