Creating My Own Secret Garden

Ever since I can’t remember, I’ve been in love with gardens, in particular, rose gardens. I had always told myself, “when I grow up and buy my own house, I’m going to have a beautiful home and an equally beautiful rose garden.” Well, I’m all grown up (most of the time), and have my own house, and it’s beautiful (in my opinion) and this summer, have finally completed my rose garden (that’s just as beautiful). 

My husband and I bought and renovated our home in the “burbs” almost 3 years ago and the outdoor space we had in the back was nothing short of a dirt pile with trees as old as the house and weeds as tall as me. Unfortunately, after the monstrosity of a project that the house renovation turned into, the landscaping became our last priority. I had to put my little dream on the back burner for a couple of years and focus on finishing the interior first.  

Even before buying this home, I had a very specific design for a patio and garden in my mind for many years. We were living in the city before with no backyard, but I had this vision of exactly how I wanted everything to look. Here is the sketch of my design that I drew as soon as we moved into our home… I didn’t waste one second putting my vision on paper! 


I wanted something very linear and geometric. Less like a fluid Zen garden, and more like a pristine structured English garden. I wanted a traditional French feel, mixed with a Southern California cool and a modern twist. But the most important aspect for me; I wanted an outdoor space that was of my own design and different than anyone else’s I had ever seen. 

After years of anticipation, of planning, of designing, of researching plants, the work finally began on the garden of my dreams…

with this as my starting canvas.

A little trailer park-esque, no?
Demo Day = Happy day! No turning back now! 

Demo Day = Happy day! No turning back now! 

The first piece I had to choose for the patio was the stone. I didn’t want anything too expensive, but I also wanted to stay only in the gray color tone. The landscaper and I found the perfect granite that doesn’t get too hot under the feet in the sun, and this one had a beautiful sparkle when the sun hits it just right. The step up to the house and the stone wall are constructed of gray tones of natural stone that match the granite. The stone wall was a design feature that I wrestled with a little. The whole point of a stone wall is just that, a wall that provides a barrier between two areas. But I had a thought that, because the entire patio area isn’t that large to begin with, what if I created a space divider while also creating a separation in the planes but not visually dividing the space with that wall? 

So, back to the wall… We built a wall to add character and to serve as a retaining wall to the patio, but as I mentioned before, instead of building the wall up, to the height of a seat or higher, I decided I wanted to try making it look almost like an “infinity wall.” Like an infinity pool, the two planes are clearly there (the pool and then ground well below it), but looking at it, it looks like the pool spills into the background, creating one giant plane of sight. 


As the patio was being built, I had to reimagine where my rose garden placement would be. Originally I had it drawn against the fence, but once the rock wall was built, I realized that it had to be moved. I wanted to build my garden so I could see it from inside the house but it also had to be positioned perfectly to where the roses would get sun almost all day long. Location! Location! Location! The second most important feature I wanted was to incorporate as many boxwoods as possible. They’re so simple in nature, but I just love the way they look when shaped perfectly into balls and how well they frame any garden. So for my rose garden, I decided to plant little boxwoods as a border and use gray toned pea stones as the ground cover… how very Français! And to add a little dimension to my rock wall, I planted bigger boxwoods in cement planters (that I’m totally obsessed with-and yes, lifted and carried by myself…great workout btw) and I absolutely love how it looks. 


For the roses, I wanted to have an almost ombre look to the garden, with the darker red roses at one corner, gradually going to a pink and then almost whitish pink to the opposite corner. I absolutely love the look of climbing roses, but since I already have a climbing rose garden on the side of my house, I decided these would all be tea roses… plus, tea roses are better for pruning and using for vases. Just a mix of makers, like David Austin roses, and the most beautiful and apropos names like Dee-Lish (smells like if heaven grew a lemon garden), Lasting Love and Falling in Love. And I cannot wait to get my newest addition (I even saved a special space for it), the Vogue Anniversary Rose (being delivered any day now!)… Just a little obsessed? 


To me, the whole point of a garden is to enjoy it, to feel peaceful, to be inspired by the flowers, the herbs, the butterflies, maybe even a hummingbird if you’re lucky. I wanted to create a space to relax in, to write in, to unwind in. I wanted to create a place for my family and friends to come over and feel like they were in a magical secret garden, that’s made just for them to enjoy just as much as I do. Over this past summer, if we were home for dinner, we were outside on the patio cooking, playing checkers, having dance parties, reading together, and dining al fresco almost every single night.

It’s not the biggest of spaces, but to me, the heart and soul I put into this project makes it bigger than anything I could have dreamed of so many years ago. What I love most about this project, is that my family is so happy being out there with me, and that I know that I did this all by myself… no landscape architect, no professional designer, just my awesome landscape guys who built the patio and planted the giant bushes. I can’t thank them enough for trusting in my crazy “California idea” as they called it. I sweated my ass off planting every single rose (I can’t even begin to tell you how many thorn splinters I got), every single boxwood, every single herb and lemon tree. The amount of hours I stood in that space staring off into space like a crazy person thinking of the next design idea. The amount of hours I spent scouring the stores and the internet for just the right outdoor furniture and cushions. The amount of hours I spent painting those giant pots that I then turned into bases for the console table I made. But now, the amount of hours I spend enjoying this space made it all worthwhile. My secret garden isn’t so secret anymore, and probably where you’ll find me most days while the sun’s out, while the birds are chirping, the butterflies floating and the roses smelling fine.

The best part….














And you better believe I’m going to play dress up and take pics of my finished project!

The console table I made... The two pedestals are old giant pots I repainted. And the actual table part is a wooden door I bought at Lowe's, with a pretty wooden trim that I added on for the edge. Voila! The perfect outdoor console table for some planted herbs and to prep food for the grill.

The console table I made… The two pedestals are old giant pots I repainted. And the actual table part is a wooden door I bought at Lowe’s, with a pretty wooden trim that I added on for the edge. Voila! The perfect outdoor console table for some planted herbs and to prep food for the grill.

Pretty boxwoods all in a row
Lemons anyone?

Lemons anyone?


Take another fun look inside Alisa’s home in this Houzz article.

For more design inspiration, find Alisa’s home and others inside the pages of, “Your Home, Your Style” By Donna Garlough.

Alisa Kapinos has been a fashion stylist and personal shopper for almost 15 years. She started her career in fashion working for a Boston based magazine as their Fashion and Beauty Editor and then went onto become their Editor in Chief. During this time she produced and styled countless photo shoots, working with top designers and top photographers. She has been lucky enough to attend many New York Fashion Weeks, also styling shoots for commercials and print ads, as well as assisting in styling Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel and the Jonas Brothers on their Boston stop during their musical tour. She then began her career as a personal stylist to some of Boston’s most notable people, as well as women and men from all walks of life. What her clients love about her is her attention to detail, her understanding of personal style (not just what’s trending), and her ability to mix high end with affordable pieces that fit everyone’s budget. Through her work in the fashion industry, she has also partnered with many charitable organizations to bring awareness and raising money for their causes. Recently, Alisa has taken her passion for interior design and has worked on a few interior projects for local clients. She has had her own home, which she renovated herself, featured in a home design book and a few home websites. Alisa’s greatest loves are her husband of 11 years, her two dogs and her three kids. She loves photography and taking photos, loves to travel, to write, to garden, to decorate, to cook and spend time with her family and friends.

If you love style and want to keep up with Alisa, check her out on Instagram @styleproductions. For more info on her personal styling and home styling business, check out her website,