Garden Photo of the Day

21 Years of Hard Gardening Work Pay Off

From nothing to abundance

Today’s photos come from Anna Tsai of Bayside, Wisconsin.

When we moved in twenty-one years ago, there were only a few hostas and some overgrown bushes. I learned that the backyard is very wet, has clay soil, is filled with a lot of shade areas, and is a buffet dining room for rabbits and deer. I opened up flowers beds, worked on the soil, started planting some wet- and shade-loving plants, removed some sick trees, and then replaced those trees with my favorite evergreen trees. It was a lot of work, but I’ve loved gardening since I was little. I enjoyed seeing my garden completely changed to what it looks like now.

Working with wet soil and shade is all a matter of finding plants that love those conditions. Clearly these hostas, ferns, and astilbe are perfectly happy.

It’s hard to imagine that none of this was here when Anna started gardening. One of the most inspiring aspects of this view is the great use of vertical accents—from the tall trellis, to tall shrubs, to the imposing golden yellow spires of foxtail lily (Eremurus sp., Zones 5–9). They contrast beautifully with lower-growing plants and give the whole garden a rich, three-dimensional design.

Atop the trellis are masses of rich purple blossoms from Jackman clematis (Clematis ‘Jackmanii’, Zones 4–8).

Red Asiatic lily (Lilium, Asiatic hybrid group, Zones 5–9) is just beginning to flower.

A bold-leaved hosta (probably Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’, Zones 3–8) contrasts perfectly with smaller-leaved and needled shrubs and perennials.

Evergreen shrubs provide a reliable background of color and interest 12 months of the year, while perennials add seasonal color and excitement.

This photo features all the bold, primary colors: blue garden phlox (Phlox paniculata, possibly the cultivar ‘Blue Paradise’, Zones 4–8), a red rose, and a yellow lily.

Mixing all sorts of different plants, grasses, flowering perennials, shrubs, and annuals creates a rich, varied planting with a long season of interest.

What a magical garden! I want to wander down these paths through the flowers forever.

Our visit ends with a perfect seating area, seen through a yellow cloud of tall coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata, Zones 3–9).


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    meander_michaele 09/09/2019

    Your garden positively glows with gorgeous and color filled vitality, Anna. And, anyone who has the kind of obvious success that you do with foxtail lilies has not only a green thumb but a golden touch. Congrats on achieving so much during the past 21 years and creating such a beautiful paradise.

    1. user-7008467 09/10/2019

      Thank you! I love Foxtail Lilies very much but they are so hard to be survived. I've tried to buy every year and praying but these three are actually only survivors. You must know them very well as I do. Keep praying. Thank you again.

  2. User avater
    treasuresmom 09/09/2019

    It is all absolutely amazing! In the pic with the hostas, ferns, and astilbe, there is a tree. Do you have to water a lot in that area? Are those plants in containers or in the ground?

    1. user-7008467 09/10/2019

      Those plants are hardy enough in the ground as always in my zone 5, hostas, astilbes and ferns usually don't need water a lot but they are in shade and lower area. Thank you for enjoying these plants. I like them as a group.

  3. User avater
    treasuresmom 09/09/2019

    For those who want to see more, Anna was also featured here

    1. User avater
      simplesue 09/09/2019

      Thanks for that link, I like to get the big picture of a garden layout.

      1. user-7008467 09/10/2019

        Sorry. I'll send larger pictures next time.

    2. user-7008467 09/10/2019

      Yes, it was my first time shared with Finegardening. Thank you for your attention.

  4. judithcesaroboyle 09/09/2019

    Just stunning.

    1. user-7008467 09/10/2019

      Thank you. I am very much appreciated.

  5. Cenepk10 09/09/2019

    I need a drone shot of this place for some perspective. Stunning!!!!! My eyes are happy to have seen it.

    1. user-7008467 09/10/2019

      Thank you very much! I am very much appreciated your wording. This year I have much more time working in the backyard because I had retired one year ago from a full time job.

  6. avongardener 09/09/2019

    Anna, truly a magical garden! Any tips on keeping the deer and rabbits away? I have them visiting my garden often and have yet to find a remedy for the problem.

    1. user-7008467 09/10/2019

      Thank you! I use 'Deer Liquid Fence', it's expensive but don't need to worry after rain, it's better than homemade deer repellent spray. Deer and rabbits don't eat hostas in the early spring and summer. I usually spray for tulips and lilies.

  7. nwphillygardener 09/09/2019

    Thank you, Anna. Those 21 years of work in the garden have yielded something truly special. I hope you will keep photographing and submit more photos since it feels this group of pictures is just scratching the surface. After reading the intro, I have to wonder if you installed deer fencing or use deterrent sprays. That gorgeous bed full of Hosta looks like the ultimate buffet.

    1. user-7008467 09/10/2019

      Thank you for enjoying my pictures! I would love to share more pictures in the future I promise.
      I don't have a installed deer fencing but I use the 'Deer Liquid Fence', it usually works if you follower the direction and DONOT forget to spray. Thank you again.

  8. User avater
    simplesue 09/09/2019

    The rewards of gardening for 21 years in the same garden really are stunning!. Sure wish you were my next door neighbor with that gorgeous garden!

    1. user-7008467 09/10/2019

      Haha. I wish you are my next door neighbor too. My neighbors could come in to my backyard any time as I told them and I share a lot of plants to them, friends and my garden club too.
      Thank you so much for enjoying my garden pictures.

  9. btucker9675 09/09/2019

    Every minute of your hard work was worth it - a truly stunning garden. It must bring you so much joy!

    1. user-7008467 09/10/2019

      Yeah. I do enjoying my backyard a lot and always have my cell phone with me, so I could take pictures anytime. Thank you so much for enjoying my garden pictures.

  10. poest 09/09/2019

    Just a GREAT job!

    1. user-7008467 09/10/2019

      Thank you so much! Actually it is a hard job too.

  11. carolineyoungwilliams 09/09/2019

    Your flower garden is beautiful Anna. Thank you for sharing. Your creation brought joy to my spirit.

    1. user-7008467 09/10/2019

      You are very welcome and I would love to share my garden pictures.
      Thank you for enjoying my garden pictures!

  12. User avater
    BenjaminShaw 09/10/2019

    Its really a beautiful garden

    1. user-7008467 09/10/2019

      Thank you so much for enjoying my garden pictures!

  13. user-5117752 09/14/2019

    Ahhhhh!!! Now that's my kind of garden!!! So full of color and interest! I'd love to see fall and winter shots as well - if you can take the time! Thank you so much for sharing!

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