Garden Photo of the Day

Last Summer in Syd Carpenter’s Garden

Creative designs centered on foliage

Today we’re paying another visit to Syd Carpenter’s wonderful Philadelphia garden, where she boldly mixes all sorts of plants and garden art to wonderful effect. If you missed previous visits to this wonderful garden, start here.

These photos are from last summer and as always display her incredible ability to combine plants in creative and inspiring ways.

caladiumA variegated hosta, variegated lily turf (Liriope muscari, Zones 5–10), and a caladium (probably the variety ‘Miss Muffet’, Zones 9–11 or as a tender bulb) make magic together.

Many of the plants in this photo are best known as house plants, such as the silver-striped silver inch plant (Tradescantia zebrina). But many “house plants” make great annuals for shade. And if you bring them indoors before frost, they can live through the winter on the windowsill before returning to the garden next year.

Syd is an artist, and dramatic garden art, like the large sculpture hanging on the wall here, is a central part of this garden.

elephant earsNew breeding has created elephant ears (Colocasia) in a wide range of sizes and leaf colors, such as this smaller-growing, dark-leaved form in a container. They bring a tropical flair to any garden and thrive in hot summers.

Bushop’s flowerThis is, I believe, the annual Ammi major, sometimes called bishop’s flower, and is essentially a more refined version of Queen Anne’s lace (Dacus carota). The lacy white flowers aging to green are beautiful and are beloved by all sorts of pollinators.

purple Mexican spiderwortHardy plants and tropicals mix freely in this garden, with a huge oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia, Zones 5–10) in the back, a big mass of purple Mexican spiderwort (Tinantia pringlei, Zones 6–10), and the yellow flower heads of tender Guzmania bromeliads mixed in for a tropical flair.

purple shamrockFoliage is the star in this garden, with vivid purple coming from purple shamrock (Oxalis regnellii var. triangularis, Zones 7–10).

A sculpted face peaks out from behind elephant ears.


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View Comments


  1. nwphillygardener 02/05/2020

    Thanks again, Syd, for sharing your photos of such exciting foliage combinations. We can see how several of those pictures reveal wet leaves after a morning watering. Not only does that add some sparkle to your photos, but I firmly believe that your efforts to keep these plants moist in hot Philadelphia summers allows for the lushness that all your images display.

    1. sydneyleigh 02/05/2020

      I am enjoying my winter garden these days, but it only reminds me of last summer and gets me excited about this spring. My tulips and daffodils are already above ground. Yikes!

  2. User avater
    treasuresmom 02/05/2020

    As usual, all is lovely.

  3. coastalgardener 02/05/2020

    Magnificent was the first word that entered my mind when I saw your photos! I love your interesting plant combinations and your touches of garden art. You are certainly one talented artist and gardener.

    1. sydneyleigh 02/05/2020

      Thank you. Making art in a garden is one of the most satisfying things to do.

  4. btucker9675 02/05/2020

    That wall art is magnificent, as is the entire garden!

  5. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/05/2020

    Your garden is endlessly enthralling, Syd and always a delight through which to take a cyber stroll. Plus, since it's a rainy dreary day where I am, I treated myself to looking at your previous submissions. Thanks so much for sharing so generously.

  6. User avater
    simplesue 02/05/2020

    I love a virtual visit to the beautiful world you've made!
    I found you on Pinterest and followed your garden boards!
    You are an inspiration.

  7. user-7525974 02/05/2020

    I am absolutely in love with your gardens. I went back to previous GPOD photos, then wanting more I looked for you on Instagram to no avail. Finally I found an article with lots of photos connected to the Swarthmore ITS blog by googling Syd Carpenter Gardens. Every vignette is even better than the last; and those pots!! I feel compelled to begin collecting similar gorgeous pots. Your garden talent equals your art. I am smitten.

    1. nwphillygardener 02/05/2020

      Here's a tip. While Syd has made some of those garden pots in her pics, a google image search will show you a few of the magnificent sculptures she has made which have been shown in galleries and museum quite widely and held in the permanent collections of many museums, too.

    2. sydneyleigh 02/05/2020

      I do have an Instagram page. I am sorry you couldn’t find it. But glad you did some digging and found other images.

  8. user-5117752 02/05/2020

    How can I say more than the others before me? I, too, went back to review the previous photos of your exquisite garden. I am, needless to say, awestruck! Your combinations are so beautiful, so thoughtful. The pots are fabulous and the wall piece is simply a marvel! My fantasy would be to place a chair on your sidewalk until you couldn't bear to see me there anymore and let me in to your private oasis. Just hope you'll have time to take some spring pics. Would just love to see what you do with spring plantings!

  9. Cenepk10 02/08/2020

    What a fabulous garden. I need me some Bishop’s Flower. Fabulous.

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