Garden Photo of the Day

A Spring to Remember in Bonnie’s North Georgia Garden

A year with lots of rain and no late frost culminates in a spectacular spring show

Ruby Slippers oakleaf hydrangea with woodland garden beyond

Happy Monday GPODers!

Today’s submission is an extra treat for me because we’re getting an update from Bonnie Plikaytis and her incredible woodland garden in north Georgia. Back in early 2022, I had the pleasure of writing a short piece on Bonnie and her garden for an issue of Fine Gardening that was one of my first articles to be featured in the print magazine (On a related side note – I’ve had a few submitters ask if GPOD ever makes it to print, so for everyone’s information, yes! We’re bringing back GPOD articles in print, so if you’ve ever dreamed of seeing your garden in those glossy pages, but sure to submit photos for a chance to be featured!).

Bonnie has shared her gorgeous garden several times in the past (Here are just a few to check out: Garden Stumperies, Autumn Colors in North Georgia, Winter Beauty in Bonnie’s Garden, and Spring in North Georgia), and today we get to see the highlights from the exceptional spring she had this year.

After a dry fall in 2023, there has been 41.6 inches of rain this year in the garden through the end of May. The rain and normal seasonal temperatures made for a perfect spring. Plants burst forth and there was no late frost to damage the tender leaves. Hope you enjoy a glimpse of this “spring to remember” in North Georgia.

erythronium pagodaErythronium is a genus of bulbs in the lily family and some of the native species can be difficult to establish. However, the hybrid ‘Pagoda’ is a vigorous plant (Erythronium ‘Pagoda’, Zones 4–9). Commonly called trout lily, this ephemeral perennial adds a touch of elegance to the garden in late March.

Primula vulgaris Belarina NectarineAnother late March blooming perennial is Belarina Nectarine’ primrose (Primula vulgaris ‘Belarina Nectarine’, Zones 4–9). It brings a beautiful long-lasting pop of color to the garden as it wakes up.

dogwood with viburnumIn designing the entry garden along the driveway, the theory was to have the viburnum and dogwood native to the property bloom at the same time to give a color echo. The last time this happened as planned was spring of 2017. Spring 2024 the combo did not disappoint! The doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Mariesii’, Zones 5–8) and native dogwood tree (Cornus florida, Zones 5–9) were perfectly synchronized in their bloom times to give the color echo so rarely seen. The weeping red laceleaf Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Inaba Shidare’, Zones 5–9) provides a lovely contrast of maroon foliage. This weeping laceleaf Japanese maple complements the upright form of the dogwood and viburnum.

Acer shirasawanum MoonriseMost people associate the colorful leaves of Japanese maples only with fall foliage. Several varieties of Japanese maples also have stunning leaf colors in the spring. A perfect example is ‘Moonrise’ fullmoon maple (Acer shirasawanum ‘Moonrise’, Zones 5–9). The leaves hold their red color for weeks before maturing to a lovely chartreuse.

variegated Japanese roof irisIris tectorum commonly known as Japanese roof iris is a member of the crested iris group. It naturalizes easily in our woodland garden and blooms in mid-April. Last spring at the Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) Plant Sale, I was delighted to find a variegated form Ikeda Sunbeam Japanese Roof Iris (Iris tectorum ‘Ikeda Sunbeam’, Zones 5–8). In spring the plant had elegant, variegated leaves to frame the exotic lavender flowers. As the weather warmed into summer the leaves lost the variegation to become solid green much like the standard Japanese roof iris.

Rhododendron Purple Palace

The weather in north Georgia is suitable for a numerous varieties of rhododendrons. This broadleaf evergreen provides year-round interest, however, when they bloom in spring, they take it to a whole new level! One of several varieties in our garden, Rhododendron ‘Purple Palace’ (Zones 6–8) was stellar this spring with its lush deep reddish-purple blooms.

Rhododendron Anna Rose Whitney

Rhododendron ‘Anna Rose Whitney’ (Zone 6–8) is another variety of rhododendron that thrives in our garden. Valued for its large trusses of brilliantly colored rose-pink flowers, this plant is a moderately fast grower and if healthy will grow to 12 feet tall.

Ruby Slippers oakleaf hydrangea with woodland garden beyondBy mid-May the garden was flourishing, and the ‘Ruby Slippers’ oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’ Zones 5–9) was blooming. I often stand on the deck to enjoy the arial view of the garden. Looking closely, it becomes clear that ours is truly a woodland garden with the cultivated areas merging seamlessly with the trees native to the property. The stone-lined cypress mulched path circles our home and leads to a paved community walking trail that borders our property.

After years of looking for ‘Little Redhead’ spigelia (Spigelia marilandica ‘Little Redhead’, Zones 5–9), I finally found it at the ABG Plant Sale three years ago. This plant blooms in May displaying spectacular red flowers with yellow centers. Nothing seems to deter this plant in our garden; sun, shade, deer, rabbits, drought, you name it this lovely perennial just keeps going. In the background is a chartreuse golden fullmoon Japanese maple (Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’, Zones 5–9) and Southgate® Radiance™ rhododendron (Rhododendron ‘Tyler Morris’, Zones 6–9).

dog in the gardenAnd of course, my gardening companion Cody enjoying spring in his garden!

Thank you so much for sharing this update, Bonnie! It was such a nice trip down memory lane to see your garden again and whether you have a stand out season or not, your amazing woodland retreat is always a pleasure to share on GPOD.


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View Comments


  1. nwphilagardener 07/08/2024

    Thanks for a great informative post of unusual and striking plants.

  2. User avater
    treasuresmom 07/08/2024

    That photo of the trout lily is just astounding

  3. btucker9675 07/08/2024

    That trout lily is spectacular - what an elegant plant and great photo. It's good that Cody is on alert in the garden, always ready to point out weeds that need attention! : )

  4. [email protected] 07/08/2024

    The beautiful primrose almost looks as if it's growing in a container. Is it in the ground at the base of that tree? It's spectacular!

    1. user-7583935 07/08/2024

      Yes it is planted in the ground at the base of one of the logs in the stumpery.

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