Garden Photo of the Day

Bonnie’s Zone 4 garden in Minnesota (12 photos)

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Bonnie Stevenson

Today’s photos are from Bonnie Stevenson in Rochester, Minnesota. She says, “I love my Zone 4 garden! Living on an 80-acre tree farm is a fair amount of work, so Ron and I have divided our chores. I concentrate on the gardens and yard, and he takes care of the rest!

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Bonnie Stevenson

“When we built our home 9 years ago, it was important to minimize the amount of time spent on things we didn’t enjoy, so my border lines are sweeping curves all around the house, which makes mowing easier and much more fun. Also important to me was a good garden view from every window.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Bonnie Stevenson

“I originally included many plants and shrubs that got the “heave ho” a long time ago, replacing them with more drought tolerant and sun tolerant species. I love colorful foliage, and have found that tropicals such as cannas, bananas, and crotons are particular favorites. Many of them spend the long winter in the sunroom. Yes, I do have Zone 5 envy!”

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Bonnie Stevenson

Wow, the birds must be HAPPY in your garden, Bonnie! I love all the fountains and bird feeders! Beautiful.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Bonnie Stevenson

****Hey all, I begged for submissions for the last couple of days, and you guys are delivering! I’m also getting quite a few emails wondering if I’ve received the photos some have you had already sent. Rest assured, I more than likely got them (assume that I did), and plan on posting them. I’m just trying to build up a bank for the winter months, when you can’t go out and get me more photos in your gardens! I’ll try to respond to everyone who was asking, but man, am I CRAZY busy right now. Don’t be mad if you don’t hear from me right away…. Anyway, the push is still on–get outside and take some last minute shots, or compile a few you took earlier in the season. I’ll be eternally grateful…. Email them to [email protected]. Thanks! ****

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Bonnie Stevenson

I’m on the hunt for gardening tips for the March/April 2014 issue! If you have some tips and tricks you use to make gardening simpler or more effective, or to make your garden just plain prettier, write them up and email me! Accompanying photos are welcomed but not required. If we publish your tip we’ll pay you $25. That’ll buy a few plants, you know…. Email your tips to [email protected] by tomorrow evening, the latest. Thanks!

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Bonnie Stevenson
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Bonnie Stevenson
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Bonnie Stevenson
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Bonnie Stevenson
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Bonnie Stevenson
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Bonnie Stevenson

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  1. user-1020932 10/08/2013

    wow, bonnie, i would almost move north to Zone 4 just to have sumac like yours. i'll trade you bananas, crotons and cannas for those anytime. that fernleaf peony is another stunner . what is the copper leafed plant in the top right photo? i think i'm having Zone 4 envy here, ok maybe not because i'm a cold weather wuss but your garden looks great and i love it all especially the sumac, grrrrrr. i've killed more than a few of those

  2. tractor1 10/08/2013

    Gotta love the sweeping swarths of lawn that add depth of view for relaxing contemplation. That's a terrific bubbler fountain. And those three matching dwarf spruce are fantastic. And I must agree, the views from one's windows are far more important than what passerbys view. I need many more photos. Thank you, Bonnie.

  3. wGardens 10/08/2013

    Great! Love the sumac, also. Is it "Tiger Eye"? Hope mine look as fab when they get that big! The peony is luscious~!
    Looks to me like you've been very successful at getting your great views from every window!
    Thanks for sharing. I am ready for your next set of photos!

  4. user-1020932 10/08/2013

    i'm now thinking that coppery plant is in fact a coppery metal agave sculpture. you gotta solve this mystery for me

  5. gloriaj 10/08/2013

    I want to move to zone 4 if my garden would look like this. The view from every window has got to be beautiful. It is clear that you enjoy the time spent on your garden. What is the name of the plant with the red flowers in the fourth picture on the left. Beautiful.

  6. mainer59 10/08/2013

    I love the way you have experimented with different styles and plant palettes in what I am guessing is different parts of your garden. I especially like the photo with the pillars and would like to sit down right there. I also like the contrast from that to the conifer picture and the one with the spikey forms (top, right column). Everything looks so well cared for.

  7. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 10/08/2013

    Beautiful and great plant selections. Looks like you've edited down to a garden full of show-stoppers!

  8. Wife_Mother_Gardener 10/08/2013

    lovely plant combinations and scenes around your garden! Thanks for sharing!!

  9. jagardener 10/08/2013

    Beautiful. Love your blue bird bath.

  10. PatteA 10/08/2013

    Are the fern like trees the sumac you are referring to? They're beautiful. Would they be poisonous?

  11. hortiphila 10/08/2013

    Bonnie, I too enjoy 'Tiger-Eye' Sumacs texture, color, and the fall foliage is spectacular. Is that Hibiscus the new 'Summer Storm' cultivar? Isn't it a delight to mow a well planned lawn, where those sweeping curves lead to beautiful views around every bend, it makes mowing a pleasure instead of a pain. I'm curious how much do you maintain, and how long does it take to mow those beautiful green swards? Also is that is a faux Phormium, aka. oxidizing iron sculpture? It looks great contrasting with the Spiraea. I'll bet those colorful evergreen, (evergold), and ice blue conifers are great during those long winters. Outstanding garden!

  12. User avater
    meander_michaele 10/08/2013

    Sign me up for membership in the sumac fan club! Bonnie, your grouping of them is pure enchantment...they are so glowingly ethereal...I just love them. I was glad to read PatteA description of them as fern-like because I was completely fooled by the first picture...I thought I was looking at some amazing zone 4 fern hybrid variety and I couldn't figure out how the hanging baskets of them were suspended above ground. Thank heavens for the second picture when the mystery was solved...DUH, they are trees!
    Your patio areas off the house are wonderfully generous and are surrounded by such beautiful plant choices. Your fountain is quite a visual treat and, I'm sure, adds such delightful sounds to your garden.

  13. hostaholic 10/08/2013

    Wow! You have gorgeous gardens. I love to see other zone 4 gardens. It helps me to remember there are a lot of beautiful plants we CAN grow when zone envy rears it's head.

  14. annek 10/08/2013

    Mmmmmm, your garden definitely provides eye candy for the gardening soul. I love the airy-ness of the Tiger Eyes and the Fern Leaf Peony is wonderful. My favorite photo is of the three blue spruce. It looks so homey with that red and white tablecloth in the background. Love it!

  15. sheila_schultz 10/08/2013

    Bonnie, you certainly took on the right job for your talents when you and Ron divided up the labor! Your plant combinations are nothing less than perfection and the placement of your beautiful sumac is brilliant... it adds such a soft quality to the patio. The 2nd photo keeps pulling me back though, I seriously NEED the agave sculpture! I love the way the leaf shapes echo the surrounding plants. That's a big WOW for me.

  16. wrentana 10/08/2013

    Just lovely! I enjoy these shared gardens every day.
    But, once again, can't the plants be labeled? Like the Minnesota garden with the fernleaf peony. Luckily t was mentioned by another commenter!

  17. tractor1 10/08/2013

    I had to return for another look when I had more time. As _hortiphila_ asked I too would like to know how much of that 80 acres you mow. I mow ten acres and it takes me about 16 hours... two full days each week (depending on weather). I use a 7' mower and a 5' mower, plus a push mower and a string trimmer, and naturally hand grass shears around trees. And I'm curious about what you mean by a "tree farm", is it operational or used to be a tree farm but is now abandoned. My property used to be a Christmas tree farm that eventually became unprofitable so was left to its own devices and is now some fifty years later a very nice mixed softwood and hardwood forest. The ten acres used to be in hay but I maintain it as a lawn, plus I developed several walking paths that I also mow. I know very well how large 80 acres is because over the line in the next County I own a 90 acre parcel that's primarily in hay (~10 acres wooded), a farmer on the road hays it and pays my taxes. Bonnie, your place is gorgeous, I'd love to see more.

  18. wildthyme 10/08/2013

    I recognize many of the same zone 4, colorful-foliage plants that we also use here in Montana. Big thumbs-up for the 'Tiger Eyes' sumac, although the deer like it, too! Also for the juniper. So many people won't even try juniper because they think it'll look like the ones our parents grew 50 years ago. There are so many nice ones now, and they're a life saver in cold climates when you need some winter color.

  19. user-1020932 10/08/2013

    wildthyme i'm with you on the juniper thing and not just in cold climates. there are SO many good cultivars out there for use now. current favorites Gold Strike and Mother Lode and Saybrook Gold is always a winner. looks like i'm gonna have to fight with Sheila for that agave sculpture, she's feisty so i might lose

  20. sheila_schultz 10/08/2013

    Jeff, I'm with you and wildthyme when it comes to the cool varieties of juniper available today, I really like the 'pop' the gold cultivars bring to a garden. As a matter of fact, you might like a winter container I just did for one of my clients. She didn't want to do anything for fall, but she wanted to have a container garden that was unusual and would last until the summer plantings next year. The container is large and oval... I planted a Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard' in the center with a False Cypress 'Sungold' draping over either end. Simple, elegant and unique.
    Jeff, just between you and me, do you think we could sneak onto Bonnie and Ron's 80 acres without being seen and 'borrow' the agave? We could share custody! Think they would miss it? Hmmmmmm..... Road trip!

  21. user-1020932 10/08/2013

    yes, sheila, i'm up for that road trip. garden ninjas,, i think we could pull it off IF they didn't hear us laughing. we could travel with it and send emails of it in different locations to Bonnie. the winter container sounds great. i finish mine this week and i'll be GLAD

  22. sheila_schultz 10/08/2013

    It is that time of year, isn't it Jeff? Containers are done for me now and all that's left is cutting down my gardens, planting bulbs and mulching for the winter. How do folks on the west coast garden all year long? To be young again...
    (Hoping to regain some of my youth during our adventure, though! Think if we put some quilting under our 'ninja masks' it would silence the giggles? Vojt, you're an agave lover, want to come along?)
    PS Bonnie, you probably don't have to worry... much ;)

  23. user-1020932 10/08/2013

    containers are done but i have 2.5 more months of planting/construction to do then start back up mid february. i figger Vojt would be right in on the agave mission especially if we take a few rocks as well

  24. janeeliz 10/08/2013

    WOW! That grouping of 'Tiger Eye' sumac is dramatic! I hope the little one I planted this fall survives. What a gorgeous red fern poppy! You've created a stunning garden, Bonnie!

  25. tractor1 10/08/2013

    A bit premature to boast about junipers, I well know the varieties but the deer think it's all salad... I have a couple junipers in a hedgerow I have fenced, will probably be five more years before they grow tall enough to be safe. I have rug junipers behind a turkey wire fence, whatever bits sneak through during summer the deer prune very neatly in winter... hungry deer will eat anything/everything.

  26. user-1020932 10/08/2013

    i do not think we were boasting about junipers other than to say there are some stellar varieties available now to use for color, durability and survivability. deer won't eat anything/everything and i have a list of plants i have never had a single leaf, needle or awl touched by deer and would be happy to share that with you. even when things adjacent have been eaten down to a nub they won't touch many plants used in a landscape here. i do not, however, know what all would grow in your area.

  27. sheila_schultz 10/08/2013

    Tractor1, some of us are fortunate enough not to have deer munching on anything and everything. We're so lucky!

    BUT, I know you love the agave sculpture even though you didn't mention it... want to join us? I'm sure you could find an amazing spot on your property to highlight this beautiful sculpture for a short while?

    Yeah, you're all right. I'm having way too much fun with this. I'm just giddy with being at the end of the season. Forgive me for all of this silliness.

  28. tractor1 10/09/2013

    Where I live winters are severe, deer (and all other critters) eat everything. During a severe winter here deer will eat Norway spruce. There's a huge difference between climate in New England and in the mid south.

  29. user-769386 10/09/2013

    ndgardener Beautiful sumacs! Planted one a year ago. Can
    hardly wait for it to mature. Would like to know the plant and variety of the two blue plants shown? Thanks.

  30. cwheat000 10/09/2013

    Your peony is intriguing and beautiful. I have never seen anyone grow it. I have only seen it in catalogs. The texture of the sumac is wonderful, also. Very pretty yard. Thank you for the pics.

  31. bons 10/22/2013

    My gosh, I am overwhelmed by the response to my garden photos and description! It seems unanimous that my agave sculpture is the crowd favorite, purchased as a fantastic gleaming steel gray piece of garden art 4 years ago during a winter getaway to Phoenix, Arizona! It soon rusted, spectacularly, and of course I leave it outside year round to enjoy during the long winters. The next time Ron and I visit the great southwest, I may have to buy another one...I find myself moving it around the garden all the time, and it looks great everywhere! Looks like I'm going to have to be on the lookout for Sheila_Schultz and tractor1 on the prowl to steal it away. You two keep your eyes peeled for our 3 large farm dogs! Many of you commented on my treasured 'Tiger Eyes' Sumac, and I have to say that everybody loves this plant. I've had great success in digging out the "runners" and replanting them elsewhere and have shared many with friends and family. The deer don't seem to bother them, probably due to the watchfulness of our aforementioned pooches roaming freely about the farm, but the rabbits love to munch on the branches in winter. When the sumac were smaller I surrounded them with chicken wire to keep those pesky critters away. Yes, 'Summer Storm' Hibiscus and Fernleaf Peony were hits as well, but the Hibiscus took a big hit over the winter. A very late (May 4th!)snowstorm dumped 14 inches of wet, heavy snow on us and had negative effects on many many plants.

    I mow about 1.5 acres immediately around the house, which is tucked into the L of an evergreen windbreak we planted about 26 years ago to protect our original barn and horses. We planned to eventually build a house where the old barn stood, and 17 years later, we did. Ron bought a Kubota commercial-type mower a few years ago that really flies and makes short work of that chore, taking about an hour to complete. I don't do ANY trimming around trees or garden, just The gardens are edged with bullet pavers which do a fairly good job of keeping the grass out, plus I can put the wheel of the mower on them and just GO!

    Our "tree farm" is 60 acres of Red Oak, Green Ash (darn borer is headed our way!), Black Walnut and various evergreens and shrubs planted here and there throughout. (it's in a gov't program called CRP - we took our land out of crop production, as our ground is highly erodible and rocky). We planted those 25,000 trees in one weekend in 1990, pulling a "planter" behind our tractor. The planter was really Ron sitting on an implement which separated the earth, then he would quickly stab a sapling into the ground, and the device would close the soil around the young tree. Backbreaking work for him, but we were grateful for the help of my dad and uncle for driving the tractor and prepping the trees. Ron mows paths through the 20- to 30-foot trees, which we walk almost daily, and mows around our outbuildings. He also prunes yearly and plants additional trees where needed, plus he's a beekeeper! That keeps my plants, and me, happy!

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