Garden Photo of the Day

A Garden Transformed

Two years completely change a new garden

Today’s photos come from Yvonne L. DeMarino.

Like a mole, I dig when I can, and I wanted to share some photos of my progress from my St. Paul, Minnesota, garden. My garden is the culmination of two years’ work and play. This is my first home, and when I purchased it the yard was merely lawn. As the home was empty and I was incapable of containing my unrestrained plant ebullience, I started depositing plants in the backyard before I had even closed on the property. I went to the closing with blueberry bushes in my car, and afterward immediately began tearing out the front lawn. Attachment to the American lawn is strong, and I think my neighbors wondered about this new neighbor tearing out the dutiful green carpeting! In hindsight, my initial excitement resulted in poor initial planning and created some flaws in my garden relating to overgrowth, height, and overall flow that I’m still working out. As in life itself, a garden is always changing, and thus I try to enjoy the process of evolution rather than resisting my blunders: the wrong plant in the wrong spot, the overaggressive scrunching of my pruning shears on the poor hydrangea, the marginally hardy but costly Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia, Zones 5–8) that died on me just when I thought I too would have camellia-like blooms in my patch of the Midwest.

Each fall I have planted more flower bulbs, resulting in a delightful spring display that propels me through our long and harsh Minnesota winters. Growing in a zone 4b climate can be challenging, but I’ve managed to incorporate some tropical plants to remind me of my home state of Florida, such as the red Abyssinian banana (Ensete ventricosum, Zones 10–11) and various canna lilies, which I dutifully dig up every year and store indoors. Combining cast-iron urns and colorful glazed terra-cotta pots and statuary allows me to enrich the texture, vary the height, and allow the eye to rest on focal points in an otherwise unruly garden space. I have a small water fountain that attracts birds, and it’s enjoyable to watch them splash and drink on hot summer days. I also blend many native plants, and I have been pleased to see how many pollinators visit my flower buffet. My cat, Dubsy, enjoys sitting outside in her cat tent, watching me garden. I credit my mother, a plant pathologist, with introducing me to gardening at a young age, for it has become the great joy of my life.

Yvonne’s house before . . .

. . . and after—with an exuberant display of spring bulbs.

Dubsy the cat in her tent, enjoying the outside without endangering songbirds or being put in danger by traffic.

The bold leaves of the Abyssinian banana (Ensete ventricosum) preside over the lush summer garden.

Looking from the front door to the street.

A container packed with different colors and textures for the fall.

Close-up of the container.

Evening in the garden.

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View Comments


  1. paiya 01/17/2019

    Yvonne, you have transformed both your house and “dutiful green carpet” so beautifully in a short time. I hope that your neighbors are encouraged to transform their green spaces too! The urn is fascinating with its various textures and colors - do you bring the “elephant ears” indoors in winter?

  2. wittyone 01/17/2019

    What a beautiful splash of spring color, welcome I'm sure after a Minnesota winter. Have you converted any of your neighbors into plantaholics yet. Such an amazing transformation surely would have lured some of them into the fold.

  3. sandyprowse 01/17/2019

    Just absolutely fantastic. A thrill to behold. Have you ever done a wonderful job in transformation. Loved the cat in the cat tent right in the middle of the scene.
    Keep up the amazing work Yvonne! What a cute place you have made.

  4. garden1953 01/17/2019

    Fantastic work. Even though there are tropicals I'm sure you miss from your Florida gardens, now you can grow peonies, and lilacs and other plants that like the cold winters.
    Congratulations on such a beautiful garden.

  5. Chellemp 01/17/2019

    Hi Yvonne! I love your garden.o you know that saying that sometimes less is more? I say, throw it out. Sometimes, More is More and your garden shows it. You have really good bones to the plan. And, I love that you changed the siding on your home from the bright and very cheery yellow to a beautiful calming blue. Lovely!

  6. LauraJaneS 01/17/2019

    Yvonne you have done such a wonderful job cheering up your home and yard. Good for you. I'll bet you've probably also put in some hard work inside the house too. Love that planter! Well done <3

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    treasuresmom 01/17/2019

    I totally understand the excitement & poor planning. I look at my place now after 11 years & think what I could have done differently but on we go! So pretty what you have done. I know you love it!

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    meander_michaele 01/17/2019

    Yvonne, I am delighted by your story, envious of your enthusiasm and energy and admiring of the results. I love your embrace of exuberant colors and lush plantings. Your front garden has to be the talk of your neighborhood...good, good, good for you!

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    user-7007816 01/17/2019

    As Fred Rogers used to say, "Won't you be my neighbor?" What a beautiful transformation.

  10. poest 01/17/2019

    One of the best gardens ever posted. Great work!

  11. Chris_N 01/17/2019

    What a great change! From turf to garden in two years is impressive. Love the red Abyssinian bananas and elephant ears. Big, tropical plants are always unexpected and fun when you see them in a northern garden.

  12. Sunshine111 01/17/2019

    You have done an amazing job of transforming your property! Kudos to you. All of your hard work has paid off, your home and garden are beautiful, soothing and a delight to behold.

  13. user-5117752 01/17/2019

    Yvonne! What a gardener you are!!! You've made my day!!! First, the change in color and siding of your most charming house set the tone and, then, after that, your design and choice of plants season to season create the joy, warmth and lusciousness of the landscape. The urn is simply award winning!!! Can't wait to see what you do with it this coming year! And finally, Dubsy in the tent!!! Clever idea and she's a beauty!!! Thank you so very, very much for sharing!!!

  14. cheryl_c 01/17/2019

    Fun, fun fun! So happy that you sent in the 'before' picture! I join others in admiring the wonderful transformation you have wrought, not only with the garden but also with the house itself! You must have had a whole bunch of pent up gardening energy to have accomplished such a transformation. I, too, would love to have you as my neighbor!

  15. User avater
    HelloFromMD 01/17/2019

    Hi Yvonne, your garden is awesome. That fall container is amazing and should win a subscription to Fine Gardening! Your new paint color for your house is perfect for setting off the colors in your gardens. I love the pink chairs. I have an indoor cat so will research where to find a cat tent. Oh, have you tried Eucomis yet, that would make a nice addition to the tropicals that can be saved. I hang the bulbs from the laundry pole in the basement. So easy. Congratulations on your new home and gardens!

  16. Cenepk10 01/17/2019

    Goodness ! You are full on into it ! Beautiful job and so creative. Bet your cross the street neighbors are really enjoying the view. Beautiful job on the house and garden .

  17. JoannaAtGinghamGardens 01/17/2019

    I love what you've done, Yvonne! I too am a Zone 4b, Minnesota gardener. All the color is so cheery. We purchased a fixer upper in the southwest suburbs and I've been making over the yard and gardens over the past 2 1/2 years. I chronicle my garden ventures at Gingham Gardens . com. Look me up sometime and say hello.

  18. n2hostas 01/17/2019

    Great job, love the garden and the changes to make the house your home. Even love the cat tent, what a wonderful idea.

  19. btucker9675 01/17/2019

    Perfectly charming garden and Dubsy is just the right finishing touch!

  20. [email protected] 01/17/2019

    Love it! Love it all, and can't wait to see more of your work, and the back yard, and next season, and more of everything!

  21. user-7056504 01/18/2019

    After waking up in cold and snowy Cleveland, looking at your garden cheered me up! You have inspired me to try bolder plantings this year! what a great garden, wish you were my neighbor...

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    KennethNguyen 01/23/2019

    i like it

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    SamBaker 01/23/2019


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    CynthiaDow 01/24/2019

    nice flowers

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    LouisJimenez 01/28/2019

    ossam! flowers

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    devinkoblas 01/28/2019


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    MarkParker 02/02/2019


  28. User avater
    JimmyCox 02/21/2019

    so lovely

  29. User avater
    KevinHuggins 03/02/2019

    really wonderful

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    RonaldTague 03/08/2019


  31. User avater
    BenjaminShaw 04/15/2019


  32. User avater
    LauraWilliams 05/01/2019

    Very nice!

  33. User avater
    JohnPrice6 05/15/2019


  34. User avater
    ArmandLewis 05/16/2019


  35. User avater
    AnnaMartinez 06/03/2019

    Very Nice!

  36. User avater
    RodgerMckinley 09/19/2019

    Very nice!

  37. User avater
    AshlieDPerron 10/12/2019

    Beautiful Garden!

  38. User avater
    JakeHouck 11/09/2019

    Awesome decoration!

  39. User avater
    AnthonyBerg 11/20/2019


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