Garden Photo of the Day

It’s Not Easy to Garden in Southeast Idaho

Finding plants that love a difficult climate

Today’s photos come from LeAnn Kirkpatrick.

Nestled in the snow and cold of the upper Snake River valley, this has been our home for 26 years. When we bought the house, the yard was mediocre at best. Every year I spent hundreds buying annual bedding plants with very mixed results. I’ve added a lot of perennials too. These are a few of my 2019 favorites.

front door plantsThis planting is at our front door. That pink and purple array is actually planted in three tiers of terra-cotta pots. The bright yellow dahlia is in the ground beside them.

thunbergiaBetween our two garage doors is a self-watering pot with thunbergia (Thunbergia alata, annual), a peach-colored begonia, coleus, and white petunia! I was pretty proud that it lasted through several hard frosts.

flowers on a fenceWith the plants in this image, I was trying to cover the neighbor’s old plank fence. The container is a heavy felt pocket overflowing with tuberous begonias and impatiens (Impatiens walleriana, annual). In the bottom I ran out of begonias and impatiens, so I used two petunias and a sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas, Zones 10–11 or as an annual) which I ended up taking out because they didn’t enjoy the shade on the north side of the fence between the lilac trees. I will definitely be doing that pocket again!

Aquilegia chrysanthaA bright yellow columbine, probably Aquilegia chrysantha (Zone 3–9). A. chrysantha is one of the species of columbine native to western North America, so it thrives in those climates.

light pink roseA beautiful rose looking its best.

hybrid garden peoniesThe wild ancestors of our hybrid garden peonies come mostly from the dry, rugged interior of Eastern Europe and western Asia, so it is no wonder they are good plants for places with similar climates, such as Idaho.

Meanwhile, we are building a new house so that we can downsize and age in place, and I am trying to figure out how to create a stunning low-maintenance garden and landscape with perennials and with annuals I can grow in my cold frame/greenhouse. Any suggestions would be appreciated! Zone 4 at the foot of the Tetons is not the easiest place to find beautiful perennials that are hardy enough!


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    meander_michaele 03/16/2020

    You have a wonderful touch, LeAnn, for putting together truly stellar container combinations. Your choices go together in such a colorful and festive way. I'm sure your new endeavor will be delightfully successful.

  2. User avater
    treasuresmom 03/16/2020

    All so pretty but love that columbine.

  3. User avater
    bdowen 03/16/2020

    What wonderful color combinations- love the yellows, pinks and purples all together. The begonias are especially beautiful, and the rose, columbine and peonies. Please share what you do in your garden when you move to your new home.

  4. sheila_schultz 03/16/2020

    LeAnn, your containers both on the ground and hanging on the fence are stunning! The vibrant colors and plant combinations made me smile... I love them! When it comes to gardens that still allow us to enjoy playing in the dirt as we age, I have discovered that many of my friends have switched to using more shrubs that are lower maintenance than in-ground perennials and annuals. Containers are the best because they require less bending and as yours show, they can be spectacular!!!

  5. User avater
    simplesue 03/16/2020

    Really pretty!

  6. btucker9675 03/16/2020

    That clear yellow columbine is especially beautiful - brightened my Monday morning!

  7. Quiltingmamma 03/17/2020

    You do a great job on your annual pots. So nice and bright. I understand the challenges of weather. Ottawa Ontario is 4a/b in the suburbs, and the small fenced city lots may be a zone 5. This is Canadian zones, which I think are one zone colder than US, so 3 and 4 respectively. Summers can be humid and dry parched soil with winter prevailing winds and long deep freezes. Coming from the moderate coast of Victoria BC, I was in shock. I tend to reach for local natives for bed plants particularly for their drought tolerance, but it is difficult to have constant blooming beds. I am looking for low maintenance as well, and may give up my roses. I have some pampered teas in the front and ignored Mordens and Canadian Explorers in the back where it is colder and windy. I am going to start adding more Lady's Mantle as ground cover under shrub beds or perennials that haven't filled in. These plants fill in thick so don't need to weed. Hydrangeas are so different these days, and need little care, that I will be adding more of those as well. I will experiment with using an edge trimmer to cut back my perennials as the stooping, cutting, standing - repeat, is really difficult for hips and joints so less stooping is my aim.

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