Garden description: The 1401 Secret Garden was named by its designer, Jack Severyn, who lived at The 1401. The walled garden at the back of the 1960 high-rise is a city-block long with a depth ranging from about 12 feet at the eastern end to about 30 feet at the west end. As Severyn found it, it was an overgrown flat flood plain with bamboo, shrubs, ground-cover, with the main feature being neglect. Severyn, a Longwood Gardens-certified Master Gardener created a space with varying levels and eight distinct garden themes. The private garden is for the enjoyment of the residents of the 180 or so units. With everything from a Fernery to a Marshland to River Flats, the garden space was transformed from a mess to a calming respite within the city. The distinct spaces provide vibrant color in the spring with the bulbs in bloom and the weeping cherry putting on a show. There are nooks for sitting and reading, or sharing cocktails with a few friends at the end of the workday. Even on the hottest summer days, there seems to be a magical western breeze and plenty of shade. In pre-covid days, the patio adjoining the garden for its full length was the place for building-wide gatherings and cook-outs to welcome the spring and say farewell to summer. Even now, small gatherings occur at the spur of the moment, with plenty of space for multiple parties to safely sit adhering to social distancing guidelines and enjoy their drinks, snacks and conversation. Some even take advantage of the 200-foot length to enjoy a daily walk or work-out with the view of a gorgeous secret garden, safe from traffic or uneven sidewalks. A plaque on the eastern wall memorializes Severyn, who passed away in 2017. The Secret Garden is tended by a dedicated group of Jack’s friends whom he guided in the proper care of his beautiful design.
Who are the gardeners: Our small group of gardening volunteers are retirees with experience in keeping gardens of their own. Many of us still maintain our own gardens on other properties and tend to plants, flowers and even vegetables on our balconies.
Why do you garden: Most of the volunteers have a love of gardening from earlier days in previous residences. Working together to maintain the Secret Garden is a cooperative effort to add beauty to be enjoyed by all who live in the 1401 Condominium. This was coincidentally Jack Severyn’s vision for the Secret Garden.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: The uncertainty of the pandemic and being sequestered initially slowed our volunteers’ springtime efforts. Hence, shopping for new plantings was delayed. When we were more sure of what sorts and amounts of socializing we could engage in, and spring growth demanded attention, we resumed enjoying the Secret Garden and the work we put into it.
What do you have in your garden? A wide variety of strategically placed hostas and astilbe punctuate the eight separate gardens, unifying the landscape from the east-end Fernery to the west-end Romanesque Garden and the Marshlands. Arborvitae and potted petunias grace the corner Romanesque garden, which has several chairs tucked away for reading or contemplative moments. Stands of swaying grasses add motion to the Marshlands. The expansive River Flats is home to azaleas, hydrangea, yarrow, rose of sharon, euonymus, grasses and and elegant weeping cherry. A river of stone travels the length and is graded to direct rainwater to a drain. The Green Garden is populated with rhododendron, liriope, arborvitae and mondo grass. Features include two bronze statues of Madagascar cranes that occasionally catch the light and trick the viewer into thinking they might be about to wander off to the nearby English Rose Garden, a closely planted explosion of color with red roses, Japanese andromeda and bee balm. A planter brimming with red annuals sits at the top of the Tibetan Steps. This feature is flanked by pediments from Bellevue, and has treads of pebbles on the lower steps and leads up to a level of lush, velvety moss. The Asian Royal Garden is alive with color from hostas, potted petunias. impatiens and astilbe.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? Fortunately there have been no pests, with only two exceptions: a mid-July storm that took down a revered white birch at the west end of the garden; and occasionally a stray cigarette butt finds its way over the fence–hopefully not off a 1401 balcony.

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