Garden Photo of the Day

A Special Courtyard Garden

By Kim Charles

Seasonal interest in Ellen Kirby's beautiful courtyard garden only adds to its allure.

"Here in Winston-Salem, NC (Zone 7), we have four distinct seasons.  These photos show our courtyard garden where three crepe myrtles form a triangular border. With stones from a farmer's field at the base of the nearby Sauratown Mountains, the garden includes sedums, confers and perennials.  

To this collection of photos I have added a few close-ups of favorite flowers including epimedium (early spring), pansies (spring) and clematis (summer). The “tour” begins in January when we usually have at least one good snowfall."

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  1. user-7007498 10/13/2016

    What a lovely and private garden you've created in the middle of a residential development. It looks like such a relaxing place to be. I love crape myrtles year round because of the beautiful bark, and you have done a great job pruning them to show off their wonderful structure.

    Epimediums (and hellebores) are amongst my favorite ground covers for shade. The leaves are quite attractive and the flowers get me so excited in early spring.

    The stone design around the base of the large bird bath is awesome. Great job. The yuccas are perfect accents to the garden.

    Ellen, thanks for sharing your terrific garden.

  2. user-4691082 10/13/2016

    Good morning Ellen, you have a lovely garden there! Did you make the stone landing under the birdbath? It's beautiful! Your crape myrtles are larger than mine. I have 'Tonto'. I believe it's one of the smaller ones... I can't wait to see the mature bark! Now if only women could embrace the mature bark on their aging faces!!! It's great to see your four seasons represented. Is your white clematis 'henrii'? It's one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing!

    1. User avater
      meander_michaele 10/13/2016

      " Now if only women could embrace the mature bark on their aging faces!!!"...definitely made me smile and nod my head in agreement. Funny how we celebrate the character giving signs of maturing on our plants and garden structures but then again, are not always as enthusiastic about the indications that our years are piling up for ourselves.

    2. tennisluv 10/13/2016

      If only our faces would peel off the wrinkles like the crepe myrtles do their bark. Have embraced my gray/white; working on the wrinkles. You have done a wonderful job of pruning up the crepe myrtles. Crepe murder is so prolific in the Atlanta metropolitan area in which I live. Lovely gardens.

  3. User avater
    treasuresmom 10/13/2016

    Totally love all this.

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 10/13/2016

    You really do have a lovely 4 season garden, Ellen, and even with a gentle snow covering, there are interesting things to catch the eye. The beautifully limbed up trunks of your crape myrtle are like living sculptures and you must be so pleased with their form and height. You certainly found some gorgeous rocks with the wonderful color variations provided by them being a friendly host for lichens. Love the dainty burgundy edging and veining of the epimedium...that's one of those plants that has such entertaining common names like barrenwort, bishop's hat, fairy wings, horny goat weed. Ha, what's with the "horny goat weed"?

    1. user-7007498 10/13/2016

      Interestingly, epimedium has an effect like phosphodiesterase inhibitors (i.e. Viagra), and has been used as a Chinese herb for centuries for virility.

      1. Chris_N 10/13/2016

        While I was busy looking up Karen Perkins, whose name I could not remember off the top of my head, you beat me to the post!

        1. User avater
          meander_michaele 10/13/2016

          I will give you extra credit points in the game of trivia anyway, Chris. It was practically a tie.

      2. User avater
        meander_michaele 10/13/2016

        Well, well...more aptly nicknamed than I would have guessed!

    2. Chris_N 10/13/2016

      Went to a talk by Karen Perkins, of Garden Vision Epimediums. I never knew there were so many species and varieties. Turns out 'horny goat's weed' is the Chinese common name for one species that is used as an herbal "male enhancer."

      1. user-7007498 10/13/2016

        Chris, I love epimediums and have about 10 cultivars in my garden. I never knew about Garden Visions, so I am happy you mentioned it. I already checked her website. Have you been pleased with the quality of her plants?

        1. Chris_N 10/13/2016

          I have to admit that I have not bought any epimediums from Karen. She gave her talk to the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society and a number of other members have been quite happy with plants they have gotten from her.

          BTW, she had some great photos of and stories about her former business partner Darrell Probst's trips to China. Those hills in Chinese paintings really do exist and epimediums like to grow on the steepest parts.

      2. WinstonSalem 10/22/2016

        This epicedium is very special. I brought it from my Brooklyn NY garden when I moved to WS and it survived...and thrived. It has lovely yellow flowers in the spring. Thanks for the lead to Garden Vision. Will check it out.

  5. wGardens 10/13/2016

    Lovely, indeed! Wish I could have crape myrtle's here.... the epimediums are wonderful and I do love that clematis! Think I need to add a white one! nice stonework under the birdbath. That was quite a time-consuming project! Do you know the name of the conifer behind the boulder near your birdbath?

    1. WinstonSalem 10/16/2016

      It's a curly pine.

  6. Chris_N 10/13/2016

    Beautiful garden. I would love to sit on that bench and take it all in. I especially like the last photo with all the different textures of the plants and stone.

  7. Chalis2 10/13/2016

    What a heavenly garden! Your crepe myrtles just steal the show...their structure is so beautiful. I can't have them in my zone 6 garden, so all I can do is admire yours. What color are they when they're in bloom? Even in the snow they add such interest to your garden. I love that lichen covered rock as adds great character. The close-ups of your flowers are also lovely...I especially love the pansy, such a beautiful blue (one of my favorite colors in a garden) and the markings on the leaves of the epimediums are really pretty.

    1. WinstonSalem 10/16/2016

      Ellie, They are a dark hot pink (almost red).

    2. WinstonSalem 10/22/2016

      While working at Brooklyn Botanic Garden (which was a test site for crepe myrtles north of DC.) I learned that crepe myrtles are are really "tree-like" shrubs and need to be pruned with three main trunks. Everything else should be pruned off. this is what I have done for ten years. I rarely have them prune from the canopy. No "crepe murder" for me. They re the stars of the garden in late summer.

  8. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 10/13/2016

    You really have four seasons of interest, Ellen. I'm just crazy about the stone mosaic under your water feature and the lichen covered stones! The plants ain't bad either! I'm an epimedium lover too, and was checking out Garden Visions to which others are referring just a minute ago. Nice shot of yours. Looks like you've planted a wonderful evergreen backdrop for you garden. Nice!

  9. greengenes 10/13/2016

    How beautiful are those crape Myrtles ! Lovely gardens Ellen! Thanks for sharing!

  10. sheila_schultz 10/13/2016

    Talk about a whole lot of interest packed into a compact space, Ellen, you have successfully managed to create the beauty of a large garden in your courtyard. The gorgeous boulder, the mosaic stone base for the birdbath, the epimedium's, the yuccas... perfect!

  11. schatzi 10/13/2016

    Beautiful garden in all seasons. Chris and Kevin, you guys are just a fount of information. Thanks for the Garden Visions epimedium source. That's where I am going next.

  12. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 10/14/2016

    Ellen, thanks for sharing your beautiful courtyard garden. There is something very special about a courtyard, isn't there? It gives one a sense of having a secret place and yours is very special. Sorry to have missed this lively conversation yesterday.

  13. bokie 10/14/2016

    Lovely. I especially love seeing gardens from a zone similar to mine.
    I only wish there was a means for identifying specific plants in a caption on each picture.
    Would sure make things easier if I want to replicate a combination that works well in another garden.

    1. WinstonSalem 10/22/2016

      I made a list and it showed up at the top of the comments. Thanks for your interest.

      1. bokie 10/22/2016

        Very considerate - Thanks for going to the trouble!

  14. WinstonSalem 10/16/2016

    Here is a list of many of the plants in our garden: curly pine, ajuga reptans, creeping jenny, limelight hydrangea, dwarf metasequoia, phlox davidii, mondo grass, crepe myrtle, yucca golden sword, lambs ears.

  15. WinstonSalem 10/22/2016

    The yuccas have been amazing. I got three from Niche Gardens (a native plant garden) near Chapel Hill a few years ago. They have grown and spread through my garden. They are evergreen and provide both color and structure to the garden in winter.

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