Garden Photo of the Day

Gardening in Central New York

By: Kim Charles

Marge Hebblethwaite and her husband Chris have overcome the challenges of clay soil and shade, creating a garden with unique foliage as the focal point.

"My husband and I garden in Zone 5B in central New York, where the winters are long, but the growing season is worth waiting for.  We’ve been living in our home for 20 years and have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t in our amended clay soil.  I'm a plant geek and love playing with interesting foliage both in the garden and in the many containers I pot up every year.

Our back shade garden is very challenging because we have standing water there in winter and spring, and a large tree that sucks up the moisture in the summer.  This year we lost one of the larger shrubs along the fence (and are losing our Viburnum as well) so we filled in the spot with this pot grouping featuring a Red Abyssinian Banana plant."


A note to the GPOD Community: As you may have noticed, we switched to a new email template this week. This template allows us to showcase a larger opening photo on our daily blog posts. We will now be looking to use photos with a very high resolution, so that we can allow this image to shine. This means there is no need to reduce photo sizing before sending. Simply point, shoot and send the photos our way–easy! Additionally, sending photos in separate emails to the GPOD email box, is just fine if needed.

We look forward to seeing more beautiful gardens as we round out the summer season! Happy Gardening! Kim


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Some of my favorite container groupings from this year to follow:

View Comments


  1. Chris_N 09/08/2017

    Very nice, Marge. Winter wet clay soil sounds like quite a challenge. You've done a great job incorporating annuals in your garden. Red Abyssinian bananas are one of my favorites. For one thing, I think they should be named Royal Abyssinian Banana because they can be so majestic. I like your plant combinations in your annual pot groupings.

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Thanks, Chris. I agree with the new name for the banana- maybe you can push that renaming idea through with the powers that be.

  2. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 09/08/2017

    You've got an eye for eye-popping color! Love the banana and canna leaves and your container grouping are so nice. Great Begonias, too. The combination of the zonal geranium and the hydrangea really caught my eye! I have clay soil as well. With amendments (and occasionally removing intractable clods) it does help to hold in moisture and there are plants that thrive in it. Nice job.

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Thanks, Tim. I really appreciate the ability of the clay soil to hold nutrients- that's a benefit. And you're right that finding the plants that do well in clay is the best solution (although I still try to sneak in plants that need good drainage by placing them in drier areas- bet you do too).

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 09/08/2017

        That's so true. I've never been content with plants that do well naturally in my garden, nor plants that are appropriate to my zone!
        Happy gardening.

        1. tennisluv 09/08/2017

          So glad to hear that others push the limits of area and soil. I am doing my best to pretend I leave in the PW with wonderful, loamy soil instead of on a clay hill in Northeast Georgia.

          1. User avater
            Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 09/08/2017

            It's the human dilemma: wanting what we can't have; growing what we can't grow! :)

  3. thevioletfern 09/08/2017

    Fantastic foliage! Love the banana! Curious, can you overwinter it indoors so you can place it back into the garden next season?

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Yes, Kathy, you can overwinter it indoors. But it needs to be hauled out of the pot or garden soil, wrapped and dragged into a basement to rest over the winter. No small task with this giant. So we bought a new one this year ($11) instead of overwintering last years. Definitely a plant worth growing.

  4. cheryl_c 09/08/2017

    I'm with Tim, the hydrangea with the zonal geranium really caught me off guard! And what wonderful groupings of your many colorful plants. I do not envy your soggy winters - that must be a tough gardening situation to deal with. I do hope your viburnum pulls through.
    Hope you have a long, beautiful autumn season before this year's winter sets in.

  5. Coveside 09/08/2017

    Love the geranium/hydrangea combo!

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      So glad you like the combo. The geranium got moved around over three years because it just wasn't blooming and it finally bloomed this year. Worth the wait.

  6. user-7008421 09/08/2017

    Beautiful garden! Love all the foliage plants mixed with the pretty flowering plants. You have a great eye for design.

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Thanks so much, Karen. That's encouraging to hear. I'm trying to hone my design skills.

  7. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 09/08/2017

    Good morning, Marge. You certainly have an eye pleasing way of putting your pots together. Begonias and Persian shield are always appealing to me, too. What do you do with your banana tree in the winter? I also love the blue salvia with the orange thunbergia vine. It is raining on Whidbey this morning for the first time in two months and we are doing a happy dance. Have a nice weekend everyone.

    1. user-7007498 09/08/2017

      Good news about the rain, Linda. Hopefully it will be a good soaker.

      1. User avater
        LindaonWhidbey 09/08/2017

        Thanks, but it was brief. It sounds, though, like we may have a little bit for the next three days. Plants look happier already:) I hope storm Irma doesn't affect all of you on the east coast too badly.

    2. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Thanks so much for your compliments, Linda. The salvia was a gift from a friend (Salvia 'Amistad'). It's been blooming non-stop since the beginning of June. I'm a sucker for purple and orange. So glad you are having rain. You must have a watering want glued to your hand by now after two months without. Happy drenching!

  8. user-7007498 09/08/2017

    Good afternoon, Marge. I was really taken by your container groupings. Gorgeous combinations of foliage. Standing water in the winter has got to be tough. I also have had to deal with lots of clay in my area in PA. Twenty two years of amending with leaf compost has improved most areas of my garden to where plants grow well. I still have some areas that need more work (these are where I kill Heuchera-that's my sentinel plants telling me I have more work to do).

    Thanks for sharing your garden with us.

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Thanks, Kevin. Yes- I kill Heucheras regularly in certain spots (and yet I keep getting sucked in by the next beautiful variety and trying them anyway). I like the idea of using them as a tool to tell you where to amend more. Good luck with your garden!

      1. Luvfall 09/08/2017

        About half of my heucheras are in pots that I overwinter in an unheated garage. I'm sure you could find spots in your wonderful container groupings for a couple of specimens.

  9. greengenes 09/08/2017

    Good morning Marge! Thanks for sending these in for us! They are great photos of what you have been doing! I love your begonias, especially the one in the white plant stand! Arent those red bananas wonderful! They bring in such a great color and a little bit of a tropical feel. You really have an eye for combinations. Love what youve done! Thanks again!

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Thanks, Jeanne. Aren't Begonias the greatest in the garden? You can't beat the texture and color.

  10. btucker9675 09/08/2017

    Love the geranium foliage - doesn't even need to bloom!

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      I agree, Beth. Somehow those red-orange blooms never go with whatever I'm pairing this geranium with....sometimes I take them off.

      1. btucker9675 09/08/2017

        I've done the same! Your color combinations are terrific - the deep purpley-blue and the orange especially striking. Lovely garden.

  11. schatzi 09/08/2017

    Love the color and texture contrasts, the begonias, the banana, love it all. Beautiful!

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Thank you so much for your gracious compliments, Shirley.

  12. wittyone 09/08/2017

    I see you have that beautiful coleus "Redhead". I have one this year a cutting from a friend kept and fussed over this past winter. I think it's the most beautiful color ever so saturated but a soft color as well. Definitely a keeper!

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      I do have the 'Redhead' Coleus and I really like it- I agree about the color. It's great in pots. The Coleus in front of the Persian Shield is actually 'Inferno'. It has an amazing vibrant orange color and performs much better than 'Sedona'. Also a keeper!

  13. foxglove12 09/08/2017

    Love ❤️ all the artistic clusters of color and textures. Great eye for design.

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Thanks for the encouragement, Lori!

  14. tennisluv 09/08/2017

    Marge, great container combinations with all those different leaf sizes, forms, and colors. I thought I had it tough living on a Georgia Red Clay hill, but at least my soil drains except in one low lying area where I have begun planting plants that like or at least tolerate wet feet. Loved the geranium in the first picture and the one with the red stems and pretty ball in the last one.

    Kim, thanks for the change to larger pictures and clearer definition. It is so much easier to see all the lovely plants tucked away in the GPOD offerings. You do such a good job taking care of our little community.

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Thank you, Sonya. I've been working on improving my use of foliage for awhile because you just can't always count on flowers doing what you when when you want them to. Georgia clay is probably just as much of a challenge as we have here...good luck with it!

  15. JoannaAtGinghamGardens 09/08/2017

    Marge, I love your container combos. They really are quite beautiful! Thanks a bunch for sharing.

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Thanks so much for your kind comments, Joanne.

  16. User avater
    meander_michaele 09/08/2017

    Hi, Marge, your photos have certainly provided some brain tickles for me...yes, hydrangea/ geranium foliage combo, I'm talking about you! And I love your approach to container letting an individual plant have the whole pot to itself, some interesting visuals can be achieved by playing around with putting the container on a stand and letting a plant seem taller than it really is. I started doing that a few years ago for container grouping that stay out all year round with evergreens and hardy succulents. Your opening photo of the begonia is mesmerizing...I'm tempted to go back to it and count water has such beautiful detail and clarity. Your past 20 years have been well spent in your lovely garden.

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Thanks so much for the encouraging comments. Cornell Plantations gardens in Ithaca, NY does a great job with grouping containers as you described- that was my inspiration years ago and I've been trying to hone it more and more. Isn't it fun to mess with plants??

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 09/08/2017

        I always like to look over pictures from public gardens that I'm not familiar with... so I had to google Cornell Plantations. Looks like a wonderful garden to visit.

  17. Cenepk10 09/08/2017

    Nice !!! Like the okra combos. Very pretty.

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Thanks so much. I love that color a lot, too as you can see.

  18. LaurelEm 09/08/2017

    Thank you for sending your pictures for us to see. I love your color combinations as well. I love that sort of tri-colored geranium. I want to try one in a combo and it is hard to arrive on just one idea. That combination on the leaves is so great and bohemian. Next spring I'm just going to have to take the plunge and see what I can come up with. Lavender is a color I hadn't thought of but it also works.

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      I love that Geranium, too. It ends up in my cart at the garden store every year. Last year I tried to find annual flowers to go with it and burgundy seemed to work really well....I used another green-leaved burgundy blooming Geranium. It's not an easy plant to match things with.

      1. LaurelEm 09/11/2017

        I know isn't that true about matching colors with it? It seems like it should be easy with so many tones on those leaves. I have walked around a nursery with one in my hand holding it against so many colors, a few times and end out putting it back. I guess I just want it to be so perfect and I haven't found the right combo yet. Next year I'm just going with it.

        1. mhebb 09/11/2017

          I'm kind of a perfectionist about this stuff, too, Laurie. And I walked around for a long time at the nursery before I found the color I wanted. But I like the idea of just going with it. Maybe next year you can find a spot in the garden where you can put it to provide just the contrast and pop you need. The one in my photo is actually in a pot (not sure you can see that) and I had no idea how it would look with the Hydrangea when it bloomed, but it worked out somehow. Maybe you can include photos of your Geranium in it's spot next season. I'm cheering you on!

          1. LaurelEm 09/11/2017

            Thanks Marge!

  19. user-7008735 09/08/2017

    Sometimes the leaves of a plant are as colourful and as beautiful as its flowers -- or more so. You've certainly collected some beauties, Marge! Thanks for sharing.

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      Thanks, Lorraine. My pleasure.

  20. user-6536305 09/08/2017

    I echo with others! Thanks for sharing!

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      You're welcome, Lillian. I've been enjoying everyone else's posts for awhile now so it's fun to share mine.

  21. user-4691082 09/08/2017

    I love that yellow begonia. Do you take cuttings in the fall? Beautiful plants. Thanks for sharing!

    1. mhebb 09/08/2017

      You're welcome, Rhonda. I've found that the best way to overwinter my tuberous Begonias is to either let them die back a bit in fall (if they are in a small pot) or move ones in a large pot into a smaller plastic one and cut off the plants. I put some fresh potting soil on the top of the pot, let it dry out some and put the pots in a box in the corner of the basement where it is cooler and let them rest. I may put a bit of water on the pot once or twice in winter. Then I bring the pots out in spring and start watering. Three out of four that I overwintered this way survived this past year.

  22. Beadlily 09/12/2017

    Marge, your Begonia are fabulous!!! The colors of your garden are beautiful too.

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