Garden Photo of the Day

Change Up Your Garden!

A California gardener advocates for getting out of a rut and trying something new

Today’s photos come from John Erskine of San Carlos, CA.

I’ve been gardening on this property in San Carlos, California, for 18 years. Originally the backyard had nothing in it; I’ve planted everything that you see. Since that time, I’ve learned that roots from trees can really travel a long way! In my flower beds I’m always discovering roots from trees I’ve planted.

Here’s my advice: Don’t be afraid to change things around and try new flowers and plants and new combinations. If you have grown tired of something, take it out and try something new. It’s a wonderful way to keep your garden young.

The growing season is long here (10 months), so I like to keep the garden looking good most of the year with explosions of flowers at certain times of the year. First is the tulips’ peak, then comes the spring annuals’ peak, followed by roses, a midsummer peak, and ending with a late-summer of peak of asters, black-eyed susans, dahlias, and ornamental grasses.

The garden never looks exactly the same from one year to the next, as I’m constantly trying new plants, moving things around, and indulging my changing tastes.

I usually don’t think of roses as having other plants grow through them, but this ‘Graham Thomas’ (Zones 5–9), ‘Mary Rose’ and a couple of others look beautiful when combined with the Cineraria stellata (Zones 9–10).


Spring is ushered in by colorful masses of tulips.


I love the spring annuals pictured here: Virginia stock (Malcolmia maritima), corn cockle (Agrostemma ‘Milas’), ‘Solar Fire’ (Ursinia anthemoides), and five spot (Nemophila maculata).


More annuals: corn cockle (Agrostemma ‘Milas’), Minoan lace (Orlaya grandiflora), and tidy tips (Layia platyglossa).


Still more annuals: ‘Solar Fire’ (Ursinia anthemoides), Virginia stock (Malcolmia maritima), Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus), Dianthus, and ‘Fama Blue’ pincushion flower (Scabiosa caucasica ‘Fama Blue’).


Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha, Zones 8–10) and orange California poppy (Eschscholzia californica, annual)


I love this view looking back at our house. Pictured are angel trumpet (Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’, Zones 8–10) and the rose ‘Marjorie Fair’.


This is my backyard in late spring, with poppies and an eastern snowball viburnum (Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’, Zones 3–8) on the right.


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View Comments


  1. sandyprowse 09/25/2018

    A true feast for the eyes. Just delightful. Aren’t you fortunate to be able to garden 10 months of the year. Quite different than cold Canada where I reside. The season seems so short-lived. I loved your photographs.

    1. User avater
      johninsancarlos 09/25/2018

      Thank you so much! I do feel very fortunate to live in a place where I can garden most of the time.

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 09/25/2018

    The scene where the Cineraria stellata is growing up through the roses is like a fairy tale setting...there should be a handsome prince proposing to a beautiful princess in the foreground. I'm wondering if all those colorful spring annuals are generous reseeders in your garden or do you start anew each year with bedding purchases? It's all quite delightful.

    1. User avater
      johninsancarlos 09/25/2018

      Many of the annuals reseed themselves, so I see nice little surprises in Spring. Certainly the Cineraria and the poppies reseed very well. I can take the Cineraria out in the summer when it's starting to look a little tired, knowing that in Spring I'll have healthy volunteers. But I usually can't resist 4" pots of annuals. I try to get those planted by late February.

  3. Doxnmomx2 09/25/2018

    Surely the kids who enjoy their play area will become enamored with gardening too. Your yard is a feast for the eyes. So beautiful! Thank you for the photos!

  4. User avater
    johninsancarlos 09/25/2018

    Thank you! Yes, my kids like it too! My daughter is known at school as "the girl with the pretty backyard". So fun!

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 09/25/2018

    John, what an amazing garden you have. How do you keep it weed free?

    1. User avater
      johninsancarlos 09/25/2018

      Weeds certainly like the rich soil I've added; I put in heavy mulch in areas where I'm not expecting reseeders. In other areas I try to start with weed-free beds in January, and then always look for unwanted volunteers when I walk by and pull them up.

  6. btucker9675 09/25/2018

    Pretty backyard indeed - a colorful feast for the eyes!

  7. carolineyoungwilliams 09/25/2018

    Your yard is absolutely beautiful. I am in the process of changing up my yard after 20+ years and I am in awe with your photos. I love your color combination, your choice of plants, your layout and everything. Thank you so much for sharing a piece of your Paradise with us.

    1. User avater
      johninsancarlos 09/25/2018

      You are too kind! I enjoy creating the fairyland effect that will take a person's breath away.

  8. Sunshine111 09/25/2018

    Very, very pretty! Delightful combinations, excellent photography! Thank you for sharing

  9. ancientgardener 09/26/2018

    Everything was breathtaking, but you know what caught my eye --- those soft pink dianthus. I am glad I can't garden 10 months out of the year because by Sept I am tired and ready to wind it up. That's old age! :) You have done a marvelous job and thank you for sharing it with us.

  10. User avater
    simplesue 01/14/2021

    Quite a little paradise you created here...lush and green and full of color! Nice to see the "big picture" of how the garden is laid out- beautiful!

    1. User avater
      johninsancarlos 01/14/2021

      Thank you for your comments! It's been to enhance the garden over the years (there was nothing back there when I started).

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