Garden Photo of the Day

Chad and Seyra’s Garden

A collector’s garden

dark purple, red, and white flowers in a garden bed

Our names are Chad and Seyra Hammond. These are some photos of our garden in Woodbury, Connecticut. I (Seyra) am a lifelong gardener. I inherited my passion for gardening at a young age from several family members. Shortly after my husband and I met, I began indoctrinating him, and now it’s a hobby we share. When we purchased our home in 2017, the yard was a blank slate except for some stubborn pachysandra that failed to get the eviction notice. But in the property’s mature woods and interesting topography, we saw so much potential and a project that would keep us endlessly occupied with our love of plants. We envisioned a garden with varied features spread over several acres that could take decades to achieve (if ever). But for us the enjoyment lies in the journey, not the destination. Five years in, the garden is still sparse, but we’ve put in trails to make areas accessible and created placeholders for future features like our stumpery. In the meantime, small vignettes have begun to appear, and there are so many small details to be enjoyed if you just take the time to notice. Fair warning—we are definitely plant collectors, not garden designers. Here are some of our favorite inhabitants.

close up of bright purple flowersWe agree with the bees that Cirsium rivulare ‘Trevor’s Blue Wonder’ (annual) is something special. This is my favorite color, and it seems like this plant never stops blooming.

garden bed featuring purple flowers and foliageI’ve learned how to take photos to make the garden appear less bare than it actually is. For example, this photo shows two separate borders with a path between that you cannot see clearly, so the borders blend into one large nonexistent border. Plants in the back include a very fast-growing Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Claim Jumper’ (Zones 4–8), a pink-flowering Benthamidia florida (aka Cornus florida, Zones 5–9), and Prunus persica ‘Bonfire’ (Zones 5–8). In the foreground are several shrubs and perennials, such as peonies, roses, Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica, Zones 3–8), and Phlomis tuberosa (Zones 6–9). Chad and I love to make things for the garden, including the purple tuteur in this photo.

looking out onto the large backyard with purple and pink flowers in the foregroundNear the house, the garden consists of island beds in what was the back lawn. The lawn has been mostly reduced to pathways between the beds. The beds were all created by dumping topsoil and compost directly on the lawn, planting immediately into that, and mulching with wood chips. The entire yard is on a north-facing slope in a clearing in the woods, which means we only get direct sun for the middle part of the day, and when we get rain, it drains away quickly. Phlomis tuberosa is in the foreground.

dark purple, red, and white flowers in a garden bedThe garden is very eclectic, as you’d expect for plant collectors. For us, life is too short to stick to just one theme! Here’s a more traditional English mixed border vignette with giant fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha, Zones 3–9), meadow sage (Salvia nemorosa, Zones 4–8), Campanula, and fragrant Rosa ‘Munstead Wood.’

ceramic frog statue in front of a garden pondOne of the many things we collect is carnivorous plants. We have created a small bog garden to hold them that is connected to the front pond, so it never dries out. We designed and installed it ourselves the first year we lived here. The bog area is filled with peat moss and perlite topped with pine straw. The pitcher plants (Sarracenia species, Zones 5–9), Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula, Zones 5–10), sundew (Drosera species), and more recently a hybrid grass pink orchid (Calopogon hybrid, Zones 3–9) have done well in this bog outdoors in Connecticut for several years. As you can see, the frogs have also done well here. In the summer it’s fun to see how many you can count. Finding more than 30 at one time is not uncommon. If you build it, they will come! All the wildlife enjoy our ponds.

close up of bright purple flowersThis Calopogon bloomed for the first time this year.

small raised garden bed with various carnivorous plantsSarracenia blooms in the spring

densely planted garden bed on a slopeHere is a different view of the backyard. The more-high-maintenance plants are near the house, where I can give them the attention they need. Tougher trees, shrubs, and grasses that require less maintenance are planted farther from the house, where there is no access to water. The slope leads down to a babbling brook in the bottom of the valley. I was scared to expand the garden that far, but Chad has encouraged me to dream big. What’s the worst that could happen? You lose a few plants, it gets a little weedy, or (worst-case scenario) nature reclaims what we cannot maintain. These outcomes are all fine by me. So we took a chance. In the foreground are Hylotelephium telephium ‘Marina’ (Zones 3–9), Salix arenaria (Zones 4–7), Pinus stobus ‘Torulosa’ (Zones 3–8), Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘RedHead’ (Zones 6–9), and Stachys ‘Hummelo’ (Zones 4–8), backed by Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Ginger Wine’ (Zones 2–8).

close up of a shade planting with various green foliage plantsWe have much more shade than sun due to the woods, but it’s also very dry thanks to all those tree roots. We are working on adding compost to increase the moisture content of the soil. Supplemental watering is not possible because our water comes from a well. But I like the limitations that places on us. We have to conserve water whether we like it or not. We have several rain barrels, but it is a chore carrying the water to where it needs to go. So when I do water, I think very carefully about whether it is needed. We experienced months of severe drought this year, and that pushed us and the garden to its limits. We lost many plants. But that is the nature of gardening. We will brush ourselves off, learn what we can, and try again. Some parts of the shade gardens are more moisture retentive than others, and those are the areas that have flourished. Here’s a tapestry of Hosta (Zones 3–8), Athyrium nipponicum (Zones 5–8), Primula kisoana (Zones 4–8), Brunnera macrophylla (Zones 3–8), and Hydrangea bifida (Zones 4–8) under a native dogwood tree.

close up of white, red, and orange flowersWe have a long, hot-color border full of red, yellow, and orange blooms like Crocosmia (Zones 5–9), Cosmos sulphureus (annual), and Asclepias tuberosa (Zones 5–9), but it was kind of flat to look at. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until I realized what it needed was some white Eryngium giganteum (Zones 4–7) to cool things down a bit. What do you think?

If you want to see more of this garden, check out Chad and Seyra’s Instagram: @s2szahme


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  1. User avater
    musabasjoosue 12/15/2022

    From one CT plant collector to another...great job!

    1. Seyra 12/15/2022

      Thanks Sue! I drool over your garden pics all the time on IG. ;)

  2. barbmrgich 12/15/2022

    BEAUTIFUL PICTURES! I also consider myself a plant collector, but you have me far outclassed! I learned so much from your post. I'll be saving it, and adding some of your "new-to-me' plants to my gardens.

    1. Seyra 12/15/2022

      You're so kind! We can all learn from each other. Enjoy the "collecting". Remember, it's not hoarding if it's plants ;)

  3. User avater
    simplesue 12/15/2022

    I am so totally impressed! Wow- you two have beautified and complimented the natural lands around your garden and got them to blend perfectly!
    Your garden has so many plants I've only just learned about here, and I wish my Rose Munstead Wood looked as fabulous as yours...and what a great setting it is in with the campanula, as I know that shade of red goes well with deep puples!
    I really love what you two have created with this garden! Oh and I almost forgot your bog garden area is also so amazing! You leave me wanting to see more and more photos of your garden!

    1. Seyra 12/15/2022

      Thanks so much! I'm so glad you mentioned the interaction between the garden and the woods. We have planted many trees and shrubs on the outskirts of the garden to help ease the transition to the tall trees, but those trees and shrubs are still very small. We hope the transition will improve with time as these trees and shrubs size up.

      The only plants we fertilize in the garden are the roses and the potted plants. We do think that feeding the roses improves their performance. We also prune them each year to take out older wood and self-peg the long whippy canes because keeping the stems horizontal encourages side shoots to grow. That also seems to help along with patience since they seem to get better with time.

      1. User avater
        simplesue 12/16/2022

        Thanks for the tips on roses...I really do need to fertilize mine! What do you mean by "self peg" ?
        Oh I think the transition is already great, I can't wait to see more photos as it all grows even more!

  4. fromvirginia 12/15/2022

    Lovely! Thanks for sharing. I’ve been wanting to plant phlomis since I saw it everywhere in the UK. I wonder why it isn’t more common in Virginia. Did you plant yours from seed or plants?

    1. Seyra 12/15/2022

      Thank you so much! We used to garden in Virginia prior to moving to CT. I lived there for most of my life. What a beautiful place to live and garden! But I echo your frustration on why Phlomis is not more common here! I obtained two plants from Pondside Nursery and seeds from Swallowtail Garden Seeds. If you don't have a nursery near by that carries plants, ask them if they can source it for you. Otherwise, the seeds were easy to start. There are other garden worthy varieties too like russeliana which is also hardy for me. In VA you can grow even more species than me . And once you have it in your garden it seeds around happily! Such a wonderful plant!

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 12/15/2022

    Absolutely gorgeous but I especially love the phlomis! I plan to check out your Instagram.

    1. Seyra 12/15/2022

      I'm so glad you love the Phlomis! The way the tiers of dried seed heads catch the snow in winter is also charming. I'll have to add pics of that to my IG account. :) Thanks for checking out my account.

  6. btucker9675 12/15/2022

    The color combinations you've created in your garden are knockout beautiful - like stained glass!

    1. Seyra 12/15/2022

      Thank you so much!

  7. sheila_schultz 12/15/2022

    The creation of beauty within our gardens becomes a passion and a reason to move forward. Every single selection we make is either a beauty, a possibility or a let's try it!!!
    You have created gardens filled with color, textures, heights... all the stuff/details we hope for in our minds while we dig in the dirt. Wow... all the toil and sweat it has taken has been worth the effort. It's lovely!

    1. Seyra 12/15/2022

      You describe what motivates a gardener so eloquently! Thank you so much Sheila for sharing your thoughts.

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