Garden Photo of the Day

Kathy’s Iowa Garden, Part 2

Returning to this beautiful space for more

grassy path through garden beds in full bloom

Today we’re back in Sheldon, Iowa, visiting the beautiful garden Kathy Schreurs has created with her husband around their 130-year-old house.

grass garden path through garden bed with flowers and foliageWhen we reworked a side yard this past year, a blue pot showed up as an accidental focal point (although it’s barely visible in this photo at the end of our rainbow of annuals). The white phlox in the foreground are Phlox ‘Opening Act Pink-a-Dot’ (Zones 4–8). This was their first season, and I was happily surprised when they were in full bloom already in late June, unlike my older phlox varieties. They had color all summer and no mildew. The bright green ‘Sun King’ aralia (Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’, Zones 4–8) dies back to ground level every winter and then pushes up and out all summer until it blooms in the early fall. It is one of the plants we were able to save when a tree was removed from this area in the fall of 2021. The river rock border that edges the path is what remains (along with the larger shrubs) of the original garden we put in here in the late 90s. At that time, river rock was our choice of mulch: cheaper than bark, accessible, permanent. Over the years we realized it didn’t fit our gardening style: I like to layer plants, and even with a heavy barrier underneath, weeds were a constant problem. So in 2021 my newly retired husband scraped and dug away a couple of tons and found a new home for it. Some of it went into the trenches I asked him to dig along the new borders.

We experienced extreme drought last year, and our soil shows the result of watering with extremely hard water. Iowa is famous—although maybe you didn’t know— for its black soil, and the gray-brown color along the path is a clear indicator of the water crisis.

Sun King aralia in early fallBecause I love ‘Sun King’ so much, I can’t resist sharing a few pictures of it in September. It really does glow.

close up of Sun King aralia foliage and seed headsCloser view of glowing ‘Sun King’

grassy path through garden beds in full bloomThis is our garden path from the opposite end. I’ve gotten used to ignoring the garage across the street, but I see it commands a lot of attention in a photo.

shelves of glazed planter pots in a shedOur blue pots—and Big Foot—spend the winter in our gardening shed. I can’t wait to take them out again!

close up of yellow Trollius flowersCool yellows (and chartreuse) coexist happily within my blue framework. The Trollius ‘Lemon’ (Zones 3–6) blooms beneath what will eventually be the canopy of the aralia.

close up of yellow Osteospermum flowersAnnual Osteospermum ‘Double Moonglow’ bloom alongside the path where I enjoy them all summer.

close up of plant with variegated foliage and white flowersAnd the gold plectranthus (Plectranthus oertendahlii ‘Lime Light’, Zones 9–11 or as an annual) is a good companion plant everywhere.

lime green and light pink flowers in the garden‘Limelight’ (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’, Zones 3–8) is the sturdiest hydrangea in our border. I’m still debating the wisdom of allowing the native milkweed (Asclepias syriaca, Zones 3–9) to grow along with it, but monarchs in August are irresistible, and increasingly rare.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    musabasjoosue 04/07/2023

    Thanks for the tour of your lovely garden, Kathy! I have that exact same blue foot pot. It is fun to move it around the garden. Aralia Sun King is one of my favorite plants too. I think I have four of them in various gardens now.


    1. shegardens 04/07/2023

      Is yours a right foot also? Or are there left ones spout there? Somewhere?

      1. shegardens 04/07/2023


  2. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 04/07/2023

    I, too, enjoyed the tour, thanks for allowing us the chance to view your garden! Seeing your Redwing crock collection really got the old memory banks clicking gears. So nice to see others who appreciate them as well. Happy gardening!

    1. shegardens 04/07/2023

      I like to fill them with annuals and line them up on the steps at our front door. They’re not very visible from the street—a section of picket fence screens them—but our mailman likes them. :-)

  3. MohawkValley 04/07/2023

    Very nice (again) . With regards to a garage off the property that "demands" attention , one can create visual "distractions" or even blockage with a choice of natural wood and give that property line a real rustic look . I am in the process of privatizing a property line that changed from a bridge project across the stream that borders my property in the rear . I'll submit photos when complete ..... Peace from the Mohawk Valley in central New York .

    1. shegardens 04/07/2023

      I’ll look forward to seeing your ideas. For now, we’re content with ending the path as is. The garage is across the street, and it just is what it is.
      We like that our garden is visible to the neighborhood and that people pause to take it in while walking or biking. This is a small town. Sometimes no fences make good neighbors.

  4. grannie55 04/07/2023

    Your garden is beautiful and full of color. I love that you have kept the native milkweed! It adds texture to the garden and the monarchs appreciate them too, I'm sure!

  5. Oxdriftgardener 04/07/2023

    An absolute work of art Kathy. All the edges are so crisp and tidy. I am so jealous of your perfect grass. Weed and feed has been banned in Canada for several years now so I have had to give in to "mixed greenery" for a lawn which is semi tolerable if kept short.
    I believe maybe part of the reason that your monarchs are becoming increasingly rare is that they are pushing further north. They are still rare here but used to be nonexistant. They finally found my milkweed for the first time last year. It was bittersweet, so exciting to see the cats maturing but also was hard to just let them eat my plants LOL.
    Really love that gold variegated plectrantus and I wish the Arabia was hardy here
    Thank you very much for sharing your paradise

  6. user-7821942 04/07/2023


    Thanks again for sharing your garden. Sun King aralia is a favored plant in my garden as well. I like the rock edge on your borders; a good idea that I may try. We share a love of blue flowers and flower pots; perhaps when my garden grows up it can look similar to your beautiful landscape.

  7. mjdkitchens 04/07/2023

    Your garden is so beautiful. I'm especially interested in making trenches and filling with rocks on your border edges. I wonder how this would work to keep bermuda grass out of the beds?

    1. shegardens 04/07/2023

      We have only one season behind us with the rock border, but so far it has worked well to keep grass from emerging inside the border. The trench is 12” wide and about 10” deep—probably deeper than necessary, but we had a LOT of rock that needed a new home. My husband lined it with weed barrier before adding the rocks.

  8. janetsydoruk 04/07/2023

    Just so beautiful!

  9. btucker9675 04/07/2023

    Everything is perfection!!!

  10. jos29803 04/07/2023

    OMG!!! Part 2, dare I say, is even more beautiful and amazing than Part 1. Just beautiful!!!

    1. shegardens 04/07/2023

      Thank you!

  11. joe_green_thumb 04/08/2023

    I have the Sun King aralia too and just love it. It really brightens up a shady area.

  12. John_Seagle 04/25/2023

    This is really wonderful and beautiful!

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  13. Somele99 05/15/2023

    I love flowers and I love the game basket random. Complete exciting in-game challenges.

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