Garden Photo of the Day

Gardening Side by Side

Neighbors who love gardening together

We’re visiting with Susan Warde in St. Paul, Minnesota, today. We’ve visited her garden before (The Summer That Was at the 45th Parallel and Rose Family Members in Susan’s Garden), but today she’s celebrating the gardening relationship she shares with her neighbor.

My next-door neighbor, Robin Carlson, and I have been gardening for decades. When we’re both out working at the same time, I’m reminded of a pair of toddlers, playing companionably side by side, each doing her own thing. We each have numerous plants that have come from the other’s garden. Often one of us will stroll next door with a question: Could you come over and see something? Where should this plant go? Do you know what’s wrong with these leaves? I’m thinking of swapping out these two plants—what do you think? Occasionally we go plant shopping together, coming home with the back seat full of greenery, a garden on wheels. I love photographing in her garden, and she has given me permission to share some of my favorite photos, which I took last summer. I’m looking forward to what this season will bring!

In April, bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’, Zones 3–8) brightens up a shady spot. The maroon-leaved plant is the native fringed loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’, Zones 3–8), which produces yellow blossoms later in the season.

Robin has several of these white-flowered bleeding hearts. They get enormous, and the foliage lasts long into the summer in this shady area of her garden, under a large ash tree. In the background you can see the terraced gardens that deal with the slope up to our shared driveway.

On the shady side of Robin’s garden, Roger’s flower (Rodgersia, Zones 5–9) shows off its striking foliage and, in May, an impressive scape of tiny blossoms. The leaves in the upper left belong to a still-small eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis, Zones 4–10), which flowers well in spite of the shade.

Also in May, this stunning tree peony (Paeonia hybrid, Zones 3–8) bursts into bloom. Robin got it for a song at a sale, and it gets bigger and more beautiful each year.

In June, herbaceous peonies are among the sun-loving plants in the terraced garden.

Taking center stage is this yellow Itoh peony ‘Bartzella’ (an intersectional hybrid). Evening primrose (Oenothera sp.), that spot of yellow in the lower left, is just coming into bloom. It was given to me by an elderly friend and still brightens up both Robin’s garden and mine decades later. Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, Zones 5–9) softens the edge of one of the terraces. Early daisies and a red herbaceous peony can be seen in the background.

By July, daylilies (Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’, Zones 3–9) are in flower along the terrace wall, interspersed with some astilbes.

Also flowering in July are these striking ‘Conca d’or’ orienpet lilies (Lilium ‘Conca d’Or’, Zones 4–8).

Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Zones 4–9) shelters this sweet little garden whimsy.

This photo was taken in August. I love the contrasting textures in this shady area of Robin’s garden. The many hosta varieties are interspersed with lacy meadow rue (Thalictrum dioicum, Zones 3–7), Japanese painted fern, and the spotted leaves of pulmonaria (Pulmonaria longifolia, Zones 3–8). All the pulmonaria in my garden came originally from Robin, as well as several of these hostas. The sharing of plants is only one of the many rewards of having a gardening neighbor.


Have a garden you’d like to share?

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  1. User avater
    musabasjoosue 04/01/2024

    What fun to have a neighbor who has a beautiful garden and enjoys it as much as you do!

  2. nwphilagardener 04/01/2024

    I do envy the sharing spirit with your neighbor. Not only does it build a friendship but helps meld those properties by the repetition. With their permission, I've planted some things that have "walked over" to my neighbors, like May Apple, Ostrich ferns, and seed-spreaders like Wood Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) and Brunnera.

  3. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 04/01/2024

    Once again, a wonderful showing. Congratulations to you both!

  4. User avater
    simplesue 04/01/2024

    What a dream come true to have a next door neighbor who also has a passion for gardening! The photo of all the contrasting textures in the shady area is just amazing, as is the whole garden! Beautiful peaceful garden design!

  5. btucker9675 04/01/2024

    PEONIES!!! This is a lovely post and I love the description of two toddlers playing companionably, side by side. I have shared bearded irises with my neighbor - she was certain they would die because she has a "black thumb" but they have bloomed ever since and I love her pride when people compliment her on the beautiful blossoms. Now she is willing to try other things and I am carefully giving her things that aren't too fussy. It's a pleasure for both of us! Thank you for sharing!

  6. foxglove12 04/01/2024

    All beautiful photos. Looks very lush. Love your story.

  7. [email protected] 04/03/2024

    I also have several friends and sisters that I exchange with even if not my neighbors! Love the analogy of 2 toddlers in the garden. I hope one day my 2 lovely grand-daughters will be hand in hand by my sides in the garden 😉

  8. blondie3 04/07/2024

    Love your story, My neighbor is my sister and we also garden together…I Love it so much. During the winter months here in Illinois, we may not see each other for several weeks but come gardening weather we are out puttering around and sharing life! What a blessing!

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