Garden Photo of the Day

Jay has been very busy!

Jay Sifford from Charlotte, North Carolina has been busy since building his yatsuhashi boardwalk last summer!

"I’ve been working on this new section of my garden for the past year and a half. Last summer we built a yatsuhashi boardwalk that extends off the plane of the existing granite boulders that takes visitors to a seating area overlooking a small creek. I’ve planted over 600 one gallon ferns of 25 different species in large interlocking swaths. 8 deer live in this area of my garden, so everything has to be very deer resistant. In addition to the ferns (which they don’t eat), I’ve planted rhododendron, pieris, diervilla, Japanese maples, big leaf magnolia, two types of illicium, davidii viburnum, dwarf hemlocks, acorus, 3 types of farfugium, and a few shade-loving flowering perennials. Sweetgums, dozens of beeches and oaks, rising up to 80 feet, create the ceiling to this garden space. I placed a trio of stone spheres on the deck to mimic and pull from the natural boulders below, and built a crude low railing of very straight crepe myrtle branches attached to rusted rebar. When I sit there I feel quite humble and creative, as opposed to other areas of my garden which are empowering or bring back childhood memories. It’s one of my favorite parts of this ever-expanding garden."

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  1. Sunshine111 10/29/2015

    Wow how serene and lovely! I am so impressed with your vision, determination and creativity. You needed all three to create such a beautiful masterpiece. Namaste

    1. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

      Thank you Lily. Two years ago the entire area was covered in English ivy, honeysuckle and poison ivy. We've done a lot of work.

  2. diane_lasauce 10/29/2015

    Jay, curious to learn what wood you used in the yatsuhashi boardwalk. And what were the steps to prep and paint/stain it? Nice job!

    1. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

      Hi Diane. The wood is pressure-treated pine. I let it cure for a few months, then applied a Chinese red solid deck stain from Sherwin-Williams.

  3. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

    Thanks Diane! It's a work in progress. I look forward to seeing all the ferns grow together along the creek and the shrubs on the hillside mature. It's a magical part of my garden, and the 5 foot wind chimes overhead add to that peaceful feeling.

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 10/29/2015

    The words "Absolutely brilliant" wouldn't go away in my mind as I took in each picture and marvelled at how perfect everything already is. I so admire your bold color choice and how you made the deck (chicken me isn't going to try to spell correctly the asian word) change elevation to nestle into its spot more cozily. Yep, "absolutely brilliant".

  5. Quiltingmamma 10/29/2015

    What a great project...and that gutsy red! yes, brilliant! I can understand the feeling of humbleness in that natural space - enhanced with your thoughtful plantings. Can't wait to see it after some maturity. Really lovely.

  6. user-178447 10/29/2015

    What a beautiful job! It reminds me of a portion of Stonecrop Gardens in Coldspring, NY. To have taken it from what it was to this in two years is remarkable!

  7. user-4691082 10/29/2015

    All I can say is wow! You are a man on a mission. Unwavering focus. Great job!!!

  8. greengenes 10/29/2015

    This is all so beautiful, Jay! I so love the simplicity of it all. To have those huge boulders to work off of is a dream! The canopy sounds wonderful and then the red! All so great! Thanks so much for sharing with us!

    1. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

      Hi Jeanne. I bought this house because of the land. Those boulders are incredible. I unearthed some beech tree roots in between two boulders and found out it was, in fact, one boulder that measured about 20 feet across.

      1. greengenes 10/29/2015

        That's so incredibly awsome! I am running out or adjectives here! What a great place to work on!

  9. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 10/29/2015

    Well, Jay, this sounds like a Paul Bunyon tall-tale: 600 ferns?! I remember that you mentioned that before, but along with the list of the other plants and shrubs you planted I am shamed into feeling lazy and complacent. Bravo.
    I think the last time I saw photos of the yatsuhashi-inpired deck and walkway, it was unfinished. The Chinese red is simply stellar, as is the combination of rebar and natural wood railing. Your talent is really singing on this project.
    Your natural bolder outcrops are so stunning. I love the Hakone grass tucked in the crevice.
    Always a treat to see your personal garden. Do you use it as a showcase for clients? I would bet that a quick walk through your grounds would win you a lot of clients.

    1. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

      Hi Tim. I do bring some clients here, particularly the ones who have shady spaces. I'll have to admit that the older portion of my garden is so stuffed with specimen plants that some people become overwhelmed and a bit claustrophobic. But, so far, everyone seems to enjoy the peaceful feeling of this ferny space.

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 10/29/2015

        Well, I guess my egocentricity is showing. You mean not everyone is an incurable plant collector who needs to cram as many cool plants as possible in one tiny space!? Really love your garden and work, Jay, both simple and dense. Cheers.

        1. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

          haha. Thanks Tim. I hear rumors that there are people who call themselves "minimalists".... go figure...

  10. Chris_N 10/29/2015

    Very, very nice. I like the use of the yatsuhashi style walkway. It adds a dynamism to the scene that standard steps and landings would not. The way the boardwalk and the new plants interact with the environment, blows me away. Jeanne mentions the "simplicity of it all" and that struck me too. It also reminded me of the level of work that goes into a design to create that simplicity. I will have to look at this again when I get home this evening. There is an entire chapter in garden design written in your work.

    1. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

      Thanks Chris. I strive for simplicity in my work, especially in my newer work. The older parts of my garden are quite closely planted with specimens, but I think as we grow older we appreciate simplicity more and more. And simplicity isn't the simplest thing to do... ha

  11. GrannyMay 10/29/2015

    Simple and stunning!

  12. User avater
    HelloFromMD 10/29/2015

    Hi Jay, stunning use of complementary colors and yet it is a restful place to meditate. I went back to see your other submissions to FGPD, incredible gardens! Good luck on your fern choices to naturalize. I have tried many species over the years and despite watering, the fact is I have dry shade. Only those ferns that can take dry shade wind up being long-lived. How wonderful to have a stream. There are so many plant descriptions that read 'habitat, stream banks'.

    1. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

      Hi HellofromMD. I've learned a lot about ferns over the past few years, mostly by trial and error. Ferns, conifers, Japanese maples and ornamental grasses are my favorite plants of all. For drier shade, Christmas fern tops my list. Others that do well there include Fortune's hardy holly (which is becoming one of my favorites), Japanese holly, autumn, and tassel (although it won't grow as large in drier conditions). The worst ferns for drier shade are ostrich, cinnamon, lady, royal, deer, hay-scented, New York, sensitive..... at least that's been my experience. My ostrich in wetter conditions grow to 5 feet; the ones in drier conditions, to 1.5 feet. What species work for you in your dry shade?

  13. annek 10/29/2015

    My admiration is never-ending for your vision, bold use of red (my favorite color), incredible stamina (600 ferns??) and patience (years in the making). What a lovely, serene spot you've created. You have the knack for finding the right shape, material and placement of everything needed for the perfect garden.

    1. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

      Thanks so much!

  14. user-7007327 10/29/2015

    Love the red. A beautiful, peaceful place. You have the gift .

  15. Clarkpark 10/29/2015

    Very impressive, Jay? Thanks for sharing your personal garden with us?

  16. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 10/29/2015

    Jay, you are truly a garden artist. You've created such a serene escape that I hope you get to just sit there and enjoy it after all of your hard work. It's also nice that you've decided to work around your deer problem. It seems here that the deer forget what they're not supposed to eat:(

    1. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

      Hi Linda. The "deer resistant plant lists" are put out by and large I think by nurseries wanting to sell more plants. The two "deer resistant" plants that they devoured in my garden are aucuba and camellia japonica. They seem to leave alone the plants in mentioned in my description, but I left out calycanthus and aesculus parviflora. They have never bothered those either.

      1. User avater
        LindaonWhidbey 10/31/2015

        Thanks, Jay, for the new additions to the deer resistance list. Hopefully west coast deer have the same appetites as your east coast ones. Your more simplyfied garden is something that I would love to achieve, but like so many other gardeners, I have serious plant lust so that will never happen.....

  17. Beazel 10/29/2015

    Wow! An amazing effort. I love the serenity, dappled light and wonderful texture of this garden. And the new walk is a simply stunning exclamation point.

  18. Meelianthus 10/29/2015

    You are certainly right Jay, it is a magical forest. Beautiful and serene. An arduous undertaking that has created a wonderful contemplative area. I am a tremendous fern fan and my gardens are stuffed with them. In a few years yours will rise and spread to cover the forest floor (600 WOW!), although don't underestimate the deer!! Such joy and thanks for sharing a look at all of your tremendous work.

    1. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

      Hi Meelianthus. Love the screen name, btw... one of my favorite plants that doesn't do well for me here. I did a series on ferns for Houzz and discovered in my research that most ferns contain a mild toxin that gives deer a stomach ache. I have seen two autumn ferns that were nibbled on, but the rest of my ferns have been left untouched and are in the daily paths of deer.

      1. Meelianthus 10/30/2015

        Yes, Melianthus major is a garden favorite of mine although it can become a bit invasive here. I did want to mention one of my favorite ferns for covering a forest floor. You may already have it but if not it is well worth using if you don't mind it being invasive and it seems that you have a lot of area to cover. I find it quite beautiful, the Himalayan maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustum) will creep slowly forming a beautiful evergreen carpet. Glad the deer don't eat your ferns - our locals must have stomachs of steel ! My property is surrounded with a deer fence but my neighbors have a big problem.

        1. Jay_Sifford 10/30/2015

          Thanks for the fern suggestion. I have northern and southern maidenhair growing here, but not Himalayan. I'll look into it.

  19. wGardens 10/29/2015

    Fabulous. You certainly have a wonderful piece of ground for your creativity- I love what you've done- and I very much enjoy your skills, plant choices and placement. Gosh! What is your NEXT project! :-) !!

    1. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

      Thanks Margaret. I have lots of next projects... ha. My current personal project is a garden that celebrates light. I think it will run next week at some point. My goal is to create spaces that kindly challenge, teach, nurture, and create respect for the parts of nature that most people never notice.

      1. wGardens 10/29/2015

        Ah, That sounds very intriguing...and exciting! I look forward to seeing the results. So nice to have longer gardening time there~ versus here in upstate NY. Perhaps you should consider writing a book- I find your ideas very inspiring!

        1. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

          Thanks Margaret. I have a couple of ideas I'm throwing around for a book... if I can ever sit still long enough to make that happen. I would like to do that, though.

  20. DarliBarli 10/29/2015

    Your post doesn't belong here.

  21. DarliBarli 10/29/2015

    This is a most unique garden - well done! I didn't know it was possible to come up with that many different varieties of ferns. I hope you will post some more pix in a year or two when the site has matured even more.

    1. Jay_Sifford 10/29/2015

      Hi Darlene. Will do!

  22. user-1020932 10/29/2015

    it all looks great, Jay. i do love that red red red. great space for many uses for your guests but most importantly for yourself

  23. deborah_gleason 10/30/2015

    After reading the comments below, I was in awe of what you've created. Then I read that your whole area was covered in English ivy, honeysuckle and poison ivy. Now I have a whole new amount of respect for you! And it gives me hope! I'm struggling with the same eradication in the wooded area in my back yard. The honeysuckle is threatening to take over my blueberry bushes. We bought the house 5 years ago and I cuss loudly at whoever planted that ivy almost daily. )Good thing I'm in the woods all by myself). But I have a dream!! Any advise would be greatly appreciated. And thank you for the list of ferns that do well in dry shade as I also have a ton of that. And again, beautiful creation!

    1. Jay_Sifford 11/01/2015

      Hi Deborah. Thanks for the compliment. As much as I hate to rely on chemicals, honeysuckle and poison ivy may need that treatment. English ivy is the hardest to get rid of, and pulling is usually best. Fortunately, it generally pulls out fairly easily, so it's a matter of persistence.

  24. katieerb 10/31/2015

    Oh my, what a great space! I love ferns but only have a few because Texas summers are hard on them even in the shade. The pop of color really draws attention to the area. Good job!

  25. eddireid 11/01/2015

    Hello Jay, sorry to be late in joining your fan club but could not pass up the chance to tell you that I think your garden retreat is masterful. You have used all your many talents to create this beautiful, peaceful and inspiring area. As Chris N says, you have indeed used all the best garden tools!
    I love it. Great work. Many congratulations on such an achievement.

    1. Jay_Sifford 11/01/2015

      Hi Eddi. Thanks so much for the compliments and encouragement. Happy gardening to you!

  26. anthonykmiller 11/02/2015

    great design thank you for sharing

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