Garden Photo of the Day

Joan’s garden in Kansas

Knockout shrub roses do well here. Photo/Illustration: All photos courtesy of Joan Jackson

Today’s photos are from Joan Jackson. She says, “Our garden is in central Kansas, near the geodetic center of the lower 48 states–with always-changing, often-extreme weather that “Zone 5” does not fully describe.

In the background are native self-planted bur oak and hackberry trees, large barriers against the wind, and closer center an ornamental pear, at the fence some euphorbia, flowering quince, lower boxwood, daylily, and liriope.

“My move from a mild climate to this garden 20 years ago was a challenge. We are situated along a river bluff after farming was abandoned due to erosion. When my husband and I started gardening here, the house and barns had few plantings. Now I have a long list of plants that thrive here (sometimes and someplace), and those which do not (after several tries).

Kitty Boy is possessive of this place, helps me dig holes when I’m planting.

“It’s a rustic country garden, not much manicured, mulched with wood chips gleaned from arborists. The garden was R&R while I worked, and now is a joy in my retirement. We host several events here each year, so I am pulled between my laissez-faire attitude for ourselves and a need to make it ‘look like it ain’t’.

On the north side, native limestone walk, with yew for year-round green and vinca covering the ground.

“Plants native to this part of Kansas grow in an ever-changing strip along a long drive, and throughout the garden. I am still delighted to know how many of my favorite perennials came to horticulture from these prairies.”

Early stage of this year’s vegetable garden.

Gorgeous, Joan! I think we need more photos….

**** Share your garden story…. Email me with photos and words at [email protected]. ****

Native American bittersweet on the trellis in the back, sunflowers, then lower artemisia and aster, and on the right native compassplant (so named because its large fanlike leaves orient themselves north/south).
A green retreat from the wind and sun in our courtyard.
Frittalary butterflies love our echinacea.
Sand plum, daylily, Itea, iris. The blue plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) ground cover takes everything that Kansas provides.
Penstemon is native here, too.
Native yucca blooms on very tall stalks and is even more impressive up close.

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  1. dirtgirl1949 05/01/2014

    Joan, gorgeous photos of your stunning garden. Definitely looks and sounds like my type of garden! Well done for all the hard work you have quite obviously put into creating your own little slice of heaven......

  2. OuiserThatsMe 05/01/2014

    Beautiful gardens, enjoy!!!!

  3. gloriaj 05/01/2014

    Everything is beautiful. You have done a wonderful job. Penstemon is a plant I have wanted to try. Your is beautiful

  4. annek 05/01/2014

    What a beautiful garden! I second Michelle's request for more photos. Your veggie garden is incredible and looks massive. How large is your property? It looks like Oz came to Kansas!

  5. GardeningRocks 05/01/2014

    So much to love about your gardens, Joan! They look so lush and carefree although I know there is a lot of work that goes into making it that way, even when you love the work. Penstemon is one of my favorite plants! It is beautiful and the hummingbirds just love it!

  6. User avater
    meander_michaele 05/01/2014

    Joan, sounds like you have gotten your unofficial "Master Gardener" degree from the well attended school of trial and error and have learned what works for your area. Your garden looks well loved and is obviously enjoyed by yourself and visitors. I appreciate how you have let some of nature's gifts (like the hackberry tree) settle in and make a valuable contribution to the depth and diversity of your garden. That blue penstemon is gorgeous...who wouldn't love to have that as a native grower!

  7. NC_Yarden 05/01/2014

    Wonderful. It appears that there is something beautiful to see in every direction. Your garden certainly challenges my perceptions of Kansas. Thank you.

  8. tractor1 05/01/2014

    A very lush and diversified garden... who woulda thunk Kansas grew more than corn... and I love the stonework too, as does Kitty Boy. Thank you. Joan.

  9. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 05/01/2014

    Always wonderful to see a great garden thriving in a difficult climate, especially after seeing all of the plants that did not survive last winter in my somewhat milder climate this year. Thanks for sharing.

  10. NevadaSue 05/01/2014

    Joan I love your delightful garden. The path wondering through the woods and the stone work are great. The trees with smaller shrubs in front give a nice protected feeling. I love all the lush green with a splash of color here and there. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  11. wittyone 05/01/2014

    Kitty Boy looks like he is in charge there. It's always good to have an enthusiastic helper especially when digging is involved.

    I love your expression "make it look like it ain't". It's so satisfying to get to that point, but exhausting, and you can never keep it that way for long and so it's all to do again.

  12. greengenes 05/01/2014

    What a labor of love! It is all so beautiful. It sounds like you have the motto.."never give up!" That is great that you just kept trying different plants. It turned out awesome, Joan. I love all the rock paths. It seems to ground everything. I so enjoy the lushness of the trees. It looks like it is quite private. I suppose we all have an idea about Kansas as being flat and clear, farming country. You have a great little retreat. You said it was on a bluff too. Its so exciting to see your place today, Joan. And yes, we would love to see more! Thanks so much...

  13. tree_ee 05/01/2014

    I love what you've done with your place . . . it's just beautiful.

    Your Kitty Boy looks like my Junior Kitty Boy (now deceased). He was a garden helper, too.

  14. sheila_schultz 05/01/2014

    Joan, you have definitely figured out this gardening thing... With all the weather challenges you face, to be able to create such a wild and carefree beauty to your land definitely makes you the Wizard of your Oz.

  15. janeeliz 05/01/2014

    Lovely garden, Joan. You've created a wonderful sense of privacy and mystery with your beautiful paths, shrubs , vines and trees. Love your close-up photos of the Fritillary butterfly on echinacea, pentstemon and yucca.

  16. schatzi 05/01/2014

    Beautiful, Joan, in a challenging environment. I too love the stonework. It is beautiful, as are Kitty Boy (who looks like my Shadow) and that gorgeous blue Penstemon. I love Penstemon and grow several varieties, but I don't have that one. I wonder if it would grow in zone 8 western WA? I appreciate having a less manicured garden shown. It makes me feel better about my less than perfect one.

  17. Canthelpmyself 05/01/2014

    Gorgeous gardens. I'm jealous. But as a native Iowan, I feel compelled to point out Iowa is known for corn production. Kansas is known for wheat -- and apparently beautiful gardens!

  18. Delores64 05/03/2014

    Love everything about your gardens....especially the picket fence garden!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  19. ml73alhi 05/03/2014

    OMG!!! I have that same art piece that is in pic #2!!! What are the odds of that? I also have many knock out roses!!! I agree with every word of ALL your comments!♥♥ Labor of love and addiction!! Lol Can't tell you how many times I would come home with plants that I had no idea where I would fit them in! I just couldn't help myself!! Well I've got to get back and look at your beautiful pictures a again! You do great work!

  20. ml73alhi 05/03/2014

    Check out my photo to see the picture of the round art that I have that is like yours. We turned ours into a light. We love to turn our lights on at night and walk through the gardens. They appear so different at night. Thanks for sharing. BTW I'm a zone 5 gardener too! Michigan ♥♡

  21. ml73alhi 05/03/2014

    Joan... sorry. My photo is under Marthas garden in Michigan..

  22. grannieannie1 05/03/2014

    You've created a special spot especially since the land was denuded be erosion, but you've succeeded so beautifully going the wiser native route which works.

    Now I'd love to see your vegetable garden later in the season!

  23. CynthiaGillis 05/05/2014

    Lovely garden, and it hits home. I have just (last year) moved to the Kansas City KS area from Brooklyn,NY. We are making a new, from scratch, 6 acre ornamental garden, and am I ever on a big learning curve. I am in Zone 6a now rather than your zone 5, so it's a little easier, but the extremes of temperature and the clay/alkaline soil is a challenge. So far the garden is laid out, and some of the trees and shrubs are planted. Perennials, ground covers and many, many more shrubs are still to come. If you'd like to follow the process a bit, I have a blog about making the garden. It is at And any suggestions would be most welcome. Congratulations on your wonderful garden.

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