Garden Photo of the Day

Lessons Learned in a Gardening Life

A long-time gardener reflects on successes and failures

Today we’re visiting the garden of Luana Carpenter in Massillon, Ohio.

My parents were wonderful gardeners so I guess I was lucky to get the gardening bug from them. After my husband and I moved into our home, I began with starts from my parents’ garden and put in my first bed. The yard was bare and neglected but had some lovely trees. My biggest regret was bringing lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis, Zones 3–8) from my old house even though it is my birth flower. We have a love/hate relationship.

I wanted to garden for wildlife, so I put in plants the birds and bees needed for food, shelter, and water and for raising their young.

Included were evergreens, shrubs that produce berries, perennials, and a small garden pond. I became certified by the National Wildlife Federation.

I had some failures in my part-shade, part-sun garden with finding areas that didn’t drain well and that needed to have dirt brought in to raise up beds. My first lesson in how important good drainage is in a garden had to do with the perennials my parents had given me from their sunny garden, which didn’t fair well in my garden.

I wanted to make the garden a private retreat, so I asked my husband to build screens along the east and west sides of the property. This has also allowed me to plant climbers, which I love.

While my husband has never been a gardener, thankfully he has agreed to build arbors, compost bins, and a swing house. There was a time when my husband thought me a little off as I would come home with plants with no place to put them and so would dig up more lawn to make room.

Over the more than 20 years that I’ve been gardening this yard, plants have come and gone. While I began with mostly pinks, purples, and whites, I slowly added more color, although I still prefer more restful colors. I love beds full of plants, and if I would have to categorize my garden, I would say it’s cottage style.

White Siberian iris (Iris siberica, Zones 3–9) blooms by the pond.

My garden will never be finished, and like most gardeners during the winter months, I’m excited for spring to come so I can get my hands dirty again.


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View Comments


  1. garden1953 01/30/2019

    Very beautiful and peaceful. Thank you for sharing your garden with us, especially on such a cold winter day.

  2. User avater
    treasuresmom 01/30/2019

    It all looks very lovely! What flower is that the hummingbird is sipping from?

    1. hummerlu 07/10/2019

      The clematis is xjouiniana. The Hummers seem to love it

  3. User avater
    user-7007816 01/30/2019

    A beautiful garden with great use of colors and textures. Also, very well photographed. Thanks for sharing.

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 01/30/2019

    From the looks of your pictures, you've certainly had waaay more successes than failures in all parts of your garden. The photo of your pond area is beautiful...with the blooming yellow water lily and the chartreusy colored graceful grass, it positively glows. I also love generous clump of Siberian iris...once again enhanced by the clumps of Japanese Forest grass (?) behind them.

  5. User avater
    meander_michaele 01/30/2019

    ps. your husband's woodworking contributions are stellar!

  6. nwphillygardener 01/30/2019

    Yes. Together, you and your husband have really created such an inviting haven. I hope he, too, takes pride in the impressive results of your passions. Any special moisture loving plants you care to call out for those who have drainage issues as you did?

  7. sydneyleigh 01/30/2019

    Your garden is truly a haven, settled into its place. The twenty years have been worth it. And You are so wise to appreciate how it is never finished and giving up more lawn for new acquisitions is a part of the fun. Thanks for inviting us in.

  8. Doxnmomx2 01/30/2019

    Dreamy! Definitely more success than failure!

  9. paiya 01/30/2019

    Luana, you and your husband have created a beautiful garden of such varied textures and colors. I could easily sit on one of your garden chairs all day and watch the birds. Yes, fortunately we never finish doing the garden. I would also like suggestions for plants in poorly-draining areas

  10. User avater
    simplesue 01/30/2019

    Beautiful and I love that it supports wildlife too! A work of art!

  11. cheryl_c 01/30/2019

    Beautiful lush full mature gardens! I especially loved the hummingbird photo, the wonderful woodworking skills of your husband, the idea of a "swing house" (for a porch swing?) and your lovely white Siberian iris by your pool. Lovely, tranquil, obviously a success in exactly the ways you wanted!

  12. LauraJaneS 01/30/2019

    How very lovely! I particularly like your white iris bed. Congratulations on this beauty of a garden.

  13. btucker9675 01/30/2019

    Perfectly lovely garden... great hummingbird photo!

  14. Musette1 01/30/2019

    a gorgeous, beautifully curated garden! I love that it's designed with wildlife in mind as well. Thanks for sharing on this Polar Vortex day!

  15. mjensen 01/31/2019

    beautiful, love this garden

  16. hummerlu 02/04/2019

    Thank you all for the nice comments, sorry it took so long for my reply. Actually didnt realize until yesterday that there was a comment section. I loved that Hummingbird pic too and they love the clematis in the pic. As far as plants that like wet feet I would say the white Flag Iris pictured near thee pond definitely does, ferns and maybe hydrangea as they need lots of moisture.

  17. PatrickKnowles 03/02/2020

    Oh, I love gardening crazy. Sometimes I feel like I'm spending a lot of time on it. Since I'm in college, I use the website to prepare for my exams. There's a hunter's safety quizzes on this site that came in handy not so long ago.

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