Garden Photo of the Day

An Idaho Garden Comes to Life

Spring flowers and memories of summer

Today’s photos come from Andrea Sawyer.

I’m a longtime subscriber to Fine Gardening magazine, and I follow you on Instagram, but I’m a new fan of your Garden Photo of the Day! I can’t wait to check out your beautiful garden photos every morning with my coffee. My name is Andrea Sawyer, and I live in Boise, Idaho. We have a mountain desert climate here, Zone 7, where we have all four beautiful seasons, but none of them to any extreme. After putting compost on my flower beds this week, and already seeing the spiky green of my grape hyacinth (Muscari, Zones 3–9) shooting up, I am so excited for spring! I thought I’d share some photos of what it will look like when those purple flowers arrive soon, plus a few other photos of my garden after it comes to life.

Grape hyacinthGrape hyacinth has been a really good choice in my garden because I live near the Boise River and I have a lot of mature trees with roots running throughout my flower beds. The tiny grape hyacinth bulbs fit well between the tree roots, don’t require much depth, and never fail to come back year after year. I also use a lot of ground covers, because they grow right over those tree roots.

creeping JennyLime-colored creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’, Zones 3–9) is my favorite because it brightens up the shade.

creeping jenny in a containerIf I can’t dig a hole to plant flowers because tree roots are in the way, I set a pot on it with annuals and perennials (creeping Jenny looks great cascading over the side of a pot too).

ClematisI also love to put a little chicken wire around the trunk of a tree so clematis can climb up it. I have discovered there are many varieties of clematis that bloom well in shade.

Fourth of July RoseThe newest addition to my garden is the Fourth of July rose, which is absolutely stunning and really is in full bloom on the Fourth of July just in time for our family BBQ. I planted it in a large pot instead of the ground, and it’s perfectly happy.

Perennials and roses fill this corner of the garden with color.

honeysuckleA honeysuckle (Lonicera) happily blooming on the fence.

rex begoniaA rex begonia (Begonia hybrid, Zones 10–11 or as annual) and impatiens (Impatiens walleriana, annual) brighten up a shady spot.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    meander_michaele 03/06/2020

    You certainly have found a way to have lots of appealing color going on in your garden beds in spite of the challenge of so many tree roots. Love the foliage combo of the creeping Jenny and the heuchera with just a few impatiens flowers adding a flirtatious touch of pink. Everything looks great.

    1. AndreaSue 03/07/2020

      Thank you! I love the heuchera too and having fewer annuals to plant in the pots every spring is an added bonus - saves time and money!

  2. user-7645917 03/06/2020

    Your gardens are absolutely gorgeous! I have a perennial garden that has lots of roots in the shade and honestly for some reason I never thought of using ground cover to fill the spaces I can't plant flowers because of the roots. That is what I will do in the spring. I have a friend in Idaho who just bought a new home. I am planning on sending her some daylilies for her garden this spring.

    1. AndreaSue 03/07/2020

      Thank you for your nice words! Try Creeping Jenny - You’ll love it!

  3. arboretum 03/06/2020

    your shared experiences have already given me a number of ideas for my 33 year old garden, so thank you for that!
    ** I would be forever grateful if you would list the clems that bloom in the shade for you.
    Numularia aurea is a fantastic versatile plant, but if you decide you might like more height in certain spots, you might want to look at Luzulu and the various shorter yellow grasses
    like carex bowles golden[wants some moisture though] and
    yellow hostas that keep their yellow in the shade [see].
    all the best,

    1. AndreaSue 03/07/2020

      Thank you Mindy! Some great ideas! Wow, 33 years... you must have an amazing garden!

      1. AndreaSue 03/07/2020

        I have a list somewhere that I picked up at my favorite Boise garden center that has several types of Clematis that bloom in shade. I will find it and get back with you.

        1. arboretum 03/08/2020

          ooh, i'm so excited about that list! thank you!

      2. AndreaSue 04/04/2020

        Hi Mindy,
        Sorry it has taken me so long to get back with you on your requests for Clematis that I've had success with in the shade. I really like Silver Moon/Star, Nellie Moser, and Piilu. My Diamond Ball also does well, but it does get part sun. Good luck and enjoy! Andrea

  4. sagebird52 03/06/2020

    Wonderful colors and contrasts. Thank you for sharing. Great ideas.

    1. AndreaSue 03/07/2020

      Thank you!

  5. davlinkun 03/06/2020

    Thank you
    Lovely Garden
    Great ideas too!

    1. AndreaSue 03/07/2020

      So nice, thank you!

  6. coastalgardener 03/06/2020

    After 50+ years of gardening I'm still learning new things, and your post had lots of interesting tidbits! I love your mix of colors with the creeping jenny and huechera...and the rest of your garden is lovely as well. Thanks so much for sharing your photos!

    1. AndreaSue 03/07/2020

      It was my pleasure! Thank you for your nice words! Your more than 50 years of gardening is inspiring!

  7. User avater
    simplesue 03/06/2020

    Super pretty garden and landscaping! Great job!

    1. AndreaSue 03/07/2020

      Thanks SimpleSue! Happy spring!

  8. User avater
    treasuresmom 03/06/2020

    Love it all. Your muscari are wonderful. I have those as well, but mine never stand up like yours. And that container is beautiful. Love how that creeping Jenny makes the colors pop.

    1. AndreaSue 03/07/2020

      Thank you! Creeping Jenny is my favorite - works anywhere it seems.

  9. btucker9675 03/06/2020

    You've created a really beautiful garden - I had that honeysuckle variety growing up a large trellis by my deck in my previous house in northern NJ. It was about 10 years old when we left and was spectacular during its bloom period. Thanks for sharing your pretty place!

    1. AndreaSue 03/07/2020

      You’re welcome! Love New Jersey! My daughter went to college there - we saw many beautiful gardens in N.J.

  10. User avater
    Dee21 03/06/2020

    Thank you for sharing Andrea!Beautiful colors. As others have said, you helped me come up with some shade ideas under my Japanese Maple where the roots are so tight. I do have the grape Hyacinth bulbs, which as you said are easy to put in between the roots and come back wonderfully each year. I will try to add some ground cover this year. I would also like some names of Clematis that do well in shade. It is also a treat for me each day to look at other peoples beautiful gardens!

    1. AndreaSue 03/07/2020

      Thank you. I will search for the list I was given at a garden center a few years back with several names of clematis that bloom in shade.

      1. arboretum 03/11/2020

        maybe in the meanwhile, you could tell us which of YOUR clematis [as the pink one in the photo]do well in the shade?

    2. AndreaSue 04/04/2020

      Hi, I've had success in the shade growing the Silver Moon/Silver Star Clematis, Piilu, and Nellie Moser. Jackmanii and Diamond Ball with a few hours of sun too.

  11. foxglove12 03/06/2020

    Welcome and what a beautiful gorgeous garden! I especially love the clematis and I'm wondering if that honeysuckle is in the shade?

    1. AndreaSue 03/07/2020

      Thank you! That honeysuckle gets morning sun and a little more in the late afternoon.

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