Garden Photo of the Day

Gardening at the Lakeside

A cold, short season doesn't stop this gardener

I am Charles Markman, long-time Fine Gardening subscriber. I have been gardening on the shoreline of Lake Michigan in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, for 10 years, facing the challenge of a short growing season. Spring comes especially late, as the winds blow in over the water and act like a giant air conditioner. Minneapolis is considerably warmer than Whitefish Bay in May. The vegetable garden, which has been placed on terraces down the lake bluff, definitely needs to be given an indoor head start.

A perennial bed in early August in the late afternoon glow after a thundershower. The remnants of dried Allium that flowered in spring can be seen. Dominant blooms are Rudbeckia ‘Goldensturm’ (Zones 4–9), purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea, Zones 3–8), red bee balm (Monarda didyma, Zones 4–9) a bit past peak, and hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens, Zones 3–8). Off to the right is feather reed ornamental grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora, Zones 5–9).

Another view of the bed, with the lake beyond.

swallowtail butterflyA tiger swallowtail butterfly that has alit on a potted zinnia (Zinnia elegans, annual) on the patio. Lake Michigan can be seen in the distance.

lilac shrubsThe pathway to the front door on the street side of the house flanked by two flowering lilac shrubs (Syringa ‘Miss Kim’, Zones 3–8) and pots of annuals.

The street side of the house with a flowering crabapple (Malus, Zones 3–9) and a birch tree (Betula). A row of New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri, annual) separate the lawn from the border bed of pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis, Zones 4–8).

TulipsTulips and a saucer magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana, Zones 4–9) line the driveway on the street side.

Below the top of the bluff, hidden from view, are terraced beds for growing vegetables. The terracing was created by pounding in conduit pipes vertically to hold up timbers behind them, then filling in with topsoil and compost. A drip irrigation system was also installed and is controlled by the lawn watering system.

Tomatoes and cucumbersTomatoes and cucumbers harvested from the bluff beds

Except for the vegetable beds near the top of the bluff, we have tried to get native wildflowers to cover most of the steep bluff. I am partial to purple asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, Zones 4–8). This picture shows a pollinator convention taking place on a cluster of asters. A monarch and other butterflies can be seen as well as numerous bees.

More asters overlooking the lakeshore.


Have a garden you’d like to share?

Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!

To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.

If you want to send photos in separate emails to the GPOD email box that is just fine.

Have a mobile phone? Tag your photos on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #FineGardening!

You don’t have to be a professional garden photographer – check out our garden photography tips!

Do you receive the GPOD by email yet? Sign up here.

View Comments


  1. User avater
    pattyeckels 08/20/2020

    Lovely! A fantastic view. Love the lilacs. Sometimes I run out of adjetives for all the beautiful gardens here on Fine Gardening and yours is one.

  2. User avater
    treasuresmom 08/20/2020

    Oh, my, I'm so jealous of where you live. And your plants are wonderful.

  3. User avater
    simplesue 08/20/2020

    Love your house and garden and the view of Lake Michigan!
    Planting wild asters along the cliffside is such a cool idea, and I can't believe how well your vegetable garden did in that location!
    Love the formal entrance landscaping with the two "Miss Kim" Lilacs- just perfect!

  4. jennymccoy67 08/20/2020

    These photos are stunning! I spent a lot of time on Lake Michigan north of Chicago and in southwest Michigan, and these shots bring back a lot of fond memories. Beautiful area and gorgeous gardens!

    1. User avater
      cynthia2020 08/20/2020

      Hello, Charles.
      Like Jenny said - this exemplary set of photos bring back memories of visiting your area. I like how you captured the slant of sun to capture the light from that latitude and gave us wide shots and tight shots of landscape, flowers, and vegetables. Thank you for sharing all of your well thought-out garden.

  5. User avater
    meander_michaele 08/20/2020

    You have made a breathtaking setting even more pleasing with your personal landscaping contributions. Great job. Your Miss Kim lilac standards are beautifully done...quite exceptional.

  6. btucker9675 08/20/2020

    I was born in Milwaukee!!! My maternal grandpa (Albert M. Fuller) was curator of botany at the Milwaukee Public Museum for decades, and acting director for the latter part of his career. He was also instrumental, with Aldo Leopold and others, in the creation of the Ridges Sanctuary up in Door County. Your house and gardens are just lovely - what a view. Lake Michigan is an amazing body of water - like living on an ocean. Thank you for sharing!

  7. JohnsonofMillCreek 08/20/2020

    Lovely garden, great views and wonderful photographs too. Thanks for sharing!

  8. cheryl_c 08/20/2020

    Wonderful photos of beautiful plants artfully arranged and thriving. What could be better than this?

  9. darylsavage 08/20/2020

    Yes, thank you for sharing. The shot of the aster with the lake in the background is fantastic. The vegetable gardening on the slope looks very challenging. My only suggestion would be to substitute the New Guineas with a row of perennials like Lady's Mantle, Japanese Anemone, or something else you like. I don't know if you have deer up there.

  10. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 08/24/2020

    Thanks for sharing your garden. Lovely photos! I can sympathize for your growing season challenges. Somehow, I'm left thinking we have it better off in southern Finland :)

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest