Garden Photo of the Day

English Inspiration in a Midwest Climate

By Alexandra Dittrich

Iliana Takova has turned her homely lot into a vibrant and lively garden.

"My name is Iliana Takova and I live in Mount Prospect, Illinois. When I bought my house 6 years ago there was just an empty lawn with 2 dead trees. After I cleared the dead trees, I started to work on clearing the grass and creating the flower bed. Slowly, each year I cleared a section at a time and selected the flowers. My dream has always been to have an English Edwardian style garden, but considering the Midwest climate I quickly learned that it was not going to happen. I had to change my plans without compromising the main look. So after some research and some imagination I settled for a garden which I call a cross between English style and American Prairie style garden.

The garden is changing its colors with each season beautifully telling the Story of the Seasons – from the white iris, daisies, and blue catmint to the pink Echinacea, yellow black eyes Susan, and blue fortune, to the beautiful blue-purple coelestinum and aster flower.  I hope you enjoy my photos!"

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  1. frankgreenhalgh 08/18/2016

    Hello there Iliana - Wow, what a great story you tell starting with the empty lawn and two trees as dead as a dodo, some successful research and the creation of a hybrid English x American prairie garden, which is very interesting and colourful (long sentence here Ginger - over 30 words is really a no, no. - sorry about that distraction Iliana). Love the wrought iron and other ornamental features. May your garden continue to evolve as I'm sure it will given your determination. Thoroughly enjoyed your post today.

    Have a good week-end fellow GPOD'ers.

    Cheers, Frank

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Dear Frank,

      Thank you for your wonderful comment. I am new here but I already feel like I am among friends. I still have a long way to go until the yard is truly transformed but it is a work that keeps me dreaming.

      Have a wonderful week!



      1. frankgreenhalgh 08/18/2016

        Iliana - you are an absolute champion; a real bottler (never mind the Aussie slang). Never experienced such a rapid response in what must be very early in the morning over there (certainly my young mate, Kev, is tucked away in bed dreaming of his next move in the garden). Hello - Kev has just entered our space. I take that back Kev. Please stay involved Iliana in GPOD.

        1. user-4711274 08/18/2016

          Hi Frank,

          Just had to tell you, I absolutely loved your poster you sent yesterday for "Astraya" I sent it to several friends! (sharks with lazer pointers, whaa, haha!) It was great! Loved it! Happy gardening!

          1. frankgreenhalgh 08/18/2016

            Thanks Deborah - Tourism Australia is not as happy as you about the post. It should lighten up I say!!!! Cheers, Frank

  2. user-7007498 08/18/2016

    Hi, Lliana. I love how you have designed your garden, and I am a big fan of the style. The pictures you have shown us best fit a Prairie or meadow/cottage garden, which is awesome for your part of the country. Well done.

    Your deck with the chair and container groupings look so inviting. And the hydrangeas are spectacular.

    You are very courageous planting coelestinum. I tried planting it a few years ago, because I love the look of the annual ageratum, but wanted more height. Within 2 years, 1 plant had taken over a 5 by 5 foot space, overwhelming all nearby plants. That was the end of coelestinum for me. Perhaps you have had better luck in Illinois.

    Lastly, I love the interplay of height and textures in your borders. The plants weave through each other, complimenting form and visual weight and color.

    1. frankgreenhalgh 08/18/2016

      Please accept my apologies Kev. for doubting your commitment to GPOD - what time is it there? Cheers, Frank

      1. user-7007498 08/18/2016

        Midnight here, Frank. I just got home from a late night at work. Have to be back at 7:30am. Goodnight (enjoy your day).

    2. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Hi Kevin,

      Thank you very much for your kind words. Coelestinum and the Morning Glory keep me busy all the time! I have to keep an eye on them or they will take over. They are the mischievous one!

      It is a real pleasure for me to be among such outstanding gardeners like all of you here!



  3. wGardens 08/18/2016

    A nice job with your transformation! You have selected some great plants and championed some wonderful pairings. I like how you have also included some garden art. Like that metal fence a lot! Those Hydrangeas are just lovely too, a fantastic plant to work with. Thank you for bringing your garden to us!

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Dear Margaret,

      Thank you and I am very happy that you enjoyed the photos of my garden!

  4. ClareRocky 08/18/2016

    Iliana, your garden is beautiful! I especially love your hydrangeas and that planter with the ferns in it is really spectacular. Is that planter in full sun? Congratulations on transforming your garden into such a lovely feast for the eyes!

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Thank you, Clare!

      The planter with the fern gets about 4-6 hours of sun, I just added it this year, because I needed more height in this part of the garden and I am happy that it worked well.


  5. NCYarden 08/18/2016

    Good morning. Iliana. I am a big fan of your garden development, as it is not much unlike mine. I love hearing large lawns being replaced by much more interesting, beautiful and sustainable plants. Your compromise on garden styles is sweet as well...we all work with what we're given, as the result can still be outstanding, as is shown in your garden. A great mix of plants, and I too have to note those hydrangeas. Thank you for sharing.

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      NC Yarden,

      The first rule that I learned as I started to garden is that if you want to have a beautiful garden you should not fight nature but rather embrace it. It works every time as I see it proven by all of your gardens as well.


  6. User avater
    meander_michaele 08/18/2016

    Well, Iliana, I think I will take a short cut in describing your garden's falls into the "Beautiful" category and it looks like you can do no wrong! Your combinations are delightful and each variety of plant seems plentiful and lonely, undernourished orphans to be seen. Did you start out with rich and fertile soil or are your life giving beds the result of your adding compost, etc? Kevin and Diane's special mentioning of Coelestinum gave me my early morning google exercise so I could see what plant they were referring to. It certainly adds a pleasing undulating froth of blue purple ...hard to resist the allure of that color weaving throughout the other perennials. Love the grouping of plants in the containers behind your deck bench. It's thriller, filler, spiller, on steroids...looks fabulous.

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Dear meander1,

      I can assure you that as every newcomer in the art of gardening I have done my mistakes and the mistakes made have been my best teacher.

      As I mentioned in my story there were no flower beds before, only grass. I removed the grass by hand, the soil had to be tilled, composed was added, and I repeat these steps every year as I slowly expand the garden. It is a lot of work, and it is a hard labor. But as every gardener knows we do it with so much love that the aches and the pains caused by the hard work are fast forgotten when our gardens reward us with their beauty.

      Thank you for the wonderful comment!


    2. frankgreenhalgh 08/18/2016

      Cooee, Ginger - you are such a guru of writing that I thought you may have picked up on the earlier reference I made of you. Cheers

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 08/18/2016

        Oh, I did and I smiled but I didn't want to, in any way, give myself a reputation as a word counter . Notice that I cheat like crazy with using dot dot dot/ ... as a way to extend my sentences and not worry about commas, semi-colons or whatever.

        1. frankgreenhalgh 08/18/2016

          Good - In a previous life, I was told that by the time you reach the end of a sentence with more than 30 words, you cannot remember the start of it. Thinking about this, I believe that the 30 word principle should be modified so that it becomes progressively less than 30 words as you get older.

        2. User avater
          Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 08/18/2016

          Just coming back to read through more comments and seeing Frank's comment to you got me thinking: Your moniker on your account is Meander1; I call you Michaele; I have seen others call you Mike an Mikey. Now Frank is calling you Ginger! Will the real Michaele please stand up! :)
          Seriously-Do you have a preference? Pretty soon you'll be answering to anything!

          1. frankgreenhalgh 08/18/2016

            Hey Tim - remember Ginger is quad-polar!!!!!!!!!!!

          2. User avater
            Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 08/18/2016

            Gilligan's Island or Fred Astaire Ginger?

          3. frankgreenhalgh 08/18/2016

            Yes Ginger Rogers because she is good/quick on her feet - and with words!

          4. User avater
            meander_michaele 08/18/2016

            Hmm, Frank, Tim has highlighted, in a light hearted way, a conundrum that I actually do wrestle with. I've yet to activate my cell phone message feature because I don't know what first name to lead with. Yes, I know that I could take the easy way out and just say the phone number and that's probably what I'll eventually do in a year or two (too busy gardening to take care of practical matters). Anyway, for the sake of fellow gpod-ers, let's keep me at tri-polar and we'll say a fond good bye to Ginger if you don't mind.

          5. frankgreenhalgh 08/18/2016

            No probs. Michaele. It was a short time, but a good time. Next Kev. will want Kevin!!!!!

          6. User avater
            meander_michaele 08/18/2016

            Ha, yes, I will allow Ginger to dance gracefully off into the sunset. Maybe this will motivate me to pick a name for my cell phone message.

          7. User avater
            meander_michaele 08/18/2016

            Hi, Tim, just below on this thread of conversation, I decided to say a fond goodbye to Frank's gentle teasing nickname of Ginger for me. I do have a love hate relationship with my multiple monikers because it sometimes causes confusion. Back in our horse showing days, my husband would get greeted by fellow competitors by his name (no confusion about how to pronounce Darwin) and I would be an after thought referred to as ......... silence...I would get a smile and a nod because people weren't sure how to pronounce "Michaele".
            At least nowadays, there are more "Michaele"s although the spelling is not the same.
            Anyway, thanks for checking in and asking for clarification.

  7. User avater
    treasuresmom 08/18/2016

    Everything is so pretty and lush. Love the shrubs with white blooms. Are they hydrangeas or viburnums?

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Thank you, treasuresmom!

      These are Paniculata hydrangeas ( aka Pee Gee hydrangeas). You can't change their color, they stay white. I absolutely love them!

  8. user-4691082 08/18/2016

    Talk about making lemonade out of lemons! Great job, Illiana! It's hard to believe it's only been 6 years...did you study garden design before you began? It sure looks like it!

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      I love your comment, Rhonda!
      My only garden design schooling has been from gardeners like all of you. I enjoy to take walks in the Chicago Botanic garden and the forest preserves' prairies but those places can only teach me what a learned skill and the skill of nature can do. However, the best garden school is the garden of a person who gardens with passion, like all of you here!

      Have a great day!

  9. User avater
    HelloFromMD 08/18/2016

    Hi Iliana, beautiful, lush gardens. My favorite photo is of the large fern (Boston?) in a container with a hosta in the foreground. I am admiring your upright hydrangea paniculata. Mine is Vanilla Strawberry which is drooping with all the thunderstorms.

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016


      The Strawberry hydrangea are so beautiful! I am sure they grab the eye in the yard.

      The large furn is the Holly Fern. She is such a gorgeous monster with her wide leaves, isn't she? ( You will notice that I assign genders to my plants when I talk about them) :)

  10. diane_lasauce 08/18/2016

    Do you know the name of that leggy mini brown-eyed Susan in the next to last photo? I had some come up in my gardens this year and I consider them a thug...too tall! Never planted them either...Good job sod busting and making your dream garden...

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Hi Diane,

      Thank you for your comment. "That leggy mini brown-eyes Susan" is Rudbeckia triloba. One of my favorite ever! As you can see I aim for tall plants, so it works perfect for me.


  11. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 08/18/2016

    Your hard work and patience has really paid off, Iliana. Looks superb and it is really hard to believe you started from scratch such a short time ago. I think it is wonderful that adapting to your lot and climate forced you to create your own, very successful style. Like HelloMD, my favorite photo is the potted fern photo. You've chosen some great annuals to complement your perennials.

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Hello, Tim!

      Here is another photo of the furn planter early in the season.
      In the container I have Holly fern, Ageratum & Mandevilla.


      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 08/18/2016

        I love that Disqus allows up to upload more photos. Thanks for the detail and IDs. I don't think I've ever seen anyone use Mandevilla as a trailing plant in a container. Good call!

        1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

          Sometimes it is all about taking risks! :)

  12. WinstonSalem 08/18/2016

    Iliana, I love your garden and your story about its evolution. I thoroughly enjoyed taking a trip through your garden. Beautiful design, wonderful variety of plants and healthy plants. I too have coelestium (false ageratum) and it has all the attributes and challenges mentioned before. It came to my garden"on its own" and it took me a long time to figure out what it was. I do have to control it but leave it for fall color as it blooms here in NC with other fall bloomers and makes a wonderful display.

    Question to all...where do you find past entries into GPOD? I recall they were accessible but can't find them now.

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Hello, Ellen!

      The Coelestium and the Japanese Anemone combined with mums and aster flower are the best fall combination. They make a wonderful fall garden full of color.

      Have a great day!

    2. GrannyCC 08/18/2016

      If you click on the Blog site at the top of this page you will see the GPOD site and from there can see past posts.

    3. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 08/18/2016

      You can find all of the blog submissions exactly as Catherine has said. If you are looking for someone specifically, you can type their name in the search box at the top of this page, hit the search icon and it usually will list the blog entries for that name. Cheers

      1. WinstonSalem 08/19/2016

        Thanks Catherine and Tim....I finally figured it out but appreciate your replies so much.

        Also, Iliana, thanks for the suggestion re: plant combinations with Colestium. I just let it go where it wants and weed it out if it goes to the wrong place. Right now mainly let it go with the goldenrod which makes a wonderful combination. Per your suggestion I will move some to bloom with my asters. Thanks.

  13. user-4711274 08/18/2016

    Beautiful! Everything is so lush! What is the tall red blooming plant in your initial first photo? I'm still sod busting and creating! Your deck is gorgeous!

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Hi Deborah,

      If you are asking for the plant by the daisies it is the Monardra (Bee Balm). The variety that I have is the Raspberry Wine. It is absolutely stunning. It is also edible and good to make tea from it. :)

      1. user-4711274 08/18/2016

        It certainly is stunning! Love it! I had no idea it got so tall. I'm definitely adding it to my list for next spring already. Thank you!

        1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

          You are welcome!

  14. hontell 08/18/2016

    Iliana, can I just say WOW! I know Tim is pleased with your cramscaping, I too, love to see just plants and no dirt. Enjoy your garden and good luck.

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Thank you, Howard!

      I try! I guess the rule "Less is more" doesn't apply to my garden!

      Happy gardening!

  15. sheila_schultz 08/18/2016

    Iliana, you have created your own delightful garden of eden filled with boundless colors and textures! It is lush and vibrant with fun little details... you definitely have the green touch!
    You mentioned you are new to GPOD, I am so pleased you discovered this wonderful community of thoughtful and knowledgeable gardeners from around the world. I am quite sure it is the best venue for everyday gardeners to get together to chat, learn and laugh! Welcome!

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Dear Sheila,

      It is a pleasure for me to be part of such a wonderful community! Your warm welcome and kind comments have made me feel right at home!

      After I saw all of your wonderful gardens I was afraid to submit mine, after all I am a new gardener with only 6 years of experience but your wonderful words eased my anxiety.

      Thank you!

      1. sheila_schultz 08/18/2016

        One thing you'll learn about gardeners... we are always learning, making mistakes and trying again, a plants death is the opportunity to try another!!! There are so many things out of our control, but maybe that's the challenge in gardening?

        1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

          I couldn't agree more. My rule is "3 tries and you find a new home", I will move a plant around up to 3 times and if it doesn't perform I usually give it to someone else.

  16. Cenepk10 08/18/2016

    Really beautiful ! Is that ageratum in the 3rd pic ? The purple ?

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Yes it is! A wonderful troublemaker!

  17. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

    Diane, you are so sweet! Thank you! The coelestinum can be invasive, but I make sure that I keep it where I want it. In fact, many of the plants in my garden are wild prairie plants which have the tendency to take over, this is probably why in such a short time the garden looks well established. My advise to anyone who would go with native American plants is "Keep an eye on the wild ones!" :)


  18. schatzi 08/18/2016

    Lush and beautiful. Everything looks healthy and happy. Welcome to GPOD - the best group of people you will ever find! Happy days, everyone.

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Thank you, Shirley!
      I already love it here! You are a wonderful group of people.

      1. mahmoudaboelyazeedsayedahm 08/26/2016

        You are a wonderful group of people

  19. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 08/18/2016

    Iliana, welcome to GPOD. I think you'll like it here. Your garden really took me back to our Midwest gardens. I had forgotten how quickly everything grows there with the warm, often wet summers. You have accomplished a well thought out garden and your plant choices are just so pleasing to the eye. It was nice to be reminded of Coelestinum as we have an area that we're just getting ready to plant and a spreader would be welcome. Your photos left me wanting to see more so I hope that you'll share with us again.

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Hi Linda!

      Thank you for the warm welcome! All of you have been so kind with your comments.

      As much as I hate the Midwest winter, I love the summer in the Midwest and the Midwest plants. The heat and the humidity can be brutal as well. I usually get up very early in the morning and move around the garden with the sun.

      are are 2 more photos for you. The first is when the Frances Williams are in bloom and the second a container with dragon wing begonia.

      Have a wonderful day!

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 08/18/2016

        Just gorgeous. One of the things I envy about midwestern gardens is that it seems like hosta are not as needy for shade. Yours look like they are thriving is sun amounts that would fry mine to a crisp.

        1. ilianatakova 08/19/2016

          You are right! And the rule of thumb here seems to be the darker the color of the hosta the more shade it needs, the light green / gold color hostas do great even in full sun.

  20. GrannyCC 08/18/2016

    Congratulations on a beautiful garden!!

    1. ilianatakova 08/18/2016

      Thank you, Catherine!

  21. annek 08/19/2016

    How beautiful. I loved every photo and now want to try a fern and annual combo. A beautiful group of photos depicting your love of gardening!

  22. thevioletfern 08/19/2016

    Beautiful! I love ALL your photos. I am especially impressed by your pairing of flowers with lovely garden art and sculpture.

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