Garden Photo of the Day

Kathleen’s Chicago-Area Garden

Making the most of a narrow space

Bird’s nest fern in a container

Today we’re visiting Kathleen Hooper’s garden.

I’m a Zone 5b (maybe 6) gardener in the Chicago area. I’ve gardened all my life and in different zones in Illinois, North Carolina, and Connecticut, and have faced many challenges (read that as deer in Connecticut, lean builder soil in North Carolina, and wild weather in Illinois!), but I am passionate and love to learn. I took horticulture classes at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign while I studied economics and accountancy. The pandemic made me reflect on what I love. Gardening and nature won, so I’m back in the classroom studying for a Master Gardener certificate at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

I decided to make a long strip of land along the side of my house useful, and these pictures show what I’ve done.

narrow container with conifer against a wooden wallThis woodland-style container is visible from the outside (back garden) and inside (dining room). The conifer is a weeping Canadian hemlock, (Tsuga canadensis ‘Pendula’, Zones 3–7). The glossy green leaves in the front of the container are from European ginger (Asarum europeaum, Zones 4–7).

narrow side garden with lots of foliage plantsA longer view shows how the whole side yard has been planted, with stepping stones leading through the plantings, and the lighter fence panel highlighting the beautiful weeping hemlock.

close look at container with coniferHere’s a closer look at the hemlock, flanked by ferns along with the European ginger.

Bird’s nest fern in a containerA bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus, Zones 10–11) is growing next to the hemlock. This tropical fern won’t survive the winter outside here, but it is a lovely summer complement to the rest of the planting.

ferns surrounding the container plantingOn the other side, a maiden hair fern (Adiantum sp.) grows. It is a plant that looks delicate but is actually quite tough and easy to grow.

For more of Kathleen’s garden, check out her instagram:


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View Comments


  1. sagebird52 08/23/2021

    Thats a very interesting and well cared for conifer. Really a focal point.

  2. btucker9675 08/23/2021

    Love the dark stained fencing with the lighter horizontal boards behind the hemlock. Very beautiful and must be so nice to see it from the dining room, too. Really artistic and sophisticated!

  3. User avater
    simplesue 08/23/2021

    I think that might be a Heart's Tongue Fern next to the European Ginger which is hardy to zone 6.
    That is a nice combination of plants for the planter you made, it's a nice focal point from your dining room window!
    I checked out your instagram and your entire garden is beautiful!

  4. gardendevas 08/23/2021

    Really lovely! And best wishes for you Master Gardener studies.

  5. Mashabear21 08/25/2021

    Your garden is a beautiful masterpiece. Regards from | Twin City Deck and Fence

  6. joanadavidson 09/22/2021

    Wow! Where did you buy the fern? It's very unique. I Iike it!

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