Garden Photo of the Day

Heritage and Habitat

Making a garden to match a new home

wider view of gardens surrounding home

Today we’re visiting with Kat Kinch.

We found our new home early in the pandemic, when lockdowns made clear that our well-loved bungalow was too small for our future. A yellow brick beauty built in 1869 came up for sale just down the street, and we jumped at the chance to be the next stewards of a beautiful part of our small town’s heritage.

Our new/old home came with established beds in front, a perennial border in the backyard, a pond, and a woodland shade area under massive Norway spruces. While I initially took a lighter touch in the back and around the pond, the front garden was where I made the biggest change right away. The front window was lined with three matching spirea, an old nemesis shrub for me, and the border along the front walk was shaded by a sprawling thorned locust and housed a mixture of hostas, some perennials, and single specimen shrubs including invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus, Zones 4–8) and tick-harboring Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii, Zones 4–8). We had the locust taken down, which allowed the ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba, Zones 3–8) alongside it to take off and also opened up a lot more sunny planting. Out came the spirea, burning bush, and barberry, replaced with Baptisia, Gaura, the reliably hardy lavender ‘Munstead’ (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’, Zones 5–8), local tall grasses, and multistemmed serviceberries (Amelanchier canadensis, Zones 4–8). The prior owners loved annuals, and their self-seeded borage (Borago officinalis, annual) and abundant pink cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus, annual) returned and were very welcome).

I also expanded the front border, using a no-dig style of bed preparation. I layered yard waste bags over the lawn and then added deep layers of mulch. Doing this in early spring as soon as the snow melts or ahead of winter in the fall effectively kills the grass underneath by planting time in May/June. I edged around the new beds after the thaw using a half-moon edger. The new beds are loaded with pollinator-friendly plants: green-headed coneflower (Rudbeckia lacinata, Zones 3–9), thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana, Zones 2–8), false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides, Zones 3–9), prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera, Zones 3–9), scarlet bee balm ‘Jacob Cline’ (Monarda didyma, Zones 4–9), hoary vervain (Verbena stricta, Zones 4–7), blue vervain (Verbena hastata, Zones 3–8), Verbena bonariensis (Zones 7–10 or as an annual), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata, Zones 3–7), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa, Zones 5–9), whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata, Zones 4–9), New Jersey tea (Caenothus americanus, Zones 4–8), spotted bee balm (Monarda punctata, Zones 3–8), anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, Zones 4–8), yarrow (Achillea millefolium, Zones 3–9), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida, Zones 3–9), catmint (Nepeta, Zones 3–8), nodding onion (Allium cernuum, Zones 4–8), smooth rose (Rosa blanda, Zones 3–8), and many others. Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana, Zones 5–9), nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus, annual), and garden strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa, Zones 5–9) are used as edible ground covers throughout, and prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis, Zones 3–9), little bluestem (Schizachrium scoparium, Zones 3–9), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum, Zones 5–9), and ‘Karl Foerster’ grass (Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, Zones 5–9) add structure in late summer and fall. It is abundant and drought tolerant. (I only water brand-new plantings.) The dense vegetation needs only modest weeding, mainly to maintain crisp edges and to control the locust suckers from the removed tree.

In just two growing seasons we have seen so much wildlife: ruby-throated hummingbirds at the scarlet bee balm, otherworldly great black digger wasps on the spotted bee balm, clouds of tiny pollinators on the yarrow, leafcutter bees and bumblebees on the anise hyssop, swallowtails and monarch butterflies on the milkweed, a viceroy butterfly at the asters, a duskywing butterfly amid the false indigo, goldfinches perching on the verbena and feasting on the cosmos seeds, and chickadees and juncos hopping through the grasses. We have had glimpses of moths in the flowers after dark, as well as a fox wending its way through the path at night.

We love living in a heritage house that has been restored and inhabited happily, and I have loved building up a welcoming front garden that is filled with plants that belong to this place (and invited friends who play nicely). Like many of us, my idea of “home” deepened and changed in the pandemic, and making our outdoor space a rich haven for tiny, quiet creatures is now a forever part of our home.

old brick home with a firey orange sunset behindThe new home

garden bed with red, yellow, and purple flowersAbundant beds are full of life, with the scarlet bee balm taking center stage.

garden beds being prepped for plantingPreparing the new beds

close up of a monarch butterfly caterpillarA monarch butterfly caterpillar munches on the whorled milkweed.

close up of monarch butterfly on small white flowersA monarch butterfly adult enjoys a little nectar snack.

close up of spotted bee balmSpotted bee balm, with small, yellowish flowers and large, showy pink-white bracts.

ornamental grass and flowers in a fall gardenKarl Foerster’ grass gives structure in the late-season garden.

close up of bright orange butterfly weedButterfly weed in full bloom

wider view of gardens surrounding homeView of the new garden around the house

close up of various flowers in the gardenInherited self-sown cosmos join the new plantings.


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View Comments


  1. fromvirginia 11/17/2022

    Pretty house and plantings. Well done. I love the transformation. I’ve gone through a similar process. I swear by no dig now.

    1. k0kat 11/17/2022

      I learned in the sandy soil at our bungalow that no-dig with heavy mulch was the best approach - avoiding stirring up the seed bank made life so much easier for maintenance!

  2. garden1953 11/17/2022

    Beautifully done!

    1. k0kat 11/17/2022

      Thanks very much!

  3. User avater
    user-7007816 11/17/2022

    I particularly like the planting that you have chosen which compliment your lovely brick house. Well done!

    1. k0kat 11/17/2022

      Thank you!

  4. cheryl_c 11/17/2022

    I love the vast variety of natives that you have used, and the mature plantings of them are magnificent. Thanks for an informative and comprehensive introduction to your gardens. I hope you have more pictures to share in the future.

    1. k0kat 11/17/2022

      The thing that is so wonderful about these native prairie plants is how quickly they establish and take to the skies. The green-headed coneflower (the tall yellow one in the sunset picture) was planted in 2021 and it's at full height already.

  5. barry_freijfrejfpier 11/17/2022

    Viceroy butterfly

    1. k0kat 11/17/2022

      Quite right! The horizontal lines are there on the wings! :)

  6. User avater
    treasuresmom 11/17/2022

    What a lovely home & garden!

    1. k0kat 11/17/2022

      Thank you!

  7. User avater
    simplesue 11/17/2022

    Such an exciting post! I loved reading your detailed garden story and love what you've done with the garden!
    The old house is gorgeous and so is your garden!
    I'm very happy to have learned from you that Munstead Lavender is reliably hardy...(I foolishly bought some Spanish Lavender on a whim at my local grocery store... not realizing it's not hardy in zone 6b)
    I love that you appreciate the Great Black Wasp as a pollinator as much as the butterflies and bees...I think it's nice for gardeners to not fear an insect they deem scary looking, and to enjoy it's unique beauty instead.
    I'm still marveling at your huge perennials getting all the sun and space they need to thrive in!
    What a great job you've done on this garden!

    1. k0kat 11/17/2022

      Thanks so much for commenting and for all the kinds things you've said! Once I realized the wasps were infinitely more interested in the flowers than they were in me, it's been a very collegial relationship. :)

  8. sheila_schultz 11/17/2022

    Your new gardens are truly a paradise for all of the visiting and resident pollinator's. They are quite amazing and a perfect compliment to your beautiful home. The spring, summer and fall sounds must be amazing!

    1. k0kat 11/17/2022

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. You are right: there is always a nice level of bird sound and a good hum in the gardens.

  9. btucker9675 11/17/2022

    Everything is just wonderful - your house and gardens are perfect. Love the juxtaposition of the formal lines of the house with the relaxed, natural beauty of the plantings. Thanks for introducing me to the spotted bee balm!

  10. irpriver 09/19/2023

    The plants you've selected to surround your beautiful brick home are perfect free games. Extending my congratulations!

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