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Garden Photo of the Day

Form and Function for Beautiful Privacy

Sarah in Minnesota did a lovely job of combining form and function in creating a beautiful garden for privacy. What a beautiful solution!

"Since a child I've always dreamed of having a yard like Claude Monet. So, each summer I make it a mission to tackle a new section of our yard.  Last summer's project was an approximately 15' x 80' area in the backyard to increase privacy and reduce the grass that consumed so much water. I used cardboard and free wood chips to smother the weedy struggling grass and planted the shrubs immediately, but waited until fall to transplant in the perennials. Being such a big section I still had some transplanting to do this spring. Now with the sense of privacy and enclosure in hand, this summer's mission was to expand our tiny patio and buy a patio set. The informal hedge, marked by three Techny arborvitae shrubs, was put in maybe 5 years ago. This is the front roadside garden's 2nd full summer. Lastly, I included an ugly before photo of the summer we spent mowing the sparse weeds and nervously wondering about our capabilities."

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  1. PerenniallyCrazy 07/20/2015

    Congratulations on a fabulous job Sarah! You obviously have a natural knack for garden design and are also a great planner. I hope you had a lot of help from family and friends. I hope you do check in again and show us your garden through the seasons and years. I would definitely love to see your garden again.

  2. User avater
    meander1 (Michaele ) 07/20/2015

    Well, Sarah, anyone who tackles a 15' by 80' stretch of barren uckiness and turns it into a Monet worthy garden can no longer have any nervous worries about her capabilities. We all agree...you have a natural gift and ample willingness to work hard to turn vision into reality. I'm so glad you included the before picture because, boy, does that say it all. Your home is now nestled among loveliness ...congratulations!

  3. user-4691082 07/20/2015

    Wow! Sarah, you did a great job! It's all the more impressive with the before photo. Now, next year you'll have to install the bridge!

    1. user-7007076 07/27/2015

      I'm still practicing restraint on digging a pond ;) Hmm, a Japanese footbridge would be cool...

  4. ClareRocky 07/20/2015

    What an amazing transformation! Nice job, Sarah!

  5. wittyone 07/20/2015

    It's amazing what some time, talent and effort can accomplish. It's obvious that you have put in a good bit of all three and have a beautiful setting for your home as a result. A masterpiece in the making.

  6. NCYarden 07/20/2015

    Fantastic, Sarah! Nothing like seeing the reduction of boring and demanding grass in favor of much more interesting and self sustaining plants. You've got my interest. I'm sure your neighbors enjoy it and I bet are little envious.
    And the only way to a green thumb is to just stick it in the dirt. The transformation is tremendous, both your garden as well as your gardening capabilities - obviously. Nervous no more. Keep going.
    Thanks for the before shot, and thanks for sharing.

    1. User avater
      meander1 (Michaele ) 07/20/2015

      Hi, David, I have this habit of squirreling away my copy of Fine Gardening and saving it for a time I know I'll be stuck in the car waiting...then devouring the pages is an extra special treat. Which led me to the belated happy discovery that your garden was my reward when I got to the last page of the most recent issue. Loved your commentary and oh, that almost deep aqua colored rock...what a beauty. And, of course, the little inset of you hugging your maple proves that a picture is worth a 1000 words.

      1. NCYarden 07/20/2015

        Hi Michaele. So glad I could be your company for a little while. Thank you for taking the time to view the garden again. I will be sending in some new photos here soon.
        Yeah that picture of me does seem to draw some smiles from folks. It certainly says it all.

    2. user-7007076 07/27/2015

      Ha, ha. I love your word about the only way to a green thumb is to stick it in the dirt! That is SO true! A subscription to Fine Gardening really helped too! I've learned so many tricks that have helped tremendously in propagation and design. GPOD has also been a great help :) Thanks for the kind words!

  7. MNGardenGirl 07/20/2015

    Sarah, I too am a Minnesota gardener. Beautiful transformation. I would like to see more

    1. user-7007076 07/27/2015

      Thank you. I will make an effort to take more photos. Yes, it has been especially fun to see other gardens from northern states because the winters are SO grueling. Granted I still love see gardens from other zones and dream of a bigger pallet ;)

  8. User avater
    HelloFromMD 07/20/2015

    Beautiful transformation. Thanks for explaining the process. I am surprised that your garden is so lush without adding compost to the getting rid of the grass stage. You must have some nice soil. Really like the arches over the path. What vines did you plant? Congrats, looks great, your hard work paid off.

    1. user-7007076 07/27/2015

      On the arches I planted Grandpa Ott's Morning Glories mixed with Ruby Moon Hyacinth Bean. Hyacinths are new to me and after starting indoors from seed has been a mixed success so far. Now that it been hot it's been growing rapidly, with one plant nearly to the top of the arch, however only one of the six is flowering :( I built the arches using sunflower stalks and willow branches anchored to 12" rebar pounded into the ground. I was pleased to have spent under $15 for the rebar and plastic fasteners. I've never used sunflower stalks before, but so far they show no sign of structural decay. Thanks for the kind words!

      1. User avater
        HelloFromMD 07/29/2015

        Hi Sarah, I have never heard of using sunflower stalks like that, please keep us posted on how that's working. Did the Hyacinth ever really bloom? Only thing I can think of is that too much nitrogen leads to leaves and few flowers. So cool to have a blank slate. When you go to tie it all together, you might get some inspiration from Gordon Howards's books and articles. I have gotten his books out of the library and one of his has to do with connecting the various garden spaces and linking them back to the house. He is all about formal style but his linking ideas are good.

        1. user-7007076 07/29/2015

          Thanks, I'll have to check out his book. Regarding those sunflower supports...today we're in a wind advisory with sustained 35 mph winds and 45 mph gusts and so far they're still holding well. Next spring, however, when I have to prune back my Nishiki Willow I do plan to replace the sunflower stalks with tall rebar wrapped in willow to disguise them and make them more permanent since the archway has been pleasing in form while adding height and privacy to the yard. Yes, I'm a bit afraid that excess nitrogen might be the issue with the hyacinth. I rarely use fertilizer, but they were so sluggish to start I applied fertilizer and probably too much. Lesson learned. At least, the morning glories are now plentiful on the archway.

  9. digginWA 07/20/2015

    Sarah, you have created a stunner of a garden out there in that wide open space. Wrapping one's brain around such a project isn't easy--how satisfying it must be to see it grow and come together into a cohesive whole. What trees have you put in? I hope you send in more photos each year.

    1. user-7007076 07/27/2015

      Thank you! The photo with the bird bath is a flowering crab and the front photo shows a Showy Mountain Ash, Wichita Blue Juniper (very small), and a cedar tree. I'm looking forward to the day when they begin to provide more structure to the yard. Gardening has been very satisfying :)

  10. user-7007714 07/20/2015

    Kudos to my fellow MN gardener. Job well done.

  11. Sheila_Schultz 07/20/2015

    Claude would be so proud that he inspired you to create all the beauty surrounding your home on such a blank canvas. Sarah, it's just lovely, and definitely not a 'paint by numbers' garden.

    1. user-7007076 07/27/2015

      Thanks! What a complement!

  12. GrannyMay 07/20/2015

    Beautiful, Sarah! Though a garden is never "done", you could certainly look at your before and after photos and say "Mission accomplished"!

    1. user-7007076 07/27/2015

      Thanks! It's hard to always match up post with person, but I do know your woodsy and natural looking yard filled with various textures has been an inspiration for me.

  13. Foxglove12 07/20/2015

    Absolutely beautiful! The before photo really shows the huge undertaking and vision. Wow.

  14. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 07/20/2015

    Sarah, it's great to see your garden again. It's really filling in and looking great. Lots of great plant choices, even in zone 4! It is so hard to tackle a blank canvas, but I can tell, once you put hand to shovel you're finding your way and inspiration!
    Sarah's previous post below:

    1. user-7007076 07/27/2015

      Thanks for the kind words! I made sure to plant some bronze fennel and some flat leafed parsley this season after reading your post on attracting monarchs and providing forage. I'm not sure how many take summer residence here, but I'm excited to be spotting a monarch several time per day fluttering around my yard. Hopefully, next summer I'll have many more.

  15. user-3365226 07/20/2015

    I really enjoy Before and After Pictures! Congrats on your beautiful new garden and hard work!

  16. orequilter 07/20/2015

    So beautiful

  17. eddireid 07/20/2015

    Wonderful, Sarah. Let us have a photo of the new patio and furniture with you enjoying it all. Congratulations on all your hard work being such a success.

  18. katieerb 07/20/2015

    What a wonderful transformation, it is beautiful!

  19. ILfarmersdaughter 07/21/2015

    You have worked so hard and the results are beautiful. I love it.

  20. Nurserynotnordstroms 07/21/2015

    Sarah your gardens are really plumping up and looking so beautiful. I see wire mesh over your picket fence do you have problems with rabbits?I had a rabbit eat my Alstromeria Isabelana I wasn't very happy ,I was thing he might make a great dinner(ha ha) but much to my delight he's gone. You have certainly increased your property value by adding this lush landscaping and it's gorgeous.

    1. user-7007076 07/27/2015

      Fortunately I don't have much of a rabbit problem anymore except for the winter when they like to munch on the tender growth of fruiting shrubs. I'm glad your rabbits are gone! Thanks for kind comments!

  21. thevioletfern 07/21/2015

    Bravo! I, too, used wood chips to create a large garden for privacy. It is now a jungle and it really improved the soil. I'm speculating you also have more birds, bees, butterflies to watch from your patio now that you've created an oasis from a desert lawn? I would say you and your husband are very, very, very capable gardeners!

    1. user-7007076 07/27/2015

      It IS amazing what wood chips will do to improve soil. My yard was so sterile that it didn't have any life beyond ants and gophers, but now, yes, it is alive. Yesterday I was pleased to notice a tree frog attached to my siding after waiting 4 years to spot toads.

  22. Cenepk10 07/21/2015

    Wow !!!!' What a transformation !!!!!! Love LOVE Love what you've done !!!!! Beautiful plant selection ! You gave me some ideas... I'm on 2 flat acres ... Love those border trees... Hmmmm

    1. user-7007076 07/27/2015

      Glad I was of help :) I've learned so much and gleaned so many ideas from others on GPOD.

  23. user-7007076 07/27/2015

    Thanks for all the kind comments everyone! I also apologize for the delayed response as I've been away for a week where internet and phone reception is poor and intermittent.

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