Garden Photo of the Day

Growing Plants and Knowledge

By Alexandra Dittrich

It's hard to believe that Kara Morgan moved into her home with little knowledge of gardening!

"When my husband and I moved into our Redding, Connecticut home in 1999, we had no intention of establishing gardens in the 2.3-acre yard. My gardening knowledge consisted of planting impatiens in pots. But our dear neighbor, affectionately known as "Oma," had a yard full of stunning, well-manicured gardens that burst with color throughout the entire growing season. It didn't take long before I was joining her for tours of her gardens, and learning about the many beautiful plants that were successful in her beds. I became inspired to put a few plants in the ground to see what I could create.

Over the years we have cleared our property of many trees and created several garden beds. I gladly accepted cuttings and plants from Oma's garden, and moved plants around when they failed to be successful in a particular location. Our wooded yard offers mostly part-sun and light shade, therefore, I have filled my beds with all varieties of hostas, ligularias, rubeckia, spirea, coral bells, ferns, astilbe, phlox, and many more plants that provide color and texture. To add interest and whimsy, I have created arbors from twisted mountain laurel branches and used bluestone slabs and river rocks from a family home in the Catskills to make paths and walls. As is probably true of most gardens, mine continues to be a work in progress.

I never expected to find gardening so gratifying and joyful! I look forward to the weekends when I can devote long hours to planting, edging, and creating a landscape that inspires me with its diversity of plants and winding paths. Gardening has become my respite from the busy work week, a sanctuary of peace, and a way to combine my love of the outdoors with my desire to create and nurture."

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  1. frankgreenhalgh 07/26/2016

    Hi Kara - You are obviously a quick learner with natural landscaping and gardening skills. You have created a lovely wooded garden with plenty of character. Well done. Strewth that is a cracker of a tree/out-house!!!!

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Thank you, Frank! I love spending time in the yard. I'm still working on being more thoughtful with my plantings and groupings, but a little bit of spontaneity can go a long way too!

      1. frankgreenhalgh 07/27/2016

        Yep go with the flow I say, Kara - gardens evolve.

  2. user-7007498 07/26/2016

    Kara: What a fantastic garden you have created. The best gardens are all "works in progress", because that is what makes gardening fun. Plants and gardens, are like people, and grow and change with age. But unlike family, we can also get rid of underperformers.

    I love the clearings you have made and the winding paths and borders through the trees. Doesn't Hakonechloa and Hostas make such great partners? Really enjoyed your garden. Thanks for sharing.

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Thank you very much, Kevin. As long as I can keep the deer from eating my hostas, the garden remains beautiful!

      1. user-7007498 07/27/2016

        I have been fortunate and do not have a deer problem (too suburban). Rabbits have been my nemesis. When I started my garden 20 years ago, I had just spent the day planting about 50 perennials. In the morning when I woke up only 6 remained (the rest eaten to the ground). Now that my garden has filled in, damage is insignificant. It also has helped that a fox moved into the area.

  3. tree_ee 07/26/2016

    What a lovely woodland garden! I really like the old watering can with the succulents, too.

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Thank you! The watering can was purchased at a local garden sale, and it seemed the perfect housing for some of my favorite plants - succulents!

  4. Sunshine111 07/26/2016

    A restful, peaceful oasis!

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Thank you, Lily!

  5. user-4691082 07/26/2016

    Kara, I could hardly pick a favorite, but it might be the arch! What is the plant in photo#10? I envy your part sun part shade garden. If I could have my whole yard like that, I would be in heaven! And Frank, what does strewth mean?

    1. frankgreenhalgh 07/26/2016

      'Strewth' is an Aussie exclamation, or expression of surprise, Rhonda. How many sheds have trees growing through the roof? - fantastic!

      1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

        Thanks! My husband build that shed and thought building around the tree would be a fun idea. We will see what happens when the tree grows too big...

        1. frankgreenhalgh 07/27/2016

          I like your husband's style, Kara. Great conversation piece any way!

    2. hontell 07/26/2016

      floating water hyacinth, a fun tropical in a pond. very invasive in the south.

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 07/26/2016

        Thanks for the ID, Howard. I was really puzzling over it.

    3. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Thank you, Rhonda! I love the water hyacinth flowers. We don't have to worry about them invading in CT - they die off in zone 6.

  6. User avater
    meander_michaele 07/26/2016

    What priceless joy you must have given your generous hearted neighbor and mentor, Oma as your backyard became a garden paradise. Your plants are gorgeous...all so lush and healthy looking. I hope, at some point in your life, you have an eager learner to share your wealth of knowledge with and participate in the development of someone else's dream come true garden. You certainly have a gift for creating visual beauty.

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Wow! Thank you for your very kind words! I find gardening is a wonderful way to exercise my creative energy. It really brings me so much joy, and while there are days when I feel silly spending hours arranging rocks or twisting sticks around and arbor frame, it brings me joy...and isn't that what life is really all about?

  7. NCYarden 07/26/2016

    Now that is a gardening story and transformation I can certainly celebrate. What an amazing garden you have created, Kara. It is apparent you were a quick a learner, but that is what a new (maybe just dormant) passion will do. Oma seems to have been the just the right horticultural sage to enter your life at a most appropriate time to cause the gardener in you to bloom. Thank you for sharing

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      NC Yarden, thank you! Oma is indeed a "horticultural sage," and a wonderful mentor to me in so many ways. I am blessed to have her still in my life and continuing to show me new ways to create beauty in the garden!

  8. user-4691082 07/26/2016

    Frank, we just LOVE you!

    1. frankgreenhalgh 07/26/2016

      Thanks Rhonda - I'm having a grouse time i.e. Very good/cool time!

  9. foxglove12 07/26/2016

    Wow, so lush, colorful and inviting.

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Thank you, Lori!

  10. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 07/26/2016

    Kara, looking at your garden photos just gives me a sense of peace and contentment so I can only imagine what it feels like to actually meander along your paths taking in all of the beauty you've created. That tree house is a "doozie"as my mom would have said. She was my garden mentor and your "Oma" sounds like someone that came along at a most appropriate time for you. I hope she's still around to see what her influence created. Thanks for sharing.

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Linda, I am most blessed to still have Oma, at the young age of 86, still around to offer advise and inspiration on my gardening. She still does all of her own gardening, mulching, and planting. I continue to be inspired by her daily and feel so lucky to benefit from her wisdom. Thank you for your kind words!

  11. GrannyCC 07/26/2016

    Kara what a wonderful peaceful garden you have created, I love the lime hosta with the Japanese Forest Grass.

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Thank you, Catherine! I love hostas and Japanese forest grass!

  12. user-4691082 07/26/2016

    Thanks Howard!

  13. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 07/26/2016

    Great garden, wonderful lot and terrrific gardener! Good job. Even your artfully stacked stones are wonderful. Love the planted watering can and your plant choices. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story of serendipty. Nothing like a stroll around the garden to lower blood pressure (unless you're me-then your BP spikes when you see weeds or a plant victimized by a rodent!) Cheers!

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Tim, my BP absolutely spikes when things get too weedy! But I have to remind myself that most people don't really focus on the small weeds...only us gardeners!

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 07/27/2016

        That's so true. I've always called my gardening style Proofreader and Editor: I look for errors and forever am trying to edit them out! No one else seems to notice or mind.....

  14. Cenepk10 07/26/2016

    Wow !!!! Seems you caught on very well !!!! What a gorgeous garden !!! And very sophisticated pairings !!!!!

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Thank you for your kind words!

  15. schatzi 07/26/2016

    So beautiful and peaceful. Great job. Welcome to the "club".

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Thank you!

  16. ijz 07/26/2016

    Every bit is so lush and well coordinated. I love your "twig" arbor.

  17. user-7008191 07/26/2016

    Truly lovely! Very lush and moist looking. Love the dappled light. I bet Japanese maples would do well in your location and would coordinate well with the other plants. Thanks for sharing!

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      We have a few Japanese maples planted and they are doing quite well. The leaves are so beautiful. Thank you for your comments!

  18. lindanewber 07/26/2016

    Love your garden....great job ?

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Thank you for the encouragement!

  19. donotchangemyname 07/27/2016

    One could live a hundred years in this peaceful garden .. it is so beautiful..

    1. kararillingsmorgan 07/27/2016

      Thank you so much! It is certainly a labor of love!

  20. sheila_schultz 07/27/2016

    Oma gave you an amazing gift of possibilities and you have run with your vision! I am in awe of the beauty you have created. Keep having fun with every single vignette!

  21. perenniallycrazy 07/28/2016

    Your garden is no less than a perfect sanctuary! Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

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