Why Everyone Needs A Secret Garden – The Cloisters in NYC and My Gardens, Too

Not long before I left New Jersey, I visited The Cloisters in New York City. By definition, a cloisters area is an open hallway that surrounds a protected garden. It is a natural walkway where monks and nuns might retreat into nature and still have a degree of protection from the elements, like wind, rain, snow, sun–and other people, too.

At the Cloisters in New York City, there are several gardens, and all of them are peaceful sanctuaries. As I was walking around and through those gardens, I thought to myself that everyone needs a natural sanctuary–a garden where they can retreat from society and its demands.

“When the hornet hangs in the hollyhock, And the brown bee drones i’ the rose, And the west is a red-streaked four-o’clock, And summer is near its close It’s Oh, for the gate, and the locust lane; And dusk, and dew, and home again!” – Madison Cawein

In the above photo, you see the grapevine-covered gate and arbor that framed the entrance into the back part of my New Jersey garden. This is only one of the many arbors that I had built to enclose myself and to create a sense of privacy for myself while I was in that garden. I grew several types of clematises and roses on those fences.

When it is possible, I grow fragrant flowers, like lavender, peonies, and irises, and strolling through my garden also becomes an experience of aromatherapy.

Jacki Kellum Garden Gate in New Jersey

“Come into the garden, Maud, For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone; Maud
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.
For a breeze of morning moves, And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves On a bed of daffodil sky.” – Tennyson

Forest Daffodil in the Rain – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

Jacki Kellum Garden in New Jersey

One of my purposes for gardening is to grow a ready supply of flowers and other plants for painting. Another reason is that my spirit needs to live amidst the flowers that become my gardens. I painted the fireball hibiscus below from the fireball red hibiscus that I planted in my New Jersey, near my waterfall.

Fireball Red Hibiscus – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

Ozark Mountain Stream – Northwest Arkansas

Jacki Kellum’s Ozark Mountain Home and Studio in Arkansas

This past summer, I moved to the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas, and you cannot travel far in any direction here without seeing REAL waterfalls and creeks.

“I divined and chose a distant place to dwell
I pick leaves to thatch a hut among the pines
Scoop out a pond and lead a runnel from the spring
By now I am used to doing without the world
Picking ferns I pass the years that are left.” Han Shan

Jacki Kellum Garden in New Jersey

This is my first spring in the Ozarks, and I have only begun planting and building my secret garden here. You can be sure that this garden will also have a waterfall, and it will be filled with walls of roses and clematis vines. It will be a natural and unsculpted place. That’s where I feel most at home.

The back of my Ozark Mountain cabin sits high off the ground, and the trees literally touch my house in places. When I’m sitting on my back deck, I feel as though I live in a treehouse cathedral. Like it does through stained glass windows, the sun filters through the tree limbs, and I know that God is near. Like a nun in a cloister, my gardens shelter me and bring me home.

Back Deck of Jacki Kellum’s Ozark Mountain Cabin