Garden Photo of the Day

James’s Front-Walk Garden

Diverse plantings for season-long interest

Today James Dillon, a horticulturalist and landscape designer in Kearneysville, West Virginia, is sharing his beautiful front walk.

I planted this garden in 2014. I use a lot of different plants in order to maximize the season of interest and ecological benefit. Plants bloom in the garden from early spring until late fall. Ground covers like gold star (Chrysogonum virginianum, Zones 5–9) and ‘Karmina’ geranium (Geranium × cantabrigiense ‘Karimina’, Zones 5–8) cover areas with their low evergreen foliage and bloom in May-June. Butterfly weed (Asclepia tuberosa, Zones 4–10) seeds around lightly, providing sustenance to monarch butterfly larvae. Seasonal plants bloom at various time during the season, such as ‘Magnus’ and ‘PowWow Wild Berry’ coneflower (Echinacea hybrids, Zones 5–9), peony (Paeonia hybrids, Zones 3–8), Clematis, anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, Zones 4–9), ‘Baby Joe’ Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium dubium ‘Baby Joe’ Zones 4–8), white balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus, Zones 3–8), tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata, Zones 4–8), ‘Walkers Low’ and ‘Blue Wonder’ catmints (Nepeta × faassenii, Zones 3–8), ‘Caesar’s Brother’ iris (Iris siberica, Zones 3–8), iron butterfly ironweed (Vernonia lettermanii, Zones 4–9), ‘Zagreb’ coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata, Zones 3–9), ‘May Night’ salvia (Salvia × sylvestris ‘Mainacht’, Zones 4–8), ‘Husker’s Red’ penstemon (Penstemon digitalis, Zones 3–8), ‘Woods Blue’ aster (Aster novi-belgii, Zones 4–8), violets (Viola sp.), ‘White Cloud’ and ‘Blue Cloud’ calamint (Calamintha nepeta, Zones 5–9), Montauk Daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum, Zones 5–9), various Sedum ground covers, red creeping thyme (Thymus praecox ‘Coccineus’, Zones 3–8), plantain-leaf pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia, Zones 3–8), threadleaf bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii, Zones 5–9), Salvia lyrata (Zones 4–9), ‘Golden Fleece’ goldenrod (Solidago sphacelata, Zones 4–8), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia, Zones 5–9), bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Zones 2–6), brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla, Zones 3–8), and ‘Goldsturm’ black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida var. sillvantii ‘Goldstrum’, Zones 3–9).

Shrubs, trees, and grasses create the garden’s structure: ‘China Girl’ holly (Ilex ‘Mesog’, Zones 5–9), ‘Buzz’ butterfly bush (Buddleia hybrid, Zones 5–9), ‘Shenandoah’ switchgrass (Panicum virgatum, Zones 3–9), Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima, Zones 6–10), ‘Karl Foerster’ reed grass (Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, Zones 5–9), sideoats grass (Bouteloua curtipendula, Zones 3–9), ‘Pendula’ white spruce (Picea glauca, Zones 3–4), ‘Fastigiata’ plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia, Zones 6–9), ‘Viridis’ Japanese maple (Acer palmatum, Zones 5–9), ‘Rose Creek’ abelia (Abelia × chinensis, Zones 6–9), oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia, Zones 5–9), ‘All Gold’ Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra, Zones 5–9), ‘Cole’s Prostrate’ weeping hemlock (Tsuga canadensis, Zones 3–7), fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus, Zones 3–9), black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica, Zones 4–9), ‘Jacobson’ mugo pine (Pinus mugo, Zones 2–7), ‘Red Fox’ katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Rotfuchs’, Zones 4–8), and ‘Compacta’ hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa, Zones 4–8).

Containers with specimens such as bird nest spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’, Zones 3–8), dwarf white spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’ Zones 3–6), blue rug juniper (Juniperus horizontalis, Zones 3–9), ‘Sherwood Compact’ mugo pine, and SunSparkler sedum (Sedum hybrid, Zones 4–9) add long seasons of interest with their varying textures and colors. An unplanted large blue vase provides a focal point.

Annuals such as Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia), tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis), and zinnia (Zinnia elegans) are sown for added summer color. The monarch butterflies are frequent visitors, although last year we didn’t have as many as usual. Mums remain hardy in the drier areas under the eves near the house foundation.

plants along a pathLooking down the front walk early in the season.

pathway plants in fallThe same view with everything in autumn garb.

dog in the gardenThe garden being installed, with assistance from a four-legged helper.

perennials in bloomThe wide mix of perennials ensures that something is always blooming.

Goldstar plantGoldstar is a good ground cover, native to eastern North America.

front yard gardenLooking from the house toward the street.

River stones in the gardenRiver stones along the walkway minimize erosion from the rain runoff and widen it. Taller plants are given room to sprawl into the river stone swath rather than blocking the walkway. The river stone areas also provide space to add pieces of driftwood, shells, and interesting rocks.

garden on a rainy dayThe garden is rich green on a wet day.

rain chainStormwater isn’t allowed to just run off. A rain chain carries water into a dry well, watering a ‘Red Fox’ katsura and black tupelo. The other downspout is directed toward the fringe tree.

orange butterfly weedOne last view of the garden, with orange butterfly weed in bloom.


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View Comments


  1. daisy8 01/07/2021

    I love your beautiful, welcoming walk & how you have planned to make it interesting for each season. Using river rock stones along the pathway to minimize erosion is a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

    1. NATIVE_HAVENS 01/11/2021

      Thank you so much and glad you enjoyed!

  2. rosys_villa 01/07/2021

    The first thing I said when I saw your first picture was, "Oh WOW!" I kept saying "Oh WOW!" with each subsequent photo. Thank you so much for sharing the beauty you have created!!!

    1. NATIVE_HAVENS 01/11/2021

      THANK YOU! You are too kind! It made my day reading all you nice plant peoples' comments. Thank you again for your comment : )

  3. User avater
    treasuresmom 01/07/2021

    No words for this. Love it all, James

    1. NATIVE_HAVENS 01/11/2021

      Thank you! I'm so glad to hear you like and really appreciate your nice comment!

  4. cynthia2020 01/07/2021

    James - thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience. Your long list of plants will no doubt help others with succession planning. I like how you photographed the same area during different seasons and also when you started the garden vs. six years later. The curved front walk makes it so much more appealing, too.

    1. NATIVE_HAVENS 01/11/2021

      Sure thing and thank you! We were very happy the house had that curved walkway when we bought it, could not have designed it better : )

  5. btucker9675 01/07/2021

    Love seeing the walkway garden throughout the seasons - you have created a beautiful, colorful, textural place. Thank you for listing the plants you have used - I will borrow from it liberally!

    1. NATIVE_HAVENS 01/11/2021

      Thank you for saying so and I'm very glad to hear you like it! I'd be disappointed if you didn't pull from the plant list, there are many superstars in there! Thank you again for your comment : )

  6. User avater
    simplesue 01/07/2021

    Excellent!!!! Thanks for all of the plant names, good info.
    So nice to see the same gorgeous photo in summer and then in autumn- still holds up beautifully, bet it's still gorgeous in winter too.
    Love your style, excellent design and plant choices! Inspiring!

    1. NATIVE_HAVENS 01/11/2021

      Thank you!!! Sure thing and I'm so glad to hear. I'm glad my wife talked me into doing a design for this area because my background is in nursery and it was bound to become a "collection of plants" if I didn't take a little while to plan it out. Thank you again, you plant people are the best : )

  7. user-5117752 01/07/2021

    Simply stunning!!! long did it take you to list all of the plant names, etc.? And I just must say ditto to what SimpleSue wrote! Thank you for taking all that time to share the beauty and knowledge with us!

    1. NATIVE_HAVENS 01/11/2021

      Thank you so much!!! Hahaha, writing the plant list took a couple of hours, and of course I missed quite a few! Absolutely my pleasure and I appreciate your nice comment : )

  8. calliopegirl 01/07/2021

    Love your use of so many natives. I too have many and discovered the groundcovers goldstar, bearberry and pussytoes this past summer. So excited to add them to my garden.

    1. NATIVE_HAVENS 01/11/2021

      Thanks, and I agree, natives rule! I am so pleased with them all. Native evergreen perennial groundcover, it doesn't get much better than that. Oh, add Geum fragaroides to your list too. They all can be a little slow at first, but that's normal. They may mostly grow roots the first year before they start covering some ground. Cheers and thanks for your comment : )

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