Garden Photo of the Day

Beth’s garden in Iowa, Day 2–Bird Garden, Big Garden, & Fairy Tale Garden

Spring time...entering back yard from west side yard
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Beth Zakrasek

Welcome to Day 2 in Beth’s Zakrasek’s garden in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Continuing her story, she says, “For the first 15 years, I battled the deer, cried when they ate my hostas, sprayed, used battery-operated stakes that lightly shock their noses when they touch it, etc.

Summer…same walkway entering back yard from west side yard. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Beth Zakrasek

“We finally decided to give up on gardening or put up a deer fence. We installed the deer fence ourselves and it was the BEST thing we ever did!!! We used black aluminum that looks like wrought iron for the front areas that are seen from the street-it looks really great. For the rest of our property around the hill and in the back, we installed the netting that is barely visible at all, but keeps the deer out.

June…I call this area The Bird Garden. I have all the birdfeeders in this garden, and the blue birdbath (seen in other photos) which is one of my favorite purchases I’ve ever made for my yard. In this garden, one of the first beds I dug and planted when we moved here, I have experimented with many perennials because this is a more sunny area of our relatively shady yard. It is the garden that we see when we sit at our kitchen table, and it is the backdrop for our patio. I wanted the patio to feel like a garden room of sorts and this bed really did the trick. Many plants have done well through the years and I love the succession of color through the spring, summer, and fall. I tried to plant things that would bloom while others were just emerging, then more blooming while the first were fading, etc. Daffodils begin first, then the Siberian irises and peonies come along, then daylilies, phlox, tall lilies, catmint, and other summer bloomers begin a lovely color parade. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Beth Zakrasek

“Now, the only garden pest I must contend with is a very cute and furry groundhog family. We are hoping to trap them and take them to the nature center a few miles from here. The groundhogs have not been a problem until this past summer when we decided to build a raised garden for vegetables in the one area of the yard that gets the most sun. We built a fine stone-walled garden, round in shape, with flat capstones all around that are just the right height to sit on. My husband was especially excited about this garden structure because he loves to grow edibles. We quickly found that the groundhogs also love those edibles! If our vegetable garden is successful this year, I will send photos of it.”

Please do, Beth! ***These are photos of additional areas of Beth’s garden. More info in the captions…and more photos tomorrow!***

The Bird Garden with my beloved blue birdbath and coneflowers and daylilies. The tripod-shaped structure made of branches was a boy scout project of our son’s when he was about 11 (he is now 29!) and it is a favorite place for birds to perch as well as a place for wind chimes to hang. I love it so much, I recently made 3 more to place in other garden beds. In the background stands a red maple we planted a few years ago that absolutely lights up our yard in autumn, and to the left of it stands the white-blooming crabapple which was planted for our daughter on her 8th birthday (she is now 24!). Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Beth Zakrasek
The Bird Garden seen from the side. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Beth Zakrasek
View of the Bird Garden area from the patio, here showing the purple clematis and tall garden lilies in bloom. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Beth Zakrasek
This is one end of the largest garden bed in our yard. I call it The Big Garden. It is in front of the retaining wall of our hillside. Because we have so much natural vegetation all around us, I try to keep my gardens looking as if they are an extension of nature rather than having a formal look. (This way, a few weeds can join in!) I chose to use flowing shapes to create the borders for all the gardens and grassy paths. My husband and I installed all of the stone edging by digging a trench, using a layer of pea gravel, then the stones. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Beth Zakrasek
This is The Fairy Tale garden and my piano students enjoy coming to the back yard to see this one. The blue bubbling fountain was a 37th anniversary gift for ourselves and the dragon was a birthday gift for me. The dragon holds a solar-powered light that appears at dusk and glows different colors for hours. We love to sit in our screened porch and listen to the bubbling fountain with the glow of the dragon’s magic ball, especially when the fireflies are twinkling in June and July. It is truly magical! To the right of the fountain is a little elf house and mushroom umbrellas so the elves can sit in the shade! Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Beth Zakrasek
Dusk and the dragon’s glowing magic ball beside the bubbling blue fountain, seen from our screened porch. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Beth Zakrasek
Pathway from back yard to west side yard. This path is between The Big Garden on the left and The Fairy Tale garden on the right. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Beth Zakrasek
Pathway between The Big Garden on the right and The Fairy Tale Garden on the left, leading from the west side yard into the back yard. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Beth Zakrasek
Same pathway looking from the back yard toward the west side yard. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Beth Zakrasek

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View Comments


  1. bsavage 04/23/2013

    Wow, what a gorgeous yard and gardens! I love that there are elements from your children's childhood... and I love that you found a way to keep the deer from destroying your will to garden. Stunning, really!

  2. user-1020932 04/23/2013

    beautiful beautiful again. i wish i could walk thru and experience it first hand. yes, west texas/ san angelo not so far from lubbock. i don't use pesticides either and have lots of birds but i still have slugs. i will keep luring more and more birds in and see how that goes. favorite photo,,,,,,dusk from the screen porch. early morning and late evening best times of the day because that's the ONLY time a gardener gets to sit down!

  3. user-1020932 04/23/2013

    i always wonder when i see these beautiful perennial plantings "but what about winter" THEN i read where you talked about 2 to 3 ft of snow ,,,,,,answered my question,,, all is white! we don't get snow that often and it doesn't last long . different climate/different techniques.

  4. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 04/23/2013

    Lush and dense and lovely! Love the view from the screened porch. One of my favorite hostas is sagae. If you don't have it, get it! or maybe next time I visit my family I'll bring you a division, since I grew up in Cedar Rapids. :) At least when I was young, I believe our state slogan was "Iowa: a place to grow". Maybe they meant gardens!

  5. tractor1 04/23/2013

    This has to be the neatest well planned garden ever. There are so many elements and all in harmony without impinging on each other. I like all the interlocking blocks that demark the borders and of course all the bird acouterments. I can see that a lot of thought went into Beth's garden.

  6. tractor1 04/23/2013

    Meant to say, this is the 2nd day in a row that I didn't recieve the GPOD email... what's up with that?

  7. user-7006916 04/23/2013

    We're aware that many of you haven't gotten your GPOD mailing these past few days. We're looking into it.

  8. wittyone 04/23/2013

    This is just beautiful. When I saw the first batch of photos with all the hostas I thought, "Oh, she must have deer fencing." What a nice job you have done with it. Doesn't look like a fortress after all. A great deal of envy going on here!

    I have a corner lot with the garage on one side and the front of the house on the other. Makes it pretty problematic for fencing---can't figure a way around it. I have three deer trails crossing my lot the long way and unfortunately, lots of travelers wending their way along them munching as they go!

  9. tractor1 04/23/2013

    wittyone: It's less costly to deer fence a corner lot unless you want to fence the roadside, most folks don't, they typically attach the fencing to the sides of their house and then around the back yard, so they only have two long sides to fence... I've not seen where anyone has installed deer fencing in their front yard at the roadway. With large properties it's easier to fence the individual planting beds. I used turkey wire to fence around the perimeter of my house so that I have planting beds all around, I did a far neater job than what's around my veggie garden. In a short time the shiney galvanizing turns dull grey so it's barely noticeable, and eventually begins to rust so it's even less noticeable, and with larger properties the distances are great enough that no one passing can see the wire fencing anyway, and it's lower than your windows so you don't see it from sitting inside your house unless you get right up to a window and look down. And deer won't leap into a small fenced enclosure, they know instinctively that they need a little running space to leap out. And after a short while you don't notice the wire fence, especially once the plantings grow taller. I don't like the plastic netting type deer fencing, it costs less and goes up fast but doesn't last long... and smaller critters run into it and become tangled. Turkey wire in 4' width works well attached to steel fence posts that are driven into the ground... use longer posts so that you can leave a 1' space under the wire fence so that at a 5' height deer won't think of leaping over, and they can't crawl under, and the space makes it much simpler to mow/weed under the fence... I attached my fence to RR ties so there is no under the fence.

    Thanks for the info, Antonio, I didn't want to think I was taken off the mailing list.

  10. sheila_schultz 04/23/2013

    Beth, your gardens are just beautiful and seem so peaceful in these photos. I would guess, though, that come summer you have a bird symphony in your backyard every morning, noon and night. Lucky you and your husband!

  11. arthurb3 04/23/2013


  12. cwheat000 04/24/2013

    The pictures are even better today. The crisp lines really showcase the plants beautifully. I love how the touches of yellow flowers, bring out the yellow in the foliage of many of your hostas. It is a great color for a shady spot. It makes your garden so warm and sunny.

  13. Happily_Gardening 04/25/2013

    Finally GPOD returns...hooray!!
    Holy cow Beth, every picture is breathtaking...your garden is my fantasy. How do you ever leave such a beautiful and peaceful environment? Ah, perhaps you work at home?

  14. anitafix 07/03/2015

    I live in Iowa, you do all that work and you only get to enjoy it for a few weeks out of the year. It's either dark and cloudy or snowing or raining here. I'm moving so I can enjoy MY hard work more. Your yard is beautiful.

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