Garden Photo of the Day

A Garden to Linger In in Northern California

Plants large and small create this detailed garden

Today we’re visiting Donna Vail’s garden.

My home is in Crescent City, the last city before leaving Northern California.

I live on an acre on the banks of the Smith River in a coastal redwood forest. As so many of the residents here, I fell in love with this place while visiting the redwood parks on vacation. After we retired from San Diego, we moved here.

I have been gardening since the early 1990s. I would attend every garden tour I could go to and visit botanical gardens to get ideas and talk to people who knew more than I did. It paid off, because no matter where I live my gardens thrive.

I have many varieties of flowering plants along with dwarf conifers. The mild winters and summers make all of our plants thrive here. I like my gardens to be whimsical, so I have fairy gardens, decorative bird houses, painted rocks, etc. I want my garden to be interesting even in the winter when the flowering plants are in their dormant state.

I like to think of the redwoods, dwarf conifers, and dwarf maples as the bones of the garden. And my flowers are the jewels of the garden. Dwarf conifers grow between 1 to 6 inches a year, while a miniature conifer grows less than one inch per year. We like these plants because they are low maintenance and they are evergreens. Our garden has many hard-to-find and rare plants. My garden is designed to linger in and take one’s time in while strolling along the river.

Gardens should be shared. At my last home in Crescent City, over 500 people toured my garden. There is something for everyone. Once there was a group of people gathered around a large redwood stump. Everyone had their cameras out and were mingling. I walked up to find a big toad sitting next to a fairy garden door. It was quite the photo opportunity.

When you think about the world of gardening, it seems like an endless variety of plants to explore for a lifetime of interest. That’s why I love gardening.

Beautiful conifers are the bones of this garden.

bird housesA collection of birdhouses and annuals make a point of bright color against the beautiful green landscape.

double flowered oriental lilyA double-flowered Oriental lily (Lilium, Oriental group, Zones 5–8). These flowers with extra petals are incredibly beautiful, but they need the right conditions to allow them to open fully.

red rosesIt’s hard to even notice this beautiful rose when the backdrop is so incredible. What a magical space to have a garden.

fairy gardensA tiny fairy clothesline! This is a garden of contrasts, with coastal redwoods and the tiniest of fairy gardens.

A toad visiting the fairy garden. Maybe if someone kisses it, it’ll turn into a prince?

Any bird that moved into this birdhouse would have the most beautiful, fragrant front yard imaginable.

miniature conifersDwarf and miniature conifers are a great addition to any garden. Looking up the annual growth rate of a conifer before you plant it is a great way to make sure it won’t get too big for your space.


Have a garden you’d like to share?

Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!

To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.

If you want to send photos in separate emails to the GPOD email box that is just fine.

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View Comments


  1. User avater
    treasuresmom 10/31/2019

    Everything is divine, but that little fairy clothesline is so very sweet.

  2. User avater
    simplesue 10/31/2019

    That location is so pretty you don't even need a garden with so much natural beauty. Love your front garden photo at the gate so serene. You sure are right about your plants and garden thriving- that Oriential Lily is just amazing! And love the toad in your fairy garden!

  3. btucker9675 10/31/2019

    No wonder over 500 people have visited your gardens - simply wonderful in every way!

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 10/31/2019

    Wow, Donna, you have created a garden that has it all...beautiful plants, impeccably maintained grounds and beds, and delightful touches of whimsy to tickle the imagination. Please share additional pictures whenever the spirit moves you. This is obviously a garden that is endlessly rewarding no matter how many times seen. Thank you.

  5. carolineyoungwilliams 11/04/2019

    Donna, thank you for sharing your beautiful garden. You are very creative. I can see myself wanting to linger in this garden. Be Blessed.

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