Garden Photo of the Day

Gardening With Groundhogs in Massachusetts

Through the summer with groundhog-resistant plants

front yard garden later in spring with a large shrub in bloom

We’re visiting with Beth Britt today.

I have been gardening on a tiny lot (about an eighth of an acre) in a western suburb of Boston for the last 25 years. I had helped my parents and grandparents in their vegetable gardens when I was a kid in North Carolina, but I didn’t know anything about ornamental gardening when my husband and I bought this house. Very few of the plants I started with remain, with the exception of several trees.

My biggest challenge has been dealing with the scores (no exaggeration!) of groundhogs who live in the stone wall behind our house and throughout the neighborhood. After years of trial and error, I’ve now mostly learned which plants they do not eat, although sometimes the newest additions to the groundhog clan will try things that the older generations shunned.

This series of photographs shows a partial view of my front garden peaking in spring and summer. All the plants in these photographs have proven unpalatable to the groundhogs in my neighborhood.

small front yard garden with tulips of various colorsI plant about 500 tulips in the front garden each year, treating them as annuals. This photo from the middle of May shows Mazus reptans (Zones 5–8) blooming in the lawn. The two low evergreens on either side of the steps are Thuja ‘Mr. Bowling Ball’ (Zones 3–7).

front yard garden later in spring with a large shrub in bloomAnd here’s the front garden in late May. The star of late May is Viburnum plicatum ‘Summer Snowflake’ (Zones 5–8), which I’ve trained as a tree. I planted it in 2009. At its feet you can see the early dark foliage of Continus coggygria ‘Velveteeny’ (Zones 5–8). On the left trellis is Clematis ‘Elsa Spaeth’ (Zones 4–11). Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis, Zones 3–8), daylilies (Hemerocallis hybrids, Zones 4–9), catmint (Nepeta sp., Zones 5–9), peonies (Paeonia hybrids, Zones 3–8), lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina, Zones 4–8), Heuchera (Zones 4–9), Sedum, and Geranium are leafing out; groundhogs do not eat them! Overhead are a few leaves of a Constellation dogwood (Cornus × rutgersensis, Zones 5–10).

front yard garden in early summer with lots of greeneryHere is the garden in early June. One of my earliest mistakes was planting peonies (Paeonia hybrids, Zones 3–8) with little fragrance, as I didn’t realize yet how gardening in a small space demands that every plant do double or triple duty. I added the beautifully fragrant ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony a couple of years ago (middle of the photograph). To the far left is ‘Kansas’ peony, and to the far right is ‘Kelway’s Glorious’ peony; Allium ‘Gladiator’ (Zones 4–7) is in the foreground. Lady’s mantle, catmint, and Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ (Zones 3–8) are also in bloom.

front yard garden in summerLate June is the time for ‘Happy Returns’ daylily, Monarda ‘Bee-You Bee-Free’ (Zones 5–9), Rozanne geranium (Geranium ‘Gerwat’ (Zones 5–8), and self-seeding rose campion (Lychnis coronaria, Zones 4–8). Blue grama grass ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’, Zones 3–10) is in a pot.

front yard garden at peak summer bloomIn mid-July, more daylilies (‘Jolyene Nichole’ and ‘Strutter’s Ball’) follow, along with ‘Becky’ Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum × superbum ‘Becky’, Zones 5–9) and ‘Miss Manners’ obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana ‘Miss Manners’, Zones 3–9). I didn’t notice at the time I took the photograph that a birch tree across the street is reflected in the front door. How’s that for a borrowed view?

close up of white Viburnum flowersViburnum ‘Summer Snowflake’

close up of bright pink peony flowerPaeonia ‘Kansas, with Iris ‘Caesar’s Brother’ (Zones 3–8) and Clematis ‘Elsa Spaeth’

close up of lage, light pink peony flowersPaeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt’

close up of light pink peony with light green foliage in the backgroundI just learned the Hildene Star method of supporting peonies, shown here on Paeonia ‘Kelway’s Glorious’, with hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra, Zones 5–9) and Allium ‘Gladiator’ in the background. 

pink, purple, and white flowers in the gardenMonarda ‘Bee-You Bee-Free’ with ‘Miss Manners’ obedient plant, Geranium ‘Rozanne’, and Cotinus ‘Velveteeny’

light pink daylily flowers with purple flowers in the backgroundDaylily ‘Jolyene Nichole’

container planting with colorful foliage and orange and white flowersThis deck planter contains begonias (Begonia hybrid, Zones 10–11 or as an annual), coleus (Coleus scutellaroides, Zones 9–11 or as an annual), salvia (Salvia guaranitica, Zones 7–11 or as an annual), and Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire’ (Zones 8–11 or as an annual). Next to it is Clematis ‘Arctic Queen’ (Zones 4–9).


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  1. User avater
    simplesue 10/28/2022

    It's nice to learn from you about the star method of supporting peonies!
    And I just love your photo set of the front garden & house throughout the seasons- it really shows how much one garden goes through many phases and surprises in a few months!
    You've inspired me to set up my camera in the same spot and do the same (in the past I sort of guess where to stand LOL!)
    Such a pretty garden, it sits beautifully around your home, giving curb appeal to the neighborhood!
    Your experience with finding plants that the groundhogs won't eat is something I go through too...I've found putting some cut up apples out -away from the plants- keeps them from eating some perennials.

    1. ravengrrl 10/28/2022

      Thanks for your nice comments! Here's a link to the Hildene Star method if you haven't already found information about it: Thanks for the apple tip--I'll have to try that one!

      1. User avater
        simplesue 10/29/2022

        Ravengrrl...thanks for the link to the star method! I'm saving that link to my Pinterest so I remember to use it next spring!

  2. User avater
    treasuresmom 10/28/2022

    Beth, it is all so very lovely.

    1. ravengrrl 10/28/2022

      Thank you so much!

  3. garden1953 10/31/2022

    Beautifully done!

    1. ravengrrl 10/31/2022

      Thank you!

  4. wittyone 10/31/2022

    You have done a wonderful job of providing continuing color throughout the whole blooming year. It's something that I am not at all good at so looking at the combination of bloomers that you have may help me relocate some of my plants.


    1. ravengrrl 10/31/2022

      Thanks so much, wittyone. It's taken me many years of trial and error, and I still end up with gaps. One thing I do is visit friends' gardens when mine seems a little lackluster to see what is blooming for them. I've also learned to value the plants that bloom for a long time, like Roxanne geranium, or annuals that the groundhogs don't eat, like sweet alyssum.

  5. btucker9675 10/31/2022

    Your house and garden = charming, charming, charming! Peonies = gorgeous!!!

    1. ravengrrl 10/31/2022

      Thanks very much. I wish I had room for more peonies. I just can't get enough of them! Do you have any favorites?

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