Garden Photo of the Day

Gardens With a View on Lookout Mountain

By Kim Charles

Part 1: Sue Chamberlain of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee showcases her unique and beautiful elevated gardens.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Verdana}
p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Verdana; min-height: 15.0px}
span.s1 {font-kerning: none}

"It’s an old-fashioned small cottage garden on the edge of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. With lots of elevation challenges, the garden may appear larger

because of the staggering of plants and fountains.  It’s view is also seen from the living room above, so the "bone/structure" of the garden design is 

enjoyed at many levels.  Lots of perennials and natives, with oh so many moveable containers for “instant decor”. May and June are ideal times on 

Lookout Mountain, with lots of digitalis, iris, azalea, and then the hydrangeas, phlox, daisies, and oriental lilies arrive.


Before an interior room was painted or remodeled, the first thing we did was to totally create a garden area…beginning with bringing in the best dirt!"


(I have a numerous collection of great photos from Sue, so stay tuned for part 2 of this post tomorrow) 


Have a garden you'd like to share? Email 5-10 photos and a brief story about your garden to [email protected]. Please include where you are located!

Have a mobile phone? Tag your photos on 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.

Follow us: @finegardening on Twitter | FineGardeningMagazine on Facebook @finegardening on Instagram

Four quadrants of trees

Side view of bench and hydrangeas

Myrtle trees

Climbing roses on pergola

View Comments


  1. frankgreenhalgh 01/04/2017

    Hi Sue - Congratulations on your wonderful garden - all class! There are so many interesting and appealing aspects to the senses. I love the hydrangeas, pergola with the hanging frames (great idea), and the 4 topiary plants. Looking forward to seeing Part 2. Cheers from Australia

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/05/2017

      Frank...thank you...sure would like to see your Australian garden!

      1. frankgreenhalgh 01/06/2017

        Hi Sue - stay tuned to GPOD - I'll send a post soon featuring our agapanthus in flower. Cheers, Frank

        1. sue_chamberlain 01/06/2017

          Frank: Looking forward to the photo! Is it a perennial or does it grow it mass, like in Florida and California here. It is not winter-hardy on the mountain. Send soon...they are so beautiful!

          1. frankgreenhalgh 01/06/2017

            Sue - Yes agapanthus is a perennial and it grows very well indeed in temperate areas of southern Australia (as it does in California). It is a very much a maligned plant here, because it is considered an environmental weed since it sets lots of seed, which is easily dispersed into native bush areas. I make sure that I cut off the flower heads before the seed is mature, and hence avoid the issue of dispersal outside our garden. Thanks for your interest. Cheers from Oz

          2. sue_chamberlain 01/12/2017

            Frank: DId I miss the photo of your agapanthus?

          3. frankgreenhalgh 01/12/2017

            Hi Sue - Thanks for following up. I have sent a story and a series of pics to Kim, and hopefully they will be on-line in the next few days or so. In the meantime, here are a couple of pics I haven't included. The dark purple flower is a relatively new cultivar of Agapanthus called Black Panther.

          4. sue_chamberlain 01/23/2017

            Glad to see all your photos posted on 01/23/17; what an abundance of color!

  2. Jay_Sifford 01/04/2017

    Hi Sue. The first thing I thought about when I saw your photos this morning was a series I wrote for Houzz a couple of years ago on discovering your garden personality. One of those articles was on the romantic, and your garden exemplifies that. White and pink, billowy and lacy, chair and table coverings, soft yet textural.... all of these are components of a romantic garden and you've certainly pulled it off quite well.
    Like you, I have a garden that is viewed from overhead as well as from different ground level vantage points. It's a hard thing to pull off successfully, but you've done it. I love looking down on a garden. All of its strengths and weaknesses are spread out right there for everyone to see. I wrote an article about that too. It takes guts!
    Congrats and happy gardening!

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/05/2017

      Jay: Could you give me a link to that article; I'd love to get your ideas for sure.

      1. Jay_Sifford 01/05/2017

        Sure. Hopefully this doesn't come across as self-promotion and gets me in any trouble with the FG folks, because I don't write for Houzz anymore. If it is, I'm sure someone will delete it, but here goes:

        1. sue_chamberlain 01/05/2017

          Oh impressive, helpful, and the visuals; make my day! So glad you shared...I'll study this for days. Just read it and admired the photos, but this is an amazing amount of information and inspiration.. I'm certainly going to share it! This is architecture and nature at it's best! Thank you, Jay.

          1. Jay_Sifford 01/05/2017

            My pleasure, Sue. I hope it motivates you and gives you some new ideas. Happy gardening!

        2. sue_chamberlain 01/12/2017

          Jay: It's a rainy day, and I've taken time to go back to your post. Your article on "Explore Your Garden Personality: The Romantic...well, I can see how we connect for sure! And, your idea of using the tall verbena, I, too love it. It's tall, strong, yet so dainty and see through....perfect in a small garden. I especially like how it appears in so many different fairy dust in a cottage garden. Your article was great.

          1. Jay_Sifford 01/12/2017

            Hi Sue. Glad I could help you enjoy your rainy day. I'm glad you connected with that article. IF you follow the link back to the original piece, you'll see where I describe the various personalities. I am a philosopher/traveler/collector personality. And yes, the verbena bonariensis is an awesome plant. It's actually my favorite flowering perennial. Happy gardening and dreaming!

  3. user-7007498 01/04/2017

    Sue, you have done a fantastic job with the hardscaping. Having great "bones" enhances your plant selections. Very well done. Use of the window frames in the pergola is stunning. The stone work is amazing as well (evidenced in the second to last photo). Great use of perennials under the crape myrtles. Beautiful garden.

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/05/2017

      Kevin: I agree with you...great bones make it easier in the end. We all love flowers...pollinator gardens...but structure makes it look better in all seasons. Especially, if you have lots of perennials...there are "'downtimes"...when to the casual observer, it just looks like a bunch of weeds! Using "moveable containers" also helps to fill in areas.

  4. NCYarden 01/04/2017

    Good morning, Sue. Such a charming garden awash with character and style. Terrific views and a wonderful collection of plants. You've really created quite an impact with your suggested small space. Really pleasant. Thanks for sharing.

  5. tennisluv 01/04/2017

    What a lovely English garden you have created on the side of Lookout Mountain. I look forward to more pictures this spring and summer from both the top down and the bottom up. I may have to 'borrow' your window idea for my pergola. Thanks for letting us into your piece of paradise.

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/05/2017

      Thank you, Sonya.

  6. Doxnmomx2 01/04/2017

    Your garden looks like my dream garden!

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/07/2017

      Peggy Go: Thank you..gardens are always a work in much to little time. It's been fun to share because many times people think they need so much space...and my garden is small. Create a little area of beauty is great for the soul.

      1. Doxnmomx2 01/07/2017

        I love small gardens! Finished and gardens do not go together. Always more to learn, plant, and enjoy.

  7. User avater
    meander_michaele 01/04/2017

    Hello, fellow east Tennessean, what a breathtaking garden you have created... making such impressive use of what many might consider challenging terrain. Your pergola area is positively magical and the addition of such architecturally interesting hanging windows is pure genius. Is the climbing rose a variety that has multiple flushes of bloom? and do you do much pruning of it? The tumble of the sumptuous hydrangea blooms over the rock wall is pure enchantment. I am so looking forward to the next round of pictures tomorrow.

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/05/2017

      The climbing rose is New Dawn; it's has a huge "coming up party" in late spring. Disease resistant, it's great in the South. Yes, I prune it, but bending the main stems (up and down horizontally) in early spring certainly encourages more branching out and blooms.

  8. User avater
    treasuresmom 01/04/2017

    We visited in the Lookout Mountain area about 20 years ago. I loved it and wanted to just pitch a tent somewhere and stay. Your gardens are gorgeous and well done.

  9. Chris_N 01/04/2017

    Hi Sue - Your garden is so lush and full. Everywhere that isn't well designed hardscape is filled with plants. It all balances so well. I wouldn't want to be the one keeping those boxwoods shaped so perfectly but I love looking at them. I keep looking back at the photos and seeing more delightful details - the dark elephant ear with the light leaf veins in the pot at the base of the stairs (Illustris?), Verbena bonariensis just starting by the pergola, the coleus mixed in with the perennials by the myrtles. More eye candy for a cold winter's day.

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/04/2017

      Chris: Thank you for sharing your gardening ideas. You mentioned the containers of various plants...yes, I use lots of moveable light-weight containers...classic reproductions. During the early springtime, they provide "instant decor" to a garden just sprouting perennials. (I like to keep my geraniums in my sunroom during the winter, and then, instantly, they provide color in early spring.) As July approaches, my perennials take over this old-fashioned garden. Then I move the containers to my front door area where they receive relief from the hot Tennessee humid days.

  10. deeinde 01/04/2017

    Good morning, Sue. Your garden is exquisite. You took a difficult hillside area and made it work. I can't even imagine planning out the hardscape and garden rooms. Love the windows hanging from the pergola!

  11. user-4691082 01/04/2017

    I can tell that this is one of those posts that Michaele and I will pore over again and again. I am in love with your boxwoods. Do you trim them, or do you hire someone? I want to see a wider angle of your whole garden. You must have two sets of steps that go down to lower areas, it is all very, very beautiful. I can't wait till tomorrow!

    1. User avater
      meander_michaele 01/04/2017

      Ha, you are so right, Rhonda....and among the reasons that I am so admiring of Sue's beautiful and charming seating areas is that I well aware of what her summer heat and humidity are like. She obviously loves, loves, loves this thing we call gardening. Actually, her talent with bringing charm into her table setting tableaus reminded me of your lovely holiday post from last week.

      1. user-4691082 01/05/2017

        Awwww! Thanks! That is something I also enjoy. My daughter is quite the cook, and she only cares how the food tastes. We joke that I only care about how the table looks! That was so sweet of you to say!

    2. sue_chamberlain 01/04/2017

      Rhonda: You mentioned being "in love with the boxwoods", and I created the boxwoods as the quadrants of my heart...and the love of a garden! I think we connect! And, yes, I bought a $29.99 small trimmer from Ace Hardware and designed them...they aren't perfect, but it creates interest from above during all seasons. And yes, there are stairs on each side coming down from an elevated deck. Thank you.

  12. annek 01/04/2017

    I am mesmerized! You've incorporated so many details into various garden rooms yet they flow beautifully into one another. Oh! and the romance......your scenes are uniquely classical and could fit into any epoch. Wherever did you find the Verdi grey bench and side tables with candles?

    The stonework, the formality of the boxwood, and the Victorian window frames hanging from the pergola all form a wondrous and charming effect. Although your garden is very complex, you've successfully created a group of peacefully cohesive outdoor rooms. My wish is to study each photo for the remainder of the morning, but I better tear myself away and get some work done. Thanks for a peek into your Eden!

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/04/2017

      Annek: Gardeners love to share...thank you! The bench and side tables were chosen because they are easy care...and I can see through them. Visually, in a small garden, it creates space. Bought them in Atlanta like 22 years ago. The weighted candle holders stay out there year what you love, take care of it, and it lasts forever. And, I use them a lot...the garden is magical in the evening. It located on east side of the house, so doesn't get the hot afternoon sun during the summer.

      1. annek 01/04/2017

        I completely agree with your 11th commmandment of caring for what you love.
        I can only imagine what this space looks like in the evening....I'm certain there is magic everywhere! Can't wait for tomorrow's chapter

        1. sue_chamberlain 01/06/2017

          Annek: Your idea worked; I typed in "twig tables" on Overstock and about a half dozen came up. They are not the ones I bought twenty years ago, of course, but nice. They appear to be heavy for outdoor storms/winds,...just spray painting them a verdi would work, don't you think?


          1. annek 01/06/2017

            I think it would work beautifully!

    2. user-4691082 01/05/2017

      I have one of those same side tables in my sun room. I got it at!

      1. annek 01/05/2017

        Thank Rhonda! I'm looking at overstock now!

        1. user-4691082 01/05/2017

          Oh, Annek! Now that I think about it, it was So sorry for the error!

          1. annek 01/05/2017

            Ha! That's good to hear. I think I looked at every metal table overstock had and decided they weren't stocking it anymore. I'll check on wayfair today and let you know

          2. sue_chamberlain 01/05/2017

            Annek: I checked back in my garden journal, and the benches were from Currey and Co in Atlanta. They carry some great Faux Bois now, but I couldn't see this older grouping I have. However, after you mentioned, I was so surprised to see they do have something similar...believe it was in silver, but a can of spray paint would give that verdi finish, for sure.

          3. annek 01/05/2017

            This is fun! Rhonda, I checked wayfair and found a metal table with birds and pine cones that is very similar to Sue's (although it has a heavier base). I think I'll look at currey and co and check overstock again. I must've missed it. Thanks to you both!

            PS: I'm impressed that you recorded this information in your garden journal, Rhonda...the ultimate in organization.

  13. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/04/2017

    Really marvelous. I love the hardscaping elements and the wonderful mix of the informal with the formal. The more rigid elements play beauifully with the softening effects of your cottage plant treasures!

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/04/2017

      Tim: Thank you. You mentioned the mix of informal and formal. Yes, the formal area (quadrants) was originally designed for hybrid tea roses. I quickly learned in the South, the hot humid long summers were not ideal for roses. I took them all out, and since then, my garden is pesticide free....great for butterfiles, bees, and us! The old fashioned curved area of the grandmother's garden was designed to look as old as the house...over 100 years old.

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2017

        It's wonderful to be able to have a garden full of life (as long as it is not *too* destructive!). I love the birds and the pollinators and the caterpillars. I could do without the squirrels. Gardening is such a fun process, even when we give up a plant we thought we'd love but doesn't thrive or takes too much attention. Nice job.

  14. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 01/04/2017

    Sue, I love your 'hot cross bun' boxwoods. That garden is full of beautiful plant interest but those definitely drew me in. I can't wait for more photos as we deal with a sloped garden and I like what you've done with yours. Those windows hanging from the pergola are so creative. Thanks for a glimpse into your colorful garden.

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/05/2017

      Linda: Sloped area also provide a nice opportunity to terrace your plants. I like it because then you can garden at "knee or hip level" instead of bending down to "feet level". Terraced areas also provide levels of overhead shade sometimes, and that makes staggered bloom times even more enjoyable. I have hydrangeas that bloom maybe 2-3 weeks later, as they are terraced under the deck.

    2. user-6536305 01/05/2017

      Somehow I missed this post yesterday. Linda has a better decription of your trimming boxwood 'hot cross bun'. Love it and will copy. Your garden is so impressive!

      1. sue_chamberlain 01/06/2017

        Lilian: Thank you! The boxwoods, I guess, are a hit with many of those on Fine Gardening blog. It's really easy to do.

  15. sheila_schultz 01/04/2017

    I feel as if I stepped back in time viewing photos of your gardens this morning, Sue. You have definitely found your passion and style as you created this vision of southern charm and gentility. It's lovely and I'm eager to see more tomorrow!

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/06/2017

      Sheila: Rather nice to find a personal space to explore and create...gardens are wonderful...and changing.

  16. schatzi 01/04/2017

    Absolutely beautiful! Love it all. It shows lots of imagination, hard work, and loving attention, Great job.

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/08/2017

      Shirley: As every gardener knows, always a work in progress!

  17. janeeliz 01/05/2017

    What an utterly charming and unique garden! So many lovely details! I'd love to explore all the different levels in person...very slowly. Very special....

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/08/2017

      Jane: Thank you.

  18. Luvfall 01/05/2017

    Fantastic. I especially like the way the clipped box woods add a soft structure that enhances the loose structure of the flowering plants. And those windows keep the foxgloves(?) in front of them from being lost in the long view. I think the only thing that patio needs is a pitcher of sweet tea.

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/05/2017

      Sweet tea...yes, garden parties are a great way to entertain and enjoy nature.

  19. sue_chamberlain 01/05/2017

    Diane: Thank you, and I, too, love to see garden ideas from all. It's like a garden tour...gardeners are the best...and love to share!

  20. eddireid 01/05/2017

    I am catching up with gardens missed for a while and when opening your post Sue I felt a deep sense of longing. Extraordinary. What you have created actually touched my soul. Love every inch. Thank you.

    1. sue_chamberlain 01/06/2017

      Eddi: How thoughtful of you; thank you. I, too, think people find peace in the garden; it's natural therapy. Enjoy!

  21. Sunshine111 01/09/2017

    so gorgeous! I am more than a little envious… The hydrangeas, the window effect on the patio, all of it absolutely stunning .thank you for sharing

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest