Garden Photo of the Day

Another Visit to Mel’s Rustic Cabin Garden

Celebrating the beauty of fall

rustic cabin garden

We’re returning to Mel’s gorgeous New York State garden today.

I sent in a GPOD entry in March 2022: Mel’s Rustic Cabin Garden. This submission focused on the summer garden, and I decided it would be fun to share some more photos of my garden during my favorite time of the year—autumn. All of these photos are from September and October of 2021 and 2022.

The garden was started in 2003 and has evolved continually since then and will continue to do so. I think that older gardens are very challenging, as shrubs and trees can just outgrow their space or die. A few years back we lost tons of junipers and arborvitae in the Northeast, and I lost three huge junipers along the path to the front steps and had to hurriedly repair the damage before an Open Days Garden tour. Sometimes, forced change has some surprising and wonderful results. Losing the junipers opened up the view from the steps, and I added a little rock garden with a ‘Wolf Eyes’ kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’, Zones 5–8), Abies koreana ‘Ice Breaker’ (Zones 5–7), and Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ (Zones 4–8), among other things (image 5).

I love the fall garden! There is so much color added with the foliage both in the garden and the borrowed view, the weeds slow down, and some browning and drying out looks right!

ornamental grass and shrubs in the garden with view of mountain range in backgroundFrom the porch with the red maples (Acer rubrum, Zones 3–9) blazing in the background you can see the ‘Bobo’ hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’, Zones 3–8) and ‘Bloodgood’ maple (Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, Zones 5–9) clearly. A climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala, Zones 4–8) is in the foreground, and the porcupine grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’, Zones 5–9) is a standout at this time of the year.

stone path with various trees and shrubs in both sidesDown the path from the parking court to the steps through the conifer shade garden—which is dominated by a large Juniperus chinensis ‘Hetzii Columnaris’ (Zones 4–9)—there is a Picea abies ‘Gold Drift’ (Zones 2–7) next to the fence in front of the showy ‘Bobo’ hydrangea.

path leading to large wooden arbor and fall flowersThis photo was taken on September 13 and looks down the central path in the garden, with the ‘Bobo’ hydrangea in the front and my beloved Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’ (Zones 3–8), the newish ‘Lemony Lace’ elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Lemony Lace’, Zones 5–7), and the persistent black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia fulgida, Zones 3–8) leaning out into the path. The slightly unusual Spodiopogon sibiricus (Zones 5–9) in the middle left of the photo is one of my favorites; it had been there for a decade and died back to almost nothing in the winter of 2021 with no rhyme or reason. The gangly tree in the back is a staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina, Zones 3–8) that volunteered in 2007 and that I have nurtured and pruned ever since. I love it, and so do the birds, which I can watch from my upstairs bedroom window.

view of cabin with surrounding trees and shrubs in fallFacing the house through the ‘Lemony Lace’, once again there is the show-off ‘Bobo’, as well as a ‘Pink Diamond’ tree-form hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pink Diamond) next to the steps and a Pieris ‘Brouwers’s Beauty’ (Zones 5–8) next to it. I love ‘Brouwers’s Beauty’ but gave up on them in my designs because they rarely do well. The tree on the left is a variegated Norway maple (Acer platanoides, Zones 3–7) that I prune to keep it at a reasonable size.

cabin porch with container plantsOn my porch is an Abutilon (Zones 8–11 or as an annual or a houseplant) in a container. Another red maple is showing off in the distance.

winding gravel path through gardenDown the lilting gravel path parallel to the porch, my prize Picea pungens ‘Procumbens’ (Zones 2–8) on the left was maimed by the deer a few years ago. That surprised me because they “aren’t supposed” to eat blue spruce.

small tree with red fruit in a densely planted gardenThis photo is packed with color, including the kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa, Zones 5–8) fruit, Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’ (Zones 4–9) blooms, Physostegia virginiana (Zones 3–9) blooms, the Harry Lauders walking stick (Corylus avellana ‘Red Dragon’, Zones 4–8) foliage, inflorescence of the maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis, Zones 4–9), and the variegated boxwood (Buxus sp., Zones 5–9).

densely planted vignette in the garden with flowers and bright foliage This photo, taken on September 2, is also jam-packed: Imperata cylindric (not invasive in my Zone 4/5 garden), Ligularia dentata (Zones 3–8), a variegated sweet flag (Acorus calamus ‘Variegatus’, Zones 4–10) that is actually in the little pond, the ‘Lemony Lace’, a ‘Little Devil’ ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Little Devil’, Zones 2–8), with the ‘Wine and Roses’ weigela (Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’, Zones 4–8) right behind.

foliage plants in the sun with a small potted plan on a rockI love portulaca (Portulaca grandiflora, Zones 2–11) and how it shines in this close-up with the ‘Autumn Bride’ coral bells, ‘Blue Carpet’ juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Carpet’, Zones 4–7), Bowles’ golden sedge (Carex elata ‘Aurea’, Zones 5–9) in the pond, the pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata, Zones 3–10), etc.

flowers and ornamental grass growing in front of a rustic wooden fenceThis photo shows off the morning light and what a simple fence and gravel path can do to set off a vignette. I love the flowers of the Persicaria aplexicaulis ‘Firetail’, obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana), and my favorite new mountain mint (Pycnanthemum pilosum, Zones 4–8).


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View Comments


  1. sheila_schultz 02/28/2023

    Mel... your gardens may just be my favorite over the decades of GPOD. Simply put, The colors, the plantings and positioning are simply perfection to my eyes. I can't get enough. They make me smile. You have created a bit of heaven... Kudos.

    1. mel_bellar 02/28/2023

      Sheila, what a nice comment. You made me blush. I don't know where you live but my garden is often on garden tours.

  2. Tz_Garden 02/28/2023

    Beautiful, the colors are outstanding.

    1. mel_bellar 02/28/2023

      thank you so much. I really love the early fall garden because you get the fall color and the late bloomers.

  3. User avater
    simplesue 02/28/2023

    I especially loved seeing your cabin porch- I could imagine sitting on it with that gorgeous garden as a view!
    You sure have a beautiful & successful garden!

    1. mel_bellar 02/28/2023

      we love the porch as well. when we looking for a home the first time the views from the front porch sold us the house and, of course, the main garden had to be in the front of the house so that we could have the garden and the view.

  4. User avater
    virtual_flower_garden 02/28/2023

    Beautiful! Fall gardens really are underrated. Thanks for sharing.

    1. mel_bellar 02/28/2023

      here here about fall gardens. thanks

  5. User avater
    user-7007816 02/28/2023

    Truly an inspiring garden. I love the way you have combined colors and textures and maintained a natural feel.

    1. mel_bellar 02/28/2023

      thank you, I love a more natural feel, wild but ordered :)

  6. gardenconcierge 02/28/2023

    Such fabulous colors and textures!

    I hope you have taken a lot of winter photos to be able to show us what your garden looks like. My bet is that it is also beautiful in winter.

    1. mel_bellar 02/28/2023

      I will see what I can do to get some good winter photos. it is hard because so much gets beaten down by a heavy snow or ice and I tend to leave up all of the grasses and a lot of perennials for the affect and the wildlife. also the deer tracks all through the garden are disturbing :=)

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