Today we’re in Evanston, Illinois, in the Chicago suburbs, visiting Jason Kay’s beautiful garden.
I’ve been gardening since around the age of 12. (I’m now 62.) I’ve had my current garden for 18 years. Within days of moving in, I started digging up the front yard to plant flowers, grasses, a few herbs, etc. Now about 90% of the front is planted, almost all in ornamentals. The only lawn left is for paths between the beds.
As far as challenges go, I would mention pests, especially rabbits and (the last couple years) four-lined plant bugs. Regarding rabbits, I’ve started to avoid certain plants; others I try to protect with chicken wire or by mixing them in with plants that are toxic (for example, interplanting tulips with daffodils). Regarding the four-lined plant bug, I have a no-insecticide policy, so mostly I just tolerate the damage. The other challenge, which comes from using LOTS of tall plants, is plant flopping. I do a lot of creative staking, use tomato cages, and do a bunch of cutting back.
In spring, this Donald Wyman crabapple (Malus ‘Donald Wyman’, Zones 4–8) makes a huge display in the front garden.
Along the driveway, beds in spring are filled with bulbs, including this orange ‘Princess Irene’ tulip (Tulipa ‘Princess Irene’, Zones 3–8).
Uvularia grandiflora (fairybells, Zones 4–9) is a favorite plant in the garden. This perennial for shade is native to wooded areas over most of the eastern half of North America.
Visible in this side view of the bed at the foundation of the house are towering ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris, Zones 3–7), Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica, Zones 3–8), and wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis, Zones 3–8).
Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ (Zones 3–9) is here underplanted with starry solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellata, Zones 3–7), which is native to pretty much all of the United States and Canada, with the exception of the Deep South.
The front of the house in summer. Notable plants include the orange Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia, annual), the huge pink-domed flower heads of Joe Pye weed ‘Gateway’, (Eutrochium maculatum ‘Gateway’, Zones 4–8). The shorter yellow flowers are yellow coneflower (Ratibida pinnata, Zones 3–8), while the supertall yellow flowers to the left are cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum, Zones 3–9).
View from the front door, with wild bergamont (Monarda fistulosa, Zones 3–8) and cup plant.
Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ (Zones 4–9) transforms a brick wall into a great wall of purple.
In this view of the house looking from the sidewalk, bee balm (Monarda didyma, Zones 4–9) is in the front, backed by the huge, fragrant blooms of Lilium ‘Conca d’Or’ (Zones 4–8).
In late August, the rudbeckias, especially Rudbeckia triloba (Zones 4–8) and R. fulgida (Zones 4–9), start taking over with their sunny flowers.
For more of Jason’s garden check out his blog!
All photos by Jason’s spouse, Judy Hertz.
Have a garden you’d like to share?
Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!
To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.
If you want to send photos in separate emails to the GPOD email box that is just fine.
Have a mobile phone? Tag your photos on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #FineGardening!
You don’t have to be a professional garden photographer – check out our garden photography tips!
Do you receive the GPOD by email yet? Sign up here.
Fantastic garden! The wall of clematis is breathtaking. You must be a favourite on the street. Very well done Jason. it was a treat to view.
I have such a hard time with clematis...yours is over the top and incredible. I also love the combinations you've created. I have a ton of regular Solomon's Seal, which I love, but have never seen the kind you have. Very impressive, and makes me very thankful that spring is not far away.
Jason here. I think I just got really lucky with the spot I chose for the Clematis. Facing west so lots of sun, with the warmth and light intensified and reflected by a brick wall. Near the water spigot so it gets extra water, plus some extra handfuls of compost every spring.
It is all very beautiful! Well done to you!!!
Jason, you have put together an amazing garden with many unusual but effective plant combinations. Thanks for sharing.
Out of this world! Gorgeous!
Wow, that clematis is amazing. And I can almost smell the beebalm looking at it. Alice
Best clematis ever- plus a wonderful garden. I love the mix of mostly natives. It must be a pollinator heaven!!
My goodness you obviously have put those 50 gardening years to good use. You plants and the combinations of them are just gorgeous.
When you first moved in did your neighbors think you were a little premature when you began digging up the front yard immediately, or did you do it surreptitiously to deflect attention. I bet they love it now in all its flowery glory.
Wittyone - that is such a great question about the garden at the front of the house.
So many different heights and layers of flowers - gorgeous!
I started digging up new beds the day after we moved in, and it did get the neighbors' attention. I would say that all in all the reaction has been very positive, with only a couple of naysayers who think the garden looks messy.
Oops - guess I should change my user name - this is Jason in case that wasn't clear.
Hi, Jason. I enjoyed looking at all of the photos and reading your gardening story. The Photo of the Day is terrific! You and your wife are a wonderful team.
Yes, Judy took all the photographs and does such a great job.
How splendid! Love the great combinations, and all the natives. Who needs lawn, when you can have this?!
Lovely gardens. Wild Columbine is so pretty. Not much luck having it self seed in my garden but looks like you have no problem at all!
I find Wild Columbine to be beautiful but not reliable. It may flourish in a spot for a couple of years then just disappears. Fortunately it usually then pops up somewhere new where I didn't expect it. I try to just relax and enjoy the ride.
I just followed your garden blog, to get it in my email- looks super interesting! I only dream of having someone like you in my neighborhood...I'd be walking by your house regularly to enjoy your garden to see what was blooming that day/season.
Love your plant choices and combinations!
Thanks for following the blog!
I love this front "yard". It's what I'd love to create between my front yard veggie garden and "woods garden". I can imagine many of your neighbors go out of their way to walk by and see what's blooming. I agree with wittyone, I'd love to hear more of the story of getting started and neighborhood reaction. Thank you for sharing your beautiful creation!
Jason here. Luckily I live in a pretty tolerant neighborhood of houses built mostly in the 30s and 40s (no HOA). So as I said above I got a mostly positive reaction, especially once the flowers started blooming. Plus I dug all the beds over a period of 4-5 years, so people had some time to adjust.
Well, I'll just ditto everything that everybody else said because your gardens are simply marvelous. But I must also add that I love your house as well. Thank you so very much for taking the time to share it all with us.
Fabulous!!! And those fairybells are so lovely - I'm going to definitely look to add them. Love your front yard, we've using the stealth technique and gradually enlarging existing beds... : ) Thank you so much for sharing your absolutely beautiful space.
What a beautiful garden! I love your front yard. I hope mine will be like that in ten years. ;-) I am admired your blog! Your blog looks very professional. I'll follow to learn more about your garden. I tried to write couple times for my garden but couldn't keep it up. Here is what I have. Inspiring from your blog, I'll try again later.
Thank you for sharing your garden. https://sites.google.com/site/phanyamada/Home/our-garden
Jason here. Thanks for following the blog, and good luck with yours.
Outstanding. The clematis is the best I have ever seen. My favorite combo are the Spanish bluebells and columbine set in front of the ostrich ferns. I have never seen that one before, and it is worth trying to replicate. Congratulations on all your hard work.
Jason, thank you for sharing your beautiful garden. Your determination and hard work is really paying off. Keep up the good work.
Log in or create an account to post a comment.Sign up Log in