Garden Photo of the Day

Dodie’s Alabama Garden

Bringing a once-neglected garden to life

spring plants and bulbs on both sides of a brick path

My name is Dodie. I’ve been gardening in northern Alabama for 15 years. Our urban property is in a historic neighborhood in Decatur. It had a wonderful backbone of plantings created by owners of the home in the mid-80s. We moved to lovely Zone 7b in 2008 from Zone 9 (Houston area), and I have absolutely reveled in it!

Even though the garden had been neglected for years, the Japanese magnolias (Magnolia liliflora, Zones 5–8), star magnolias (Magnolia stellata, Zones 4–9), oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia, Zones 5–9), native dogwood (Cornus florida, Zones 5–9), American boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens, Zones 5–8), Magnolia grandiflora, and bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla, Zones 5–8) were in good shape and provided the inspiration and structure for our garden renovation. The former owners had also planted a ligustrum hedge along two sides of the fence in the backyard, which had grown into small trees over the years. They created a perfect canopy for azaleas (Rhododendron ‘Pink Ruffle’ and ‘George Tabor’, Zones 7–10), which were planted the year after we moved into the house.

The gardens have been a continuous work in progress. They are my playground, my gym, and my sanctuary. Last year we eliminated the little bit of lawn that was left in the back, enlarging beds and creating a brick sidewalk, bubble rocks, stone benches, and soft lighting throughout the garden. We also upcut three arborvitae ‘Green Giant’ (Thuja ‘Green Giant’, Zones 5–9), which resulted in plenty of room for new shade plants. I added hosta (Hosta ‘Golden Tiara’, Zones 3–8) and heuchera (Heuchera ‘Dale’s Strain’, ‘Catching Fire’, and ‘Carnival Rose Granita’, Zone 4 – 7). In the sun areas, I added Baptisia ‘Blueberry Sundae’ (Zone 4 – 9), oriental lilies (Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’, ‘Stargazer’, and ‘Presidente’, Zones 4–9) to the existing mix of pink Knock Out roses (Rosa ‘Pink Knock Out’, Zones 5–9), ‘Rose Glow’ barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’, Zones 4–8), daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva ‘Keanso’, Zones 3–9), tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata, Zones 4–8), and sweetspire (Itea ‘Little Henry’, Zones 5–9). I love the explosion of pinks and oranges in early summer! Canna lilies ‘Australia’ (Canna ‘Australia’, Zones 7–10 or as a tender bulb) are like purple exclamation points in the sunny spaces.

Two photos show an overview of the garden in winter. The other photos show mostly views of mid-to-late spring and early summer. I can’t wait to see how much the new plants have grown. Hopefully the hostas and heucheras will fill in the bare spaces. My goal this year is to add late-summer perennials that will keep the color coming through July and August and to find a low-growing perennial to edge the beds and replace the white impatiens I planted last year. I know that no matter what I plant it will not match what’s in my brain, so I always have something new to work on! Happy spring y’all!!

close up of garden bed with light pink flowers and bright green hostasSpring bloom from azaleas and tulips

view of bare garden in early spring from aboveOverview of the back garden in early spring, with magnolias just coming into bloom

close up of white bigleaf magnolia flowersBigleaf magnolia in bloom

bare trees and evergreens around brick pathsThis is the garden in early spring, but lots of beautiful trees and evergreens keep it full of interest all year.

garden bed full of vibrant orange and pink flowersAn explosion of color in summer from daylilies, phlox, lilies, roses, and more

new plants in mulched garden beds with a brick path in the middleNew plantings settling in and already looking great

spring plants and bulbs on both sides of a brick pathAnother view of the new plantings in their spring bloom


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View Comments


  1. Oxdriftgardener 03/09/2023

    Awesome job of the brick path!

  2. User avater
    simplesue 03/09/2023

    I love your winding garden paths they beg to lead you around the garden to explore! Love that sculptural ball water fountain!
    I was very interested to see how the Green Giant Thuja looked with the lower limbs removed and they look very nice. I would love you to submit more photos as the seasons change, so interesting so beautiful!

  3. janetsydoruk 03/09/2023

    I love the excitement in your text - as you say we are constantly trying to get our gardens to look like the visions in our heads. It’s beautiful. Love the paths you made and all the shrubs and trees. Enjoy!

  4. wittyone 03/09/2023

    What a beautiful leafy yard you have. It gives such an feeling of privacy despite being in an urban setting with houses fairly close by. Those evergreens make for lots of shady nooks and crannies for flowering shrubs to decorate.

  5. stewpot 03/09/2023

    Beautiful yard and amazing pathway. Have you ever heard of or planted Vermillionaire, it's a terrific annual - oops, needs fun sun and I don't think that's you. If by chance ou have any sun and can find it, buy one to try. Blooms all summer, fills out and require no fussing...annual except in zones 8a-11b; deadheading not necessary (this is true), drought tolerant, heat tolerant. (cuphea hybrid) Color is orange with fluted blooms against green leaves.

  6. User avater
    treasuresmom 03/09/2023

    Really lovely!

  7. btucker9675 03/09/2023

    LOVE!!!!!! And that bigleaf magnolia!! Everything is so gorgeous... However, I must admit to another surge of garden envy over your brick paths.

  8. janeeliz 03/09/2023

    What a lovely garden you have created! So inviting....I'd love to take a stroll through it...along those beautiful brick paths.

  9. Hampshire 03/30/2023

    avatar game: I really love it. Want to a road like it in my garden.

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