Garden Photo of the Day

Isabel’s brand new side garden in New Jersey (9 photos)

We laid a new gravel patio, used the old flagstone to create a pathway and to beef up the edges of the pond. We defined a small bed around the big oak across the pond (although we think it'll have to come down, too close to the house) and we created the bed all along the perimeter of the patio area. Photo/Illustration: All photos courtesy of Isabel Carrion-Lopez

Today’s photos are from Isabel Carrion-Lopez in New Jersey. She says, “I grew up in Puerto Rico so plants are in my DNA, they make me eternally happy to the point that my mom has been known to take me to the nursery when I’m in a bad mood! I didn’t start gardening seriously until I bought my first house in Rahway, New Jersey back in 2006, so ironically enough, I know very little about tropical gardening but have become quite knowledgeable about zone 6/7 gardening!

This is what the side yard used to look like before we bought the house. The pachysandra was left to run wild and the two hollies were in such a bad need of a trim, some of the branches touching the ground had already started to root. You can also see what remained of the old flagstone patio that used to be there, we found lots and lots of flagstones buried in the ground!

“My husband and I moved into our second house last year and while we love the 1.3 acres of land that came with it (unheard of in my area since it’s pretty urban) it needs a LOT of work. In the past year and half we’ve mostly just cleaned up the 20+ years of accumulated yard debris, along with that left behind by Hurricane Sandy, but I dream of garden beds all over the property.

You can better see the new waterfall – all those boulders were hidden under the pachysandra! – and the limbed up hollies, don’t they look like hollies now?!? Since that’s the shadiest area of the bed, I planted a few hostas with some ferns and more astilbes.

“This spring we conquered the very small side yard facing our enclosed porch, which already had a 400-gallon pond, but was overgrown by pachysandra. We transplanted the pachysandra to an “island” in the middle of the driveway where it can grow but we can keep it under control. We created a small gravel patio, added a waterfall to the pond, and put in the first of what I hope will be many garden beds. It took four weekends of hard, manual labor but it was so worth it!

A shot of the back bed. I’ve actually added more plants since then – turtleheads, heucheras, lamium, hellebrores, and more astilbes – but in the pic you see a Hydrangea ‘Little Bombshell’, aucubas, astilbes, a buttefly bush, Japanese forest grass, and some potted tropicals I’m bringing inside for the winter.

“I was hesitant to send along the pics since this mini-garden is VERY much in its infancy stages, but I figured why not. I meant to take more pics later in the season but alas it was not to be. I’m still very much learning how to garden in the shade (taking lots of pointers from Daniela’s fabulous garden!) since I used to have a full sun garden in my last house, but I’m finding I love it!”

A shot from the other side of the patio. The whiskey barrel sitting on the tree stump filled out so nicely it is gorgeous.

I love this area now, Isabel! That looks like a LOT of work. I can’t wait to see how it matures. In fact, keep us posted on ALL of your projects!

**** The push is still on–get outside and take some last minute shots, or compile a few you took earlier in the season. I’ll be eternally grateful…. Email them to [email protected]. Thanks! ****

A container with some torrenia, caladium, impatiens, dichondra, and sweet potato vine. I was in awe at how much the plants grew.
Gratuitous shot of the work in progress.
The top of the waterfall with a cute little pot I got at an estate sale featuring creeping Jenny and begonias.
I have always dreamed of having a pond and waterlilies. You can’t see them, but I have some koi living in the pond as well.

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  1. user-1020932 10/25/2013

    you accomplished a lot in only 4 weekends my back hurts just thinking about it! but doesn't it feel good when you finish and see what all you have accomplished. it looks great and what an improvement over that pachysandra (that stuff is a job to remove) and what a stroke of luck to find the flagstones,,, rocks are not cheap nor are they easy to transport. great job in creating a beautiful area and one that can be used/enjoyed daily.

  2. flowerladydi 10/25/2013

    It looks great Isabel!,,,, you certainly did create a brand new area! It looks like little oasis's,,, charming! I love what you did to the Holly,,,, I do not usually like things limbed up,, but in this case, it works well!,,, and gives you a more open area to plant in. I love all the mature trees in the background,,,,
    I will be anxious to see how things mature and fill in in the future!!

  3. wGardens 10/25/2013

    Great job! A lot of work.... but MUCH enjoyment too! I also like the wrought iron fence as a backdrop to some of your plants.

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 10/25/2013

    I am so excited for you, Isabel, you have the passion, the interest, the energy, the enthusiasm, the creative vision...well, all those important qualities to make your property more and more special. You've done such a great job already and, I suspect, you've only yet begun! Your hollies look so much better after their "fashion makeover" their footwear accessories like fabulous ferns and fancy hostas can show up at their base.
    Great job and keep the photos coming!

  5. iccarrion 10/25/2013

    Hi everyone! Thank you so much for the great feedback! I'm very much looking forward to next season and seeing how things will grow. I also plan on creating new beds as I go so I will send along pics as those develop. :)

  6. annek 10/25/2013

    Nicely done, Isabel. You've tamed the wild beast (the pachy) and designed a beautiful and functional replacement. I love the photo of the estate-sale pot with creeping Jenny. Can hardly wait to see what other charming beds you create!

  7. tractor1 10/25/2013

    Those huge trees look right next to the house, only a few feet away, one is even leaning over the house, they definitely need to go... and now is a good time of year, with the leaves already down, cool weather, and tree removal people needing work... don't wait for a winter storm, emergency tree removal jobs really jacks up the price for everyone. And while the crew is there have them thin and limb trees on the rest of your property, the cost will be far less while they're already there with all their equipment. Your pool looks very relaxing, if with all the work you're undertaking you ever have time to relax. lol make sure your pool is deep enough (at least 30") or you may need to winter your fish in an indoor tank. You're doing a great job, thanks for sharing, Isabel.

  8. Quiltingmamma 10/25/2013

    I love to see the layers and serenity of an established garden. Sort of like a mature woman is satin and pearls. Confident but often with a more subdued strength and beauty. But I also love a new or renovated garden for all its promise and clean cut good manners. So tidy - just like a child fresh from a good cleaning and spruce up by Mom. Hair neat, bows all tied...but that undercurrent of exuberance and optimism that comes with youth. Beauty in its innocence.
    I loved this garden with all its new features. Having spent many more days and weeks doing an overhaul this year, I am truly impressed what you accomplished over such a few weekends. I love the bits of ornamentation that must reflect your personality. Thanks for sharing it and hope you can really enjoy the efforts you have made.

  9. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 10/25/2013

    Nice job! I'm a huge fan of rocks and contained gravel. It is a great, permeable surface and sets up such a nice frame for your plants. As your nice plant choices fill in, they are going to shine.

  10. cwheat000 10/25/2013

    This is such an improvement. The flagstone and gravel is so neat and hopefully easier to maintain. You wouldn't know that lovely fence or a pond existed there, by the photo. I am glad you kept the hollies. They are a nice anchor to the bed and are great for holiday cuttings. I think you have made some nice plant introductions. If you haven't already tried them, try Ligularia, ghost fern and japanese painted fern, and heucherellas. I am sure this will only get better with age. Good move on picking a large lot to garden on. Regardless of the work, I think you have caught the gardening bug. I am sure this will be an oasis in your more urban neighborhood. I can envision more containers like the caladium one. What a great way to add a little Puerto Rico tropical to New Jersey!

  11. janetsfolly 10/25/2013

    Hah! Vojt, I was thinking of your reaction to Isabel's 'buried treasures' as I looked through these pics! Isabel, you've done a terrific job here. Love your enthusiasm and the vision expressed in the initial makeover. I hate to say it, because I love mature trees and the qualities they bring to our gardens, but Tractor makes some very good points about making your home a safer place. I look forward to some lovely updates!

  12. quinquek 10/25/2013

    Great beginning, Isabel! And, man, I can imagine the work involved. I agree with Quiltingmama; the patio looks so serene, and with the sound of the falling water I'm sure it's the perfect spot to unwind and be restored. As your plantings fill in and become augmented with others, this will become an even greater oasis of peace.

  13. sheila_schultz 10/25/2013

    Isabel, the first garden beds you created surrounding your new home are just lovely. And you did this in just 4 weekends? I'm with tntreeman, my back hurts at the thought! I would guess that during the long winter ahead, you are going to be very busy plotting and planning your next beds! Enjoy every moment, your dreams of being surrounded by beautiful plants are becoming your reality!

  14. GrannyMay 10/25/2013

    Good job Isabel! You and your husband have completely transformed your "very small" side yard and made it a place to enjoy and relax in. I look forward to seeing it mature as you tackle the rest of your acre. Keep those photos coming!

  15. wildthyme 10/25/2013

    What a stroke of luck finding that flagstone, and big pieces, too! And what a smart use of the pachysandra, one of my favorites, but definitely in need of control. I look forward to seeing the evolution of your garden.

  16. bee1nine 10/25/2013

    Hi Isabel, Impressive side yard mission and undertaking you
    and hubby have accomplished so far, to alleviate its once
    neglected state.
    Can't blame you for wanting to rid the pachysandra for taking
    over that area.,, but how neat to find some flagstones and
    boulders underneath it, to help you create your cozy garden
    space and long-awaited fish pond.
    All so nicely coming along. Great job!!

  17. oreoclover 10/25/2013

    Isabel your yard is beautiful! The before and after pictures are just amazing! It's unbelievable what was under all that overgrowth and the surprises you found underneath. You guys did a fantastic job!

  18. iccarrion 10/28/2013

    Thank you SO much for all these nice comments/feedback, it gives me the desire to keep going and send more pics! :) As hard as it was on the back, the worst part really was cleaning the gravel. 2 tons of it looks like nothing until you start cleaning it!
    @tractor1 - yes, one of those tress is sadly on the schedule to be taken down but we had to tend to a couple of trees that were damaged/dead so our tree budget is spent for the year but we're planning to tackle it next spring. The pool is actually our neighbors (the wrought iron fence is the division between our properties) but I'll share your tips with them. They bought the house this summer and seemed at a loss as to what to do with it!
    @cwheat000 - thanks for your suggestions! I did add a ligularia that I forgot to mention but def would love to try the ferns and heucherellas. I have a mile long list of plants I want to try! Luckily I have lots of space so little by little I'll hopefully get to try them all!

  19. super204 11/30/2013

    Bought this for my 2 year old as a Halloween costume. It was just a little big (he is big for his age) but it worked out great. We got a lot of compliments on it and he is still wearing it around the house.

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