Garden Photo of the Day

Douglas & David’s garden in Pennsylvania

Today’s photos are from Douglas Florey. He says, “My partner, David Lloyd, and I moved from an urban neighborhood in Pittsburgh to an acre lot in Rosslyn Farms, just outside the city limits, about 11 years ago.  When we moved in, the acre consisted of a huge chinquapin oak, an American elm (!), two silver maples, and a catalpa, along with some lovely old stone walls.  The rest was a sea of weedy, parched lawn. A decade (and untold amounts of sweat and dollars) later, our home–Acorn Hill–is a very different, and very green, place!

Coming from the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh with a postage-stamp sized backyard to a very private acre-sized garden was overwhelming, especially to two gardening novices.  We had a landscape architect draw up a master plan during the fall and winter of our first year, and began planting trees the spring after we moved in.  Although we’ve veered and swerved from the original plan, it was still the backbone document that we used when laying out beds and islands, as well as the irrigation system.

We now have well-established blue and green spruce, concolor, and fraser firs, white pines, tons of native dogwoods and redbuds, a number of Japanese maples, a half-dozen different viburnum, a dawn redwood and a bald cypress, thousands of daffodils, and hundreds of peonies… Our goal for this summer is to plant a number of different ground covers, so that our mulching needs each spring are more manageable.

While there are things we would do differently now, we are really quite proud of the positive changes to our home, especially considering that we dove in without much foreknowledge.”

Douglas, it’s so smart that you invested in woody plants early on in the process. I did the opposite. I went crazy with perennials when I started my garden and didn’t think about shrubs and trees until later. Now I have to wait even longer until they mature! Your garden is so restful and serene. We definitely need more photos this summer. Thanks for sharing!

Remember, now’s the perfect time to take photos of your garden! Email them to me at [email protected].

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  1. perenniallycrazy 06/10/2014

    Three cheers for Douglas and David for planning out of your garden. Woody shrubs and trees certainly define the garden space with their height and form. I am so loving that giant acorn. I can imagine Scrat the Squirrel in the movie 'Ice Age' trying his darndest to take it home.

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      : ) The acorn still makes us smile, even after 10 years! Thanks for the lovely words, PC!

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 06/11/2014

    Oh, my, Douglas and David, where to much do I love your property and landscaping...let me count the ways! Each picture shows examples of elegance and sophistication. Your home is lovely and so beautifully framed by the landscaping...each accentuates the other. I love the sentiment expressed on your Acorn Hill warm and welcoming. Your seating areas have such gracious dimensions and I'm sure they are wonderful for hospitable gatherings. As Perennnially Crazy enthused...the acorn "statuary" is absolutely delightful. And, sigh, you have an attached greenhouse/solarium/conservatory...what is your preferred name for that beautiful space?Your time and money have been very well spent is creating a very special place. Thanks for sharing.

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      Hi, meander1--thanks for your very kind words. We feel lucky to have found our house, especially just minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. PS: We're not too sophisticated--we just call that glassed-in room "the porch"! : )

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 06/16/2014

        Hmmm, "the porch"...that says a lot about you both and it's all good! I enjoyed your additional pictures of the interior space...just beautiful. I needed to click on what seemed like the empty box and they showed up in a separate window. And to see the scale of the acorn is a kick...thanks for including the follow-up picture.

  3. foxglove12 06/11/2014

    Love all the open green space. Beautiful.

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      Many thanks, Lori!

  4. user-7006958 06/11/2014

    Those stone walls make me think of a European garden. Very elegant and serene! Good job! Keep planting!

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      Daniela, thanks for your kind words!

  5. thevioletfern 06/11/2014

    Beautiful! I love trees and had to look up the Catalpa - wow! I have let wild strawberries and violets go in my garden and voila! instant ground cover and the birds love.

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      I love the idea of strawberries as ground cover! Definitely on my list now, thanks to you, Kathy!

  6. toweringpines 06/11/2014

    I too love your garden. Love the trees, shrubs, symmetry and green spaces.
    Please send pics of your peonies in bloom.

    I too have been trying ground covers instead of mulch;beware of periwinkle/vinca. I have been having good luck with smallish hosta ( ie Golden Tiara) under shrubs.

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      Thanks for the advice, Towering Pines! Do you like sweet woodruff and/or perennial geranium for groundcover? We are experimenting with using climbing hydrangea as a groundcover on a small bank above one of our stone walls--so far, so good! Here are a few peonies, if I can figure out how to post them properly!

  7. GrannyMay 06/11/2014

    Gorgeous! Douglas, thanks for sharing your story and photos. You and David have a beautiful property, made even more so by the trees, shrubs and perennials you have added. I would love to see them in bloom! You were so wise to seek professional help with the design and then adjust the plan to suit your own particular tastes.

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      Thanks for your kindness, GrannyMay! Yes, the architect's plan "saved" us on more than one occasion! : )

  8. GrannyCC 06/11/2014

    Love the greenhouse or atrium. Is it used for plants? The garden has wonderful backbones. You have done a beautiful job.

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      GrannyCC--Here is a shot of the interior of the atrium (we just call it "the porch!"), which is used mainly for reading and naps, as well as dinners in the nicer months. Thanks for the compliments on the garden! (Hmmm, not sure the photo is showing up...)

      1. perenniallycrazy 06/17/2014

        Double wow to these photos - A room to enjoy the garden all seasons! Let me go catch my jaw now....

  9. wittyone 06/11/2014

    Everything has already been said. This is just beautiful --- so calm and serene. The expanses of grass and big trees give such a feeling of limitless possibilities. With such a large, more or less empty area to deal with the services of a landscape architect was a good idea. Having something of a plan in mind from the start really gives you a general idea as to how to break up space with shrubs and smaller trees and saves making mistakes that are difficult to change or work around later.

    More pictures needed!

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      vwitte--I couldn't agree with you more. Even with the landscape plan, we still made plenty of "mistakes", some that we managed to undo, and others that we'll be stuck with. Still, the plan definitely gave us a big advantage as novices! Thanks for your kind words!

  10. digginWA 06/11/2014

    Terrific sense of enclosure yet room to exhale--very nice!

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      Thanks so much, Tia--that is exactly what we have been striving for, a blend of privacy and a feeling of openness. I appreciate that you felt that from the photos!

  11. user-7006981 06/11/2014

    What a beautiful retreat when coming home form work. LOVE, love , love the yard art giant acorn and your sign ....very well said. I agree with meander1 who said it all. Thank your for sharing you garden and showing all your hard work...

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      We appreciate your kind words, Ingrid!

  12. Meelianthus 06/11/2014

    Hello Douglas & David ~ I just must say a great big WOW! Your place is wonderful, soothing, and so inviting looking. Your have done a beautiful job and it truly looks like a labor of love. A lot of work but so worth it. Beautiful - and I love the acorn.

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      Meelianthus, many thanks for your generous praise--and for recognizing the sweat equity! : )

  13. eddireid 06/11/2014

    I feel serene just looking at the photographs! Thank you. I garden in a large space, too. I have tried various ground covers and must warn you against vinca. However, my favorite is sweet woodruff with its tiny leaves and starry white flowers - it can be pulled up very easily, is a beautiful fresh green and I defy you not to love it. . Hostas of all kind live under my wooded areas. You will find a new passion once you start planting them. Good luck.

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      Hi, Eddi--we love sweet woodruff, too!! We're experimenting with hostas close to the house, but we have a LOT of wildlife traffic (partly, I think, because we are completely organic gardeners), and we're afraid that the hosta would look like a salad bar to our four-footed neighbors! Do you have trouble with rabbits, deer, etc. where you live?

      1. eddireid 07/01/2014

        Sorry to be so late in replying to your nice email. I grow a lot of hostas and "yes" we have all of your four footed friends, plus the state record for chipmunks! I think, because I also practice organic gardening and live on 11 acres of wildish plantings, the deer do not eat the hostas. I am the envy of local friends who live in more populated areas and whose visiting deer devour almost everything in sight.
        You may be interested to know that I was inspired to plant daffodills close to hostas and daylilies after a local grower shared that he grew them for winter/spring flowers in the same daylily fields and never lost any of the lilies.
        It worked for me! Daffodills secrete an unwelcome taste, so I think that is the secret. Try it and see.
        Re the groundcover - I also use violets and the deer leave those alone, too.
        Happy gardening.

  14. Wife_Mother_Gardener 06/14/2014

    Nice to meet some more gardeners in Pittsburgh! You have both done a wonderful job with your spot, making it a restful & welcoming place for the people in it. Love your gate and inscription! Thanks for sharing!

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      Thanks for the compliments, Julie! The Pgh winter did a number on the garden this year--did you lose anything? Luckily, this cool and wet spring has helped, I think (well, not the tomatoes and geraniums, but...).

      1. Wife_Mother_Gardener 06/16/2014

        It was a tough winter. We lost most of the growth on our old rose bushes (probably over 60) that I have clematis trained through... time to start over :) But what I feel more keenly is the losses in the new gardens that I designed for friends the previous summer... they did not have much of a chance with -13 for their first winter! Hopefully they will not give up on gardening yet!

  15. thegardenlady 06/15/2014

    Lovely garden. So smart to have a basic plan to work from. I'll bet you really enjoy those trees and shrubs in the winter.

    1. floreyd 06/16/2014

      Hi, Ms Harms--it's funny, when the landscape architect showed us her plans, we were complete novices and thought all those evergreens would be "boring"... Now we understand how important they are to the structure of the garden (and wish we'd planted more of them!!). Thanks for the kind words.

  16. floreyd 06/16/2014

    Hi everyone--thanks for the many compliments; you made us so proud! For those of you interested, here is the website for the gentleman who made our giant acorn. He does all sorts of acorn birdhouses, feeders, sculpture, etc. as well as other shapes.

    Here is another shot the day they installed it--before the lilies and fruit trees were planted around it. It gives you a better idea of the scale--about 5 ft x 3 ft.

    1. perenniallycrazy 06/17/2014

      Many thanks for this tip! I guess there's a little Scrat in all of us. Have a great week you two.

  17. GrannyCC 06/17/2014

    Thanks for the extra pictures. What a lovely place to relax and enjoy your garden.

  18. Cenepk10 02/02/2015

    It always amazes me to see huge oaks underplanted with such pretty little thriving beds. Under my oaks ( 3 ginormous water oaks ) there is nothing that will grow. Not even weeds - Nothing anywhere near the drip line. The soil is like sand from the leaching. Such a beautiful property. Enjoy in good health !

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