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Garden Photo of the Day

Gardening With an Element of Surprise

By: Kim Charles

Hardy begonia

Jeff Calton from Tennessee shares his plant knowledge by helping out at a couple's nearby garden.

"I worked at a new place today, owned by Kathy and Larry Wagner, true gardeners! It was my first visit assisting them in cleaning out beds that have become overgrown. They have gardened here for 50 years and have cool and unusual plants at every turn. The outside areas are filled with plants and pending projects. Through every window, you can see plants inside the house as well. There is a greenhouse in the back, along with an indoor pool that holds even more plants. They are without a doubt, the nicest people and are a complete joy to work with. Kathy did want me to mention, that those are not their normal gardening clothes; they had just returned from an engagement. I will be working here again tomorrow, no idea what I may find!"

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Cedrus over the pond

Fantail willow

Maidenhair ferns

Pitcher plants


View through a cedrus

Kathy and Larry Wagner

View Comments


  1. frankgreenhalgh 09/26/2017

    Hi Jeff - My word, Kathy and Larry look very smart indeed - and what a wonderful garden they have developed over half a century! I particularly like the Cedrus and pond scenes. Good on you for giving the lovely couple a hand. Cheers from Oz

  2. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

    I wish you could all meet Kathy and Larry, nicest people ever and the garden is full of surprises at every turn. Each plant has a story and many with a long family history. Now that the garden beds are clean for winter, we have been "horse trading" sharing plants .

  3. user-7007498 09/26/2017

    Good morning, Jeff. Every garden has stories to tell, some much more interesting than others. Sounds like Kathy and Larry are a wonderful couple, and have been a real joy to meet and work with. Good for you.Thanks for sharing a glimpse into this couples garden.

  4. Maggieat11 09/26/2017

    Loved your post this morning, Jeff, and hope we can look forward to more photos from Kathy and Larry's garden. Love that Cedrus and, of course, all the rock work and the water feature. I am sure you have been enjoying a wonderful time with them!

    1. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

      This time of year most of the color is gone but it's a most interesting property. I especially like the photo of my finger in the corner of the succulent picture,,,,,I never boasted of being a good photographer

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 09/26/2017

    Everything is amazing. More, please!!

  6. User avater
    meander1 (Michaele ) 09/26/2017

    Talk about a marriage made in heaven...you and your new clients, Kathy and Larry, sound perfect together. And, you didn't have to fess up about the finger in the photo...I probably just would have thought it was a one of a kind exotic succulent.
    I have never seen or even heard of a fantail willow...can't wait to go off and do a google info search soon as I'm done typing. I love the edging of the hardy begonias...very effective and subtle yet showy en masse. My favorite thing that you shared was that this lovely couple have been gardening in this spot for 50 years...very inspiring!

    1. user-7007140 09/26/2017

      I was lucky enough to buy several twigs of the fantail willow at a garden club event. After poking them into my lovely clay (!) soil they all flourished beautifully but have stayed a manageable size. Willows are favorites of mine so i began to pop new ones in when finding leaf shapes that I fell for. Flower arranging is a lot of fun when having so much to choose from.

      1. Sheila_Schultz 09/26/2017

        You are one lucky woman Eddi!!!

    2. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

      I am trying to root some willow cuttings but fall is not the best time. I'll try again next spring and if successful one will have your name on it

      1. User avater
        meander1 (Michaele ) 09/26/2017

        Ahh, you are ever so thoughtful to keep me in mind!

  7. Cenepk10 09/26/2017

    So cool, Jeff. More pics !!!!

  8. tennisluv 09/26/2017

    Jeff, love your new client's garden. They are as smart a looking couple as their garden is. Like Meander, I liked the begonia edged Mahonia bed combo in the first picture (prickly vs. soft) as well as the shot of the cedrus weeping over the stacked rock rimmed pond and the Wagners. Bet is was one of their earlier installations. Unlike Meander, I researched the fantail willow before I commented on your offerings. Fascinating looking stems when leafless; unique branch form brought to mind unusual curl of the variegated spiral ginger in Ana's offerings yesterday. Nature is a wonderful sculptor. Hope we get more pictures; thanks for sharing.

    1. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

      That fantail willow called to me as soon as I saw it

  9. Chris N 09/26/2017

    Great garden, Jeff. Thanks for sharing. You said you were "horse trading" - sharing plants, but I suspect you were trading gardening stories as well.

    1. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

      You are so right! I am taking a bunch of plants over there next week, Frost tender things that I can't keep. She has the room for them and I'm happy they all found homes

  10. wittyone 09/26/2017

    That garden certainly shows that 50 years of tending has taken place. There's nothing like living in the same location for long stretches of time to allow for long term planning and planting. The rock edgings make really lovely transitions between garden features and grassy areas and allow for little treasures to be tucked in all snug and happy.

    I'm hoping that there will be a second installment with more pretty pictures to check out.

    1. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

      Some of the plants her father planted when they built the house, plants from her grandmothers and great grandmothers gardens and discovered just as you say "snug and happy" AND her mother lives across the street! and has quite the plantings at her house

      1. Sheila_Schultz 09/26/2017

        How deliciously wonderful to have 2 gardens across from one another that belong in the same family. When you do what you do most gardens are work, but sometimes the gift of excitement stares us in the face. Sure, they wanted you to work for them, little did they know that you are not your typical landscaper!

  11. user-4691082 09/26/2017

    Dear Jeff, I always love when you post. I have hardy begonias too, and they are one of my favorite plants. One evening I looked at one of the areas with those begonias and saw a very pink glow. It was one of the landscape lights that had illuminated the underside of the leaves which are red. That Cedrus is amazing. More please!

    1. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

      I never would have thought of lighting the begonias!

  12. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 09/26/2017

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful clients' garden, Jeff. It's obviously been tended with passion. That row of Begonia grandis is beautiful. Why don't I grow that, I ask myself?

    1. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

      Well, I don't grow it either but I think I will now

  13. Cheryl A 09/26/2017

    I join Sonya and Meander in my admiration of the mahonia and begonia combination, with the 'red' brick such a complementary color for the begonia. Any idea which Mahonia this one is? and the pitcher plants are delightful in the pot they have filled so nicely. Do send more pictures!

    1. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

      I think it's the old standard Mahonia bealei

  14. floreyd 09/26/2017

    thanks for the photo of the fantail willow (Salix sachalinensis); I have only seen it as cut and dried branches in floral arrangements, never as a leafed-out, living shrub/tree. Really handsome!

    1. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

      It really is a beautiful small tree, the leaves are thick and leathery and at first I thought it must be evergreen

    2. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

      It really is a beautiful small tree, the leaves are thick and leathery and at first I thought it must be evergreen

  15. Sheila_Schultz 09/26/2017

    Good morning Jeff. I'm guessing Kathy and Larry had no idea they would bring smiles to so many gardeners just by asking you to come over and help with the clean up, clean out for their beautiful gardens! I would say that yours is truly a match made in heaven!
    I keep going back to look at the gorgeous cedrus gently draping over the stacked stone walls, it's magnificent... and the fantail willow knocked my socks off! I've never seen one before, but it's definitely on my radar now. I definitely need more photos... it seems obvious that these photos are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fascinating plants and combos! Thanks Jeff!

    1. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

      the fantail knocked my socks off too, I spied it from the opposite end of the yard immediately. This couple is so much fun. Larry told me that Kathy was project manager and he was the free labor. :)

      1. Sheila_Schultz 09/26/2017

        Apparently the 3 of you make a great team, they do their own thing and call you in when they can use some help... then you fill us in on all the fun details! Works for me! If only I would have lived in TN... haha!

  16. Dvngardener 09/26/2017

    Loved seeing some unusual plants! That willow is new to me. Enjoy your work with this lovely couple !

  17. hontell 09/26/2017

    I too, love the begonia with brick path, but that pond is fantastic. Thank you, Jeff

  18. Schatzi 09/26/2017

    Me too. What everybody said. It is all beautiful - would love to see it in person. More pictures please.

  19. user-7007140 09/26/2017

    Wonderful post today..Thank you Jeff and your new friends.

  20. user-7008348 09/26/2017

    My favorite picture was the one with the owners! Love seeing the people behind the gardens.

    1. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

      You would LOVE walking through the garden with them

  21. user-7008735 09/26/2017

    Cool plants and cool people who love them! Jeff, I can hear your joy at meeting kindred spirits.

    1. jeffgoodearth 09/26/2017

      I was just blown away. Normally I go to a property and can identify every plant in the yard. Not at Larry and Kathy's and walking on the pathways through the yard there was something new at every turn, patio surrounded by bananas, coffee and citrus then through the bamboo grove to the camellia "patch" then by the greenhouse down to the vegetable area . I just love that garden

  22. user-7008421 09/26/2017

    Your gardens are lovely! I especially like the fan willow. LIving in Arizona, we can't grow that one but do have weeping willows. The waterfall is such a calming addition to the garden. Wonderful landscaping throughout!

  23. Meelianthus 09/27/2017

    oooh! Jeff, what a dream gardening job! Great plants, great scenery, and great people - an unbeatable combination. And now they have a great plantsman to oversee, how fortunate you are. And I love their gardens!!

  24. PerenniallyCrazy 09/27/2017

    Swooning over Kathy and Larry's beautiful garden. What fortune that you're all working together - I'm sure it's going to be fun and you get paid too. They look like such a sweet couple. Look forward to seeing more of your joint incredible work together.

  25. greengenes 09/27/2017

    Wow Jeff! What a treasure! You are very fortunate to work with wonderful people. Thanks for sharing all of these pictures with us. I just found a new plant i will try to find! The fan willow is a winner!

  26. GrannyCC 09/27/2017

    Gorgeous garden!! I wish Jeff was my neighbour.

  27. alohaland 09/27/2017

    Lovely setting and many thanks for sharing the names of each specimen. 50 years of gardening in the same place may just be what the doctor orders to create the garden and maintain a healthy marriage!

  28. user-6536305 09/27/2017

    Wow Jeff beautiful garden and couple! Thanks for sharing.

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