Garden Photo of the Day

Keith’s Spring Highlights

Peonies, lupines, and more

close up of fern leaf peony with red flowers

Keith Irvine is sharing his garden with us today. We’ve visited with him before (Keith’s Zone 3 Garden), and it’s a pleasure to revisit this beautiful garden.

I have put together some photos of the highlights of spring 2023 in our Zone 3 garden in Oxdrift, Ontario. It has been a very dry spring here and considerably warmer than normal. We usually have an old-timers rule here that it is not safe to plant out the annuals until after the full moon in June. This year we didn’t have any frosty mornings after about mid-May.

close up of Virginia bluebells with yellow daffodils in the backgroundVirginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica, Zones 3–9) show off in the foreground, with ‘Tahiti’ daffodils (Narcissus ‘Tahiti’, Zones 3–9) behind. The Virginia bluebells have pink buds that open pink and then quickly turn blue. After they bloom the plant will dry right up and disappear until the following spring. When I first planted them I thought I had lost the whole batch but was pleasantly surprised the next spring.

close up of small blue brunnera flowersBrunnera ‘Jack Frost’ (Zones 3–8)

close up of fern leaf peony with red flowersFern leaf peony (Paeonia tenuifolia, Zones 3–8)

close up of bright purple lupinsEarly in my gardening life I visited an abandoned logging camp where lupins (Lupinus polyphyllus, Zones 3–8) had naturalized. I dug up several of each color—purple, pink, and white—and transplanted them to my property. Since then they have naturalized, although sometimes not where I want them.

close up of tree peony with magenta flowersTree peonies, such as this magenta-colored tree peony (Paeonia hybrid, Zones 4–8) in the Japanese garden, require winter cover in Oxdrift. I make boxes from blue building styrofoam to provide insulation.

Bridal wreath spirea in bloomBridal wreath spirea (Spirea prunifolia, Zones 3–8) has taken off beside the entrance to the house.

In this mass planting of ferns, the shorter ones at the front are nursery-bought ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris, Zones 3–7). The taller ones in the back are native ferns. They are much easier to manage. The ostrich ferns spread like wildfire.

close up of a large yellow tree peony flowerYellow tree peony

container planting of various succulentsI keep a very large collection of tender succulents in the basement every winter and put them in my gardens in the summer. This bowl was a gift for my 70th birthday last summer. Creating this planting was the first thing I did when I started up my greenhouse in March.

succulent planting in a picture frameI built this succulent container about five years ago, and it is always fun to create a new arrangement annually. This one has a mixture of hardy and tender succulents.


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  1. User avater
    user-7007816 06/20/2023

    Your garden and plants are stunning. We have suffered similar hot, dry weather here in central Michigan. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Oxdriftgardener 06/20/2023

      Thank you

  2. islandlover 06/20/2023

    Your succulents are amazing! I am inspired to plant a pot and overwinter in my basement.

    1. Oxdriftgardener 06/20/2023

      Thank you and Good Luck. They need lots of light. I keep most of mine under Innova LED lights and as many as possible on a wide window ledge

  3. User avater
    simplesue 06/20/2023

    I've never seen or heard of a Fern leaf peony (Paeonia tenuifolia, it's amazing seeing the red flower floating in the fluffy foliage

    My absolute favorites are your gorgeous Lupins- love that color, and so interesting to hear the story of the abandoned logging camp you propagated them from and spread more beauty!

    1. Oxdriftgardener 06/20/2023

      Thank you. Just a little footnote on that fernleaf peony. It does really well in our climate but not so well in warmer areas. I had a friend in Windsor Ontario ( which I think might be Zone 6?) who loved mine so I gave him one and it did OK for one or 2 seasons then just fizzled out

  4. btucker9675 06/20/2023

    That fern leafed peony - swoon!!! Your entire garden - swoon!!!

    1. Oxdriftgardener 06/20/2023

      Thank you

  5. foxglove12 06/20/2023

    All so beautiful. Great job. Particularly in love with that magenta peony. My peonies are pushed to the limit and don't fair very well. They need more sun. :( Thanks for sharing.

    1. Oxdriftgardener 06/20/2023

      Thank you. That peony is a favorite of mine too. Shame they are so short lived

  6. nicki_s 06/20/2023

    Your succulent pots are works of art! Very beautifully designed. The fern leaf peony is stunning. I wish I knew how to grow lupines like yours - I can’t keep them alive here in zone 5. Thanks for sharing your photos!

    1. Oxdriftgardener 06/20/2023

      Thank you

  7. User avater
    cynthia2020 06/21/2023

    Your plants are so healthy and gorgeous, thank you for sharing!

  8. Boasnake59_ 06/21/2023

    Omg love your garden and those peony ferns just breathtaking

  9. MohawkValley 11/22/2023

    Greetings . I don't believe I saw this collection of photos this past spring for some reason . If I did , then I forgot . I'm now on the hunt for one of those fern leaf peonies ! Thanks for the "prompt " ! Peace from the Mohawk Valley in central New York State .

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