Garden Photo of the Day

A Special Garden Built by Hand

By Kim Charles

Katie Settlage of TN has created a unique garden sanctuary enjoyed by all, including the local wildlife.

"I have never submitted to GPOD although I do love to look at the submissions of others. I am fairly new to gardening, just since buying our 1930's fixer upper on a rather shaded acre in Knoxville, Tennessee 6 years ago. We have been doing all the work ourselves to remodel the home, and along the way I have fenced in part of the yard to allow me to create a cottage style garden without having to worry about deer. There was no garden to speak of when we bought the house–just weedy lawn and lots of big trees. I have done all the work myself on a tight budget, including building all the water features (last year I made a 170 foot long "stream" that runs through the back garden, and I also have a square fish pond in the front garden). We built the garden shed ourselves, using some repurposed materials from our home remodel, and I built the patios and walkways using antique brick that was found scattered around the property. Many of my plants are pass alongs, foundlings, bought at the scratch and dent sale at the end of summer, etc. I divide a lot and move things around to fill my ever expanding garden beds. I use no pesticides and am a biologist by training so I really enjoy seeing all the wildlife brought to my garden–frogs, salamanders, turtles, lots of birds including hawks, barred owls, and turkeys, and even small mammals like raccoons, opossums, skunks, fox, and once a mother mink and her babies! Last summer was very hot and two box turtles spent many days on end hanging out in my little stream to stay cool.
Best wishes,
Katie Settlage"

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  1. frankgreenhalgh 02/08/2017

    Hello there Katie - Lovely story, and congratulations on a marvellous effort creating your wonderful garden in a nice wooded setting. Great reuse of materials and plants. Very impressed with your water features - and looks like the local wildlife is as well. Must be relaxing whilst lying on the hammock and hearing the sound of running water. You may be relatively new to gardening, but you certainly have natural talent. Cheers from Australia (where we are melting).

    1. user-4691082 02/08/2017

      Frank, you can fly over to Katie's garden, don your speedo, and lay next to the box turtle to stay cool!!!!

      1. frankgreenhalgh 02/08/2017

        Rhonda, I don't want to frighten the turtle with my budgy smugglers on! I must admit though that it would be good to get a bit of relief from the heat. I think you are the one who is very cool! Cheers from a chucking Aussie

        1. katiesettlage 02/08/2017

          You can't frightened this turtle, Frank...she has nerves of steel from her many weeks being tracked and seduced daily by my 4 year old son. She finally gave up on closing her shell...too much work...and let him sit next to her in the creek and stroke her gently. She has only one eye too...that helps shield her from half of life's traumatic visuals!

    2. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 02/08/2017

      I can't imagine enduring that kind of heat, Frank. Stay cool and hydrated! I guess it's at least an excuse to refrain from physical labor.....

  2. Jay_Sifford 02/08/2017

    Congratulations on creating such a peaceful and personal space for yourself. You're definitely a quick study. It's really beautiful.

  3. user-7007498 02/08/2017

    Katie, welcome to the GPOD site with your first post, and don't be afraid to jump in on the daily discussions. Great start to your garden. The stream is wonderful and will attract wildlife and give you much pleasure. Love your curved borders. Great idea to limit the grass and eliminate pesticides. You have a good eye for plantings. Keep up the good work. Thanks for sharing your garden.

  4. Maggieat11 02/08/2017

    Great Job, Katie! Wouldn't know you are relatively new to gardening! Really like your plant-surrounded fish pond... and with the developed moss. looks like it has been there a long time. I enjoyed your story and glad you have joined our group of GPODer's.

  5. User avater
    user-7007816 02/08/2017

    Katie, What a remarkable job you have done. I would never know you did it all on a tight budget. I particularly like the way you shaped and finished the stream. You obviously have a great sense of plants and how to integrate them. Great Job.

  6. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/08/2017

    Hi, Katie, so glad you decided to plunge into the picture sharing waters of GPOD. You have created a thoroughly lovely garden and I, too, would never have guessed it was on a tight budget. I love the curving lines of your beds and the inclusion of several graceful lace leaf Japanese maples...they always add such artistry to the garden. Your shed is adorable and makes a delightful destination point for the pathway.
    I live in Friendsville which is between Knoxville and Maryville so if you ever want free daylilies, hellebores, or some other things, track me down on Facebook under Michaele Anderson and you can come over and do a "dig and take".

    1. katiesettlage 02/08/2017

      Greetings Michaele,
      Oh how I would love to see your beautiful gardens in person one day. I am in the Rocky Hill neighborhood and would love to come by some time...Friendsville is close indeed. I had a generous neighbor with an established garden who got me started with many divisions 6 years ago, and have had other gardener friends along the way share too, and I know where each and every plant came from. I think of their previous owners as I pass by them with such fondness. It would be fun to have some new family members! I love Jap Maples but most of mine are young and awkward...I typically go to Site One off Lovell Rd. and ask for their saddest and cheapest maples to take home and nurse along. Most of them are pathetic, but for $25 or $35 I can at least take a chance and dream of how they may all look one distant day when they are mature.

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 02/08/2017

        Hi, Katie, I've done some buying at the nursery on Lovell Rd. that is now called Site One. They sure have a plentitude of plants and it must be great to live close enough to be able to stop in and look for bargains!
        I'd love to do a garden walk about with you here at my place and vice versa. Please let me know via this comment thread if you can't find me on Facebook and we'll ask Kim if she would be the go between for an exchange of email addresses. I think it's a "no no" to just make email addresses available on a public site ...otherwise, I'd just write it down for you here. Is Rocky Hill kind of in the Northshore/Morrell rd area? If so, I can understand why you got a home with nice mature trees. That is very special.

        1. katiesettlage 02/09/2017

          Yes, on the Northshore/Morrell area, and yes on the mature trees. I have a truly astounding hackberry that I think may compete for county champion if I were to ever have it formally measured. It is impressive. Shades my entire house. I think I am one of perhaps a dozen of my generation who does not have Facebook...perhaps Kim can pass my email along to you? That would be great.

  7. tennisluv 02/08/2017

    Katie, you and your husband have done an amazing job in six years, especially since it sounds like you are also doing a lot of home renovating yourself. As others have said, you are a natural gardener with a good eye for flora, fauna and hardscape. Envious of your abilities. Lovely! Especially like the square pond and the plantings around it.

  8. NCYarden 02/08/2017

    Welcome Katie. Wow, you have created a wonderful garden in such a relatively short time. Your water features are fantastic. I still keep trying to figure out to get one incorporated into my own garden, and you have definitely given me some new thoughts. You should be very stoked with all you have accomplished. It's always a compliment when wildlife know you have done something right. It may seem unfair, but hopefully you don't find a lot of voles visiting though...even they challenge the biologist, eco-friendly, zen gardener in me...ha! Thanks for sharing, it's beautiful.

    1. Chris_N 02/08/2017

      Voles can be a real nuisance. I don't have problems with them at home but at work they girdled two crab apples. Luckily it was a great spot for a rock garden so I pulled the dead trees and the lackluster spirea and redid the space. When they girdled the little Garnet Japanese maple, then I was mad. Japanese maples generally are touchy in Wisconsin so to have one happy, healthy and growing nicely only to be chewed up by cute but despicable little rodents irritated me greatly.

      1. NCYarden 02/08/2017

        Oh Chris, that is a real tragedy. I hate those creatures. I have had my share of loss because of them, but fortunately none of my Japanese maples, which I hope never happens. To lose my Garnet would be maddening, as it is one of oldest maples in the garden.

        1. deborah_gleason 02/08/2017

          What do you do to get rid of the voles? I'm thinking of getting a truck load of snakes (haha)! It seems like anything I put in the ground gets chewed up from below and above, either the deer or the voles. They must be pretty tasty though, because my cat loves them. :)

          1. deborah_gleason 02/08/2017

            And Katie, really amazing job! So beautiful!

          2. NCYarden 02/08/2017

            I don't like to use poisons, as much as I would love to see them truly eradicated, but with a 12 day breeding cycle (I think), not so sure anyone could win anyway. And I know other animals eat them, when we're lucky, and therefore don't want to poison the ecosystem food chain, including our pets that happen to enjoy our gardens. So I try a couple of methods. I try companion planting, namely daffodils nearby because the bulbs are poisonous to voles, even if I don't get the blooms; of course blooms are a huge plus. I almost always plant with Parmatill added to the hole around the root balls. And the thing I have been trying over the last few seasons, particularly with hostas, is transferring the hosta to a larger standard black nursery pot with the bottom cut out (to allow good drainage), filling the bottom of the whole with Permatill, planting the hosta with the pot, and back filling with a little more Permatill mixed in with the soil. The idea being that voles are only going to tunnel just so far, usually just below the surface - why we often see evidence of the trailing tunnel. They probably are not going to tunnel deep enough to the depth of the pot and therefore cannot get to the roots/bulbs. I don't want to exclaim "problem solved" yet, but it has been promising. I am growing hostas again, and have even rejuvenated some of my specialty hostas from remnant nubs of bulbs miraculously left behind by those subterranean devils. Fingers crossed. Give it a try and let all of us know if you have any success.

          3. NCYarden 02/08/2017

            I do miss having my outdoor cats as well. I used to have the best hunter. Loved seeing vole parts at my doorstep. Now I'm completely dependent on tactical planting strategies.

          4. linnyg. 02/14/2017

            When we moved to our house back in 1999, the following January my husband somberly said, "Linda, you might want to come here and see this." which usually means it will be painful to look upon. All 13 of our roses I had planted were leaning Towers of Pisa. I thought our 5-year old twin grandsons had something to do with this plight until my husband pulled up one of the roses and all that was left of the roots was a gnawed off spike. A little bit of research told me it was voles so I figured the best way to conquer the enemy is to understand them. Not only are voles prolific, never hibernate (even in cold Colorado), just breed and eat but they are very protective of their own and have the highest memory retention of any mammal. So if cousin George keels over after eating those white pellets, then the rest know to avoid them as well. They live above-ground only to tunnel under to eat tasty roots of most things, even grass. Someone suggested I stand with a pitchfork above an exist hole, but I decided I wasn't patient enough for that. Someone said to pray for as owl, so I did as each owl eats a vole a day. A hungry barn owl showed up and feasted for awhile. I found the best idea was barriers: voles don't like to climb so we installed Windsor stone around all the beds and chicken wire along anything that butted up against the patio or deck. Problem solved, though we still get some tunneling through our grass. Now what do I do about the demon squirrel who strips off the bark of all my locust branches!!!

    2. katiesettlage 02/08/2017

      I have had a couple hostas lost to voles, but my cat seems to care for no wildlife other than rodents, so the voles (and the occasional and harmless shrew) have met their match for the most part with her.

  9. Chris_N 02/08/2017

    Katie, what a wonderful garden. Inspiration and sweat equity can produce some great results. Love the photo of the woodland phlox with the yellow edged hosta and all the ferns by your stream. Since I've been an avid amateur herpetologist longer than I've been a gardener, that is, I've had pet turtles since I was a small child and didn't really get into plants until I was at least a medium child, the thought of box turtles and slimy salamanders just popping up in the yard fills me with glee.

    1. Chris_N 02/08/2017

      BTW, was the other box turtle also a female or did you have a male as well?

      1. katiesettlage 02/08/2017

        The other was a male! A handsome one too. I have high hopes.

        1. Chris_N 02/08/2017

          Oooh... Baby box turtles are so cute! And hard to find!

          1. katiesettlage 02/09/2017

            I have never seen a baby box turtle but a girl can dream! I sure don't know the species (subspecies?) of slimy salamander but I am certainly not strong on my herp ID skills. I did have a weird encounter one day in my garden that you may shed some light on...I found one day after rain a slimy salamander hanging out in a gravel walkway with a ring necked snake not 2 feet away. I wondered if the ring neck would feed on a salamander? The snake was not much bigger than the salamander, so it seemed like a bad idea for snake. I left them alone and don't know what became of the encounter.

          2. Chris_N 02/09/2017

            Ringneck snakes do eat salamanders as well as worms and slugs. I'm not sure what the size difference has to be before they decide to eat one.

            I looked up the range maps for the various slimy salamanders and I think you are in northern slimy salamander area, so it's still Plethodon glutinosus. No one is strong enough on their herp ID skills to tell the slimy salamanders apart by looking at them. The various species all look alike. They can only be told apart by protein or DNA analysis. I just thought you might know off hand which one was found in your area.

            I've only seen captive bred baby box turtles. Evidently, in the wild, they are very secretive. They don't have a very tough shell when little and probably make tasty treats for raccoons, possum, skunks, foxes, etc. The smallest I've ever found had a 3" long shell.

  10. user-4691082 02/08/2017

    I just love the turtles, and the thought of Frank laying next to them to keep cool, in his speedo, of course! I'm melting, I'm melting, where have we heard that before? Welcome, Katie- great job!!!

    1. frankgreenhalgh 02/08/2017

      Good, we have our fun loving, humorous Rhonda back. I am speechless in terms of a response, Rhonda. Love it! Thanks my friend

  11. thevioletfern 02/08/2017

    Wonderful! All things close to my heart — handmade, repurposed, creative, unpoisoned, living in harmony with and inviting in nature. Your garden is a magic place! Only magic can look so beautiful.

  12. anitaberlanga 02/08/2017

    Katie, from one 'by hand' gardener to another: KUDOS! Your garden is gorgeous and shows a great deal of respect for the existing terrain. I love the design and placement of your garden shed!

    and...okay...gotta ask: is that a live salamander? Too adorable (and if it is live, I'll bet it keeps the mosquito population WAY down)

    1. katiesettlage 02/08/2017

      A real deal slimy salamander. Too cute!

      1. Chris_N 02/08/2017

        This is probably a silly question but do you know which species it is? They used to all be plain old slimy salamanders (Plethodon glutinosus) but I know they've split them into 13 species now with 3 in Tennessee.

  13. user-7008274 02/08/2017

    I love your shaded space! Getting to see pictures of the native wildlife enjoying the habitat is a treat. Thank you for sharing. Are you growing night-scented stock behind the hosta in one of your pictures?

    1. katiesettlage 02/08/2017

      That sounds like a lovely plant, I shall look it up, but mine is just a pass along creeping phlox. I think it is simply our native fragrant phlox.

      1. willysmom 02/08/2017

        It does look like Phlox divaricata, but which selection is hard to say. 'Blue Moon' is very fragrant, but it also could be the straight species, as it is blue and fragrant too. I have a hard time keeping it going here in Maine, but yours is gorgeous! Thanks for posting.

  14. User avater
    treasuresmom 02/08/2017

    Oh, my, my. In pic 4 your cascading stream is wonderful. Reminds me of the falls in the Smokies. You have done an amazingly beautiful job!!

  15. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 02/08/2017

    Nothing about your lovely garden says 'new to gardening'. You've done quite nicely with your lovely lot, and your plant selection is great. A wonderful thing about pass-along plants is that they are likely to be plants that thrive in your climate and look great.
    I am smitten with the box turtle and the salamander! Love them.

  16. Doxnmomx2 02/08/2017

    Oh to be wildlife in your sumptuous garden! Everything is perfect though I'm sure its continually evolving. I love the turtles. I live in La. and still exclaim over every log loaded with a "herd" of turtles sunbathing! To have some take up residence is quite a compliment.

    1. katiesettlage 02/08/2017

      Hi Peggy Jo, fellow turtle lover! Every innocent turtle crossing the road in these parts gets a helping hand by me...even if they resist. Every box turtle is cause for me slamming on my brakes and jumping out to assist with the crossing. I once chased a red eared slider across 3 lanes of traffic before I finally "rescued" him and got him safely to the lake. He was fast! I have even helped a grumpy snapping turtle who got so mad at the traffic that he sulled up on the yellow line and just refused to move, hissing at every passing car. That was a two man job. Gotta get them by the tail.

      1. Doxnmomx2 02/09/2017

        I've done my share of blocking traffic for turtles too, but I'm not able to identify types. We all need to share the road!

  17. deannalchurch 02/08/2017

    Oh how I love your stream! It looks like a lot of manual labor went into creating it. I can imagine that seeing the turtles and other critters enjoying it makes it all worthwhile though. I have a tiny little pond and in the summer it is so enjoyable to sit in my swing on my back patio and listen to the frogs. So relaxing!

    With all of your renovating and landscaping I hope that you take the time to really enjoy your peaceful, inviting yard. That hammock would beckon to me every day!

  18. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 02/08/2017

    Katie, welcome to GPOD, and thanks for giving us a glimpse into your very creative garden. Your stream, pond, wildlife, shed and all of those hand me down plants are not the sign of an amateur gardener. You've come a long way in 6 years. l really love the photo of the salamander. It takes me back to the delight of finding them as a child. I hope you'll keep sharing.

  19. VikkiVA 02/08/2017

    Beautiful Katie...what a joy to see the wildlife visiting your garden. Thanks for sharing. Vikki in VA

  20. Sunshine111 02/08/2017

    So lovely! I love the hosta and phlox combo and will try it myself! Thanks for sharing your lovely home and gardens.

  21. NWAgardener 02/08/2017

    Katie - you and your husband are two exceptionally talented and ambitious individuals. What a magnificent garden you have created!

    1. katiesettlage 02/08/2017

      Thanks so much for your kind words! My husband and I are both University of Arkansas alumni and lived for years in NWA so I always look with special admiration at your garden, in part because I can sympathize with the challenges and glories of the NWA climate and terrain, and also because we both share a love for hostas! I never did garden while I lived there but my grandmother tried her best in the rocky soil. East Tennessee has its own challenges to be sure, but sometimes I think it makes me look like I'm better than I really am! It is a rather friendly place for plant life :)

  22. schatzi 02/08/2017

    Katie, you have made a wonderful garden, endorsed by the wild critters who know what's good! A ton of creativity and sweat equity = 1 gorgeous garden. Thanks for sharing and welcome to the "club".

  23. User avater
    gringopeligroso 02/08/2017

    Ms, Settlage!!
    My, but how you make me miss Applachia even more!!
    Prey Tell: The lovely Foxgloves in your realm; do they re-seed and naturalize for you?
    My wife who's crossed over used to garden up the road from you in the Kingsport/Bristol area, and hers would sow themselves with abandon!! Nice!!
    Here, at the edge of the Great Plains, we plant many, but for this location, they are but expensive and short-lived Fuschias, they don't tolerate our triple digit Summer's very well.
    Anyway, your sanctuary is quite impressive for a shoe-string fact, quite impressive, period!! Thanx for sharing! (And for making me a tad homesick!! Sigh...!!) More, please! More! Jesse

    1. User avater
      gringopeligroso 02/08/2017

      Oh, and PS: Anytime the Wilde-ones come in to share your efforts, you KNOW yer doin' something right!! Jesse

    2. katiesettlage 02/08/2017

      Hi Jesse! Those foxgloves were part of a seed order I placed my first year, when money was tight...they've been on a self directed decoration mission ever since! They never do get out of hand though. Just the perfect reseeder for me.

      1. User avater
        gringopeligroso 02/09/2017

        NICE!!!! And: .......sigh!!! This is me here counting YOUR blessings and being just a leetle jealous!! Like you, I also count upon reseeders to fill my beds and long days with colour!! Jesse

  24. user-6536305 02/08/2017

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful garden Katie! What a huge amount of work and creation you and your husband have done in a short period of 6 years. You are a natural green thumb. Love the creeping phlox and will plant some myself this spring. I would like to know the name of purple iris like plant between the photo of turtle and salamander please.

    1. katiesettlage 02/08/2017

      Thanks Lilian! It was a tiny bit nerve wracking to share with such an accomplished group, since my garden has been my own private little experimental play ground. You all are so sweet and encouraging. The iris is a native wildflower to the southeast, the Dwarf Crested Iris. I was able to rescue it and some other native woodland treasures like trillium, ferns, and little brown jug from a homesite in the foothills of the Smokies that an acquaintance was getting ready to develop. I treasure them but honestly wish they were all able to stay in their real home. Sighhhhh. Regardless, I think they are easily purchased. They spread and form a mat of rhizomes, so I would give you a division if you were here!

      1. user-6536305 02/08/2017

        Thanks Katie, love your offer of Dwarf Crested Iris but I am in Vancouver Canada:) Would you please also tell me the cultivar name of your creep phlox - the one behind the hosta?

        1. katiesettlage 02/08/2017

          I wish I knew, it came as a pass along and has been divided and spread be honest I think Phlox divaricata, our local wild phlox, but maybe someone with a better eye would know more than myself? It is very scented.

        2. User avater
          gringopeligroso 02/09/2017

          Ms. Ho!
          I'm pretty sure Ms. Settlage is correct in the nomenclature of said Phlox. It's one of my faves of the natives and also goes by the common names of Woodland Phlox and Wilde Sweet William. I sometimes see it in the offerings of our local venues, but in recent years, it's become a real treasure hunt to locate for sale. Perhaps mail order? I was fortunate enough to find a couple last season and introduced them into my new garden. I'm hoping that they'll do as they do in her Applachian garden, and spread with abandon!! Baby Blue is the dominant colour, but white is sometimes seen in wilde or cultivated places, and last spring, I spotted a pink variant along a county road they were fixin' to "maintain" with a grader. I rescued as much as I dared and am now hoping to see the transplants emerge from dormancy...keeping fingers crossed!! Jesse

          1. user-6536305 02/09/2017

            Thanks so much both Jesse and Katie for the name of the phlox and I am on my quest for it.

  25. sheila_schultz 02/08/2017

    Katie, your gardens are charmingly inviting for both humans and critters of all persuasions! You are obviously a naturally intuitive gardener, and your water features are a complete delight. I love it all and I'm blown away that you did this in 6 short years!

    1. katiesettlage 02/08/2017

      I have been busy, Sheila, that's for sure. I am told I crossed a line while trying to make my semi-circular brick patio whilst 8 months pregnant. I got er' done, but since I couldn't exactly bend over to set bricks at that point, I was on hands and knees with belly swinging low, what a sight it must have been. Like all of you though, I prefer to be "out there" over being "in here" any day...even a pregnant day!

      1. sheila_schultz 02/08/2017

        HaHa, I can just see you now! As a matter of fact, many moons ago when I was waiting for my first born to make his grand appearance and getting impatient because he was 3 wks. late, I gardened for hours each day hoping to make him so uncomfortable he would want to see the light of day!

  26. Meelianthus 02/08/2017

    So very charming Katie and the history of your home as well. Such a beautiful job you have accomplished and your little garden cottage is very inviting looking. Great fence too! Thanks for your photos today and stay tuned.

  27. edithdouglas 02/08/2017

    You certainly did a first class job! You have inspired me to get out there and do better. Thanks!

  28. Cenepk10 02/08/2017

    Well now, Katie - I see you've been holding out on us... What a fantastic job you've done with your property- Looks as if it's been waiting all these years for you to finally move in. Great job !!!!

  29. foxglove12 02/08/2017

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your garden! Its amazing. And how fun is it to have a turtle stop by...
    Great job!

  30. krissgandier 02/11/2017

    You've done an amazing job. It looks so lovely. Enjoyed your pictures very much, especially seeing the wildlife you've attracted. Thanks for sharing

  31. grannieannie1 02/11/2017

    What beauty, all so natural looking, not contrived. Your shed fits perfectly into your garden as do aged bricks anywhere. And yes, that blue phlox is wonderful. Just wish pictures could include aromas!

  32. linnyg. 02/14/2017

    Absolutely love your gardens - I could get lost in them and not be found for some time!!!

  33. connieparrett 03/06/2017

    You must be my "garden soul sister"! Much of your story mimic many of my garden tales. The one thing that I am working on and would love to finish this summer is a pond. Could you please share with me your DYI on the pond and stream, I would be ever so grateful!
    Sincerely, Connie

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