1698 Hanchett Avenue
The Secret Garden

This 1939 garden has had two owners. The current owner's family has lived here since 1950. The owner, Kathryn Mathewson, is an ecologist, botanist, trained landscape architect, former college professor, and has had her Secret Gardens garden design company since 1979 on Hanchett and in San Francisco. Kathryn has gardened in this garden all her life.

This approximately 10,000 square foot garden (1/4 acre) has a path which connects many different garden rooms and garden themes. Some of the things one can see along the garden path are: strawberry and blueberry and raspberry patches, 23 fruit trees, a vegetable garden, herbs and flowers everywhere for all seasons and for a home pharmacy, lawn/meadows, four fountains, many sitting places, garden art from Kathryn's San Francisco garden store, a day bed and hammock for sleeping, unique pots and hanging baskets, perimeter plants for bird food and nesting and privacy, and a nursery in the back forty.

The minute one enters this garden the air seems cleaner, the smells are crisper, and the sounds are like natural areas far from cities and cars. In its 70-year history, no pesticides or chemicals have been used. It is a model of organic and sustainable practices which includes:

• biodiversity with hundreds of different native and drought species to reduce water needs and to feed the plants naturally
• a good soil carbon sequestration environment
• recycled tree chips for mulch which protects the soil organisms
• herbs and legumes which will improve compost/soil diversity
• habitat for 14 different bird species
• compost piles designed into the garden
• drip and on-line emitter irrigation combined with spray
• a filter to remove chlorine before irrigating
• high tech irrigation timers to allow for different watering schedules to manage different watering needs and reduce water usage
• shade to reduce water needs and reduce summer heat and glare
• choosing plants which reseed and can be divided to reduce nursery trips
• clean air by not needing or using blowers and using plants to take up the dust from the adjacent mow/blow gardeners


The theme of the children's garden book The Secret Garden is finding and uncovering a garden that heals and brings peace. This Hanchett Avenue garden resonates with a similar theme. A visit to this garden should help those who visit find ideas for how they can bring these qualities into their own garden space or even into public spaces. Neighbor's houses, the street, cars, telephone poles, and wires are softened and, in most cases, hidden. From inside the house every window is a picture. For pictures of the garden during other seasons or for more information, visit www.secretgardens.com.