Search for Plants from <em>The Secret Garden</em> - Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Plants & Gardens Blog

Search for Plants from The Secret Garden

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden is the story of a spoiled girl brought to live on her widowed uncle's estate when she is orphaned. Left largely on her own, she discovers a neglected garden on the property and sets about revitalizing it with the friends she has made among the servants. In doing so, she develops curiosity and appreciation for the world around her. These qualities are put to use when she finds an invalid boy hidden away in the manor and undertakes with her young friends to nurse him—and the secret garden—back to health.

Burnett was an American writer known for realistically describing the behavior of children and detailing working-class life. The book, written in 1911, delves into the beneficial effects of nature on both physical and mental health, and also emphasizes the importance of letting children be children. Written during a time when youth were expected to act like adults, its alternative perspective made it a classic.

The Secret Garden is set amid the moors of Yorkshire, England, an area of undeveloped lands covered in wildflowers, ferns, and grasses. The secret garden is full of common English garden plants. See if you can find at Brooklyn Botanic Garden some of the plants and animals described in the book. Some listed below are likely to be found in August, September, and into October.


“The place was a wilderness of autumn gold and purple and violet blue and flaming scarlet and on every side were sheaves of late lilies standing together—lilies which were white or white and ruby.”

Lilies bloom in many colors. What colors are the lilies at BBG?

Herbs and Vegetables

“Early in the morning and late in the fading twilight and on all the days Colin and Mary did not see him, Dickon worked there planting or tending potatoes and cabbages, turnips and carrots and herbs for his mother.”

The Herb Garden is filled with herbs and vegetables in autumn. See if you can find some of the plants Dickon was tending.


“She had just paused and was looking up at a long spray of ivy swinging in the wind when she saw a gleam of scarlet and heard a brilliant chirp, and there, on the top of the wall, perched Ben Weatherstaff's robin redbreast, tilting forward to look at her with his small head on one side.”

Robins can be found in the trees and on the ground all around the Garden. How many can you spot?

Delphinium, Columbine, and Campanula

“Iris and white lilies rose out of the grass in sheaves, and the green alcoves filled themselves with amazing armies of the blue and white flower lances of tall delphiniums or columbines or campanulas.”

Blue- and white-flowered delphinium, columbine, and campanula can all be found at the Garden during late spring and early summer. Some are still in bloom later in the summer. Hunt for them in the Shakespeare Garden, Fragrance Garden, and Perennial Border.


“And on the trunk of the tree he leaned against, a brown squirrel was clinging and watching him, and from behind a bush nearby a cock pheasant was delicately stretching his neck to peep out, and quite near him were two rabbits sitting up and sniffing with tremulous noses—and actually it appeared as if they were all drawing near to watch him and listen to the strange low little call his pipe seemed to make."

There are squirrels all over Brooklyn! Look for them in and under the trees at the Garden.

Ferns and Foxgloves

“The low wall was one of the prettiest things in Yorkshire because he had tucked moorland foxglove and ferns and rock-cress and hedgerow flowers into every crevice until only here and there glimpses of the stones were to be seen.”

Ferns abound in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and Native Flora Garden. Many change colors as fall approaches. Foxglove often blooms in late summer and fall in the Shakespeare Garden.

Late Roses and Autumn Trees

“Late roses climbed and hung and clustered, and the sunshine deepening the hue of the yellowing trees made one feel that one stood in an embowered temple of gold.”

Roses are known for their June flowers, but some also bloom later in the summer and into fall, often late enough to be enjoyed along with early fall foliage.

Which beautiful plants and little creatures did you find in the Garden?

Alvina Lai was a photographer at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

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Image, top of page: Alvina Lai