Garden Photo of the Day

Lydia’s Woodland Garden

Gardening under the North Carolina pines

garden path filled with purple flowers

My name is Lydia Grupinski, and I garden with my husband, Ray, on the shores of Lake Norman in Mooresville, North Carolina, just outside of Charlotte. Being located right on the water in a protected cove, we are in Zone 7b/8a. I am an avid gardener, plant collector, and former landscape designer. I started my Pura Vida Gardens in 2013. Today I am submitting photos of my woodland garden. In 2013, all that existed was a stand of mature shortleaf pines (Pinus echinata, Zones 6–9) and one lone baby yucca. I envisioned this area as my future woodland garden. I started by installing a functioning dry river bed to move rainwater from the front of the property through the pines and away from the lawn. I installed two flat stone bridges over the dry river bed to allow access to various areas of the woodland garden. I then began to install plants.

I now have a collection of approximately 26 Japanese maples throughout the property as well as many unusual and hard-to-find woody and herbaceous specimens. I use only organic fertilizers and do all the weeding by hand. I employ an IPM approach, using synthetic pesticides and herbicides only as a last resort. If a plant is too prone to diseases or pests, or if it struggles in our climate, I don’t grow it. My passion for plants and love of all my gardens runs deep and has certainly been underscored during the past year of quarantine! Ray and I feel very blessed having this property to take care of as well as being a beautiful, tranquil and safe space to spend time outdoors. I am happy to share a peek into one part of Pura Vida Gardens and hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

southern magnolia next to a houseBy the house, a southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora, Zones 6–10) shows off its glossy evergreen foliage and huge white, fragrant flowers.

garden path filled with purple flowersThe woodland garden’s paved path guides visitors under the canopy of mature shortleaf pines.

woodland gardenThe tall pines in the woodland garden provide bright shade that allows many plants to thrive.

Farfugium japonicaFarfugium japonica (Zones 7–10) has sprays of yellow foliage over big, bold, glossy green leaves.

lots of pine tree trunks in the gardenThe trunks of the pines provide a beautiful vertical accent throughout the garden.

pineapple lilyFlower spikes of a pineapple lily (Eucomis comosa, Zones 7–10) make an unusual and long-lasting statement.

early spring gardenIn early spring, hellebores (Helleborus hybrids, Zones 4–9) bloom under the soft yellow, fragrant flowers of an edgworthia (Edgeworthia chrysantha, Zones 7–9).


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To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.

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View Comments


  1. Chellemp 04/01/2021

    beautiful garden! Would love to see this one as a feature in Fine Gardening. After reading Lydia's description, I was hoping to see the dry creek bed and bridges. Thanks for posting!

  2. User avater
    treasuresmom 04/01/2021

    Love it. I too garden under pines but don't have the success you do. Can you share what you did so all those lovelies would grow?

    1. User avater
      treasuresmom 04/01/2021

      Forgot to ask if you do you water very much.

  3. User avater
    bdowen 04/01/2021

    I agree and would love to see more information and more photos of your beautiful garden and setting. Interesting for me in zone 6 to see what works in your 7a/8b area, e.g. the pineapple lily. Thanks for sharing!

  4. User avater
    user-7007816 04/01/2021

    What a beautiful setting you have created. Extraordinary!

  5. wittyone 04/01/2021

    Did you limb-up those pines or had that been done before you acquired the property? The bright shade seems to work perfectly with all your shade plants. How did you manage to plant all of those plants and shrubs underneath the pines? I am always concerned about underplanting mature trees for fear of disturbing the roots and changing the ground level.

  6. User avater
    simplesue 04/01/2021

    Oh such a fabulous woodland garden! Beautiful design, and great plant choices! Seeing through the trunks of the pines is so pretty to see, adds so much maturity and height....I have seen so many gardeners cut down trees to make a garden...when they should do as you have in making a woodland garden.
    Wow, this is "my kind of garden" for sure!

  7. btucker9675 04/01/2021

    Wonderful! I live in Waxhaw, south of Charlotte so opposite of where you live in Lake Norman. We, too, have woodland property but with mainly deciduous trees rather than the pines. I have limbed up trees and we removed some of the very small ones to allow dappled sunlight. I've been slowly creating my own woodland garden and am inspired by yours! We put in a pool just over a year ago and I have created beds all around it as well. They are looking good this first Spring after being planted. Thanks for sharing your lovely property with us.

  8. alicefleurkens 04/01/2021

    A beautiful garden. You make the world a better place

  9. bsavage 04/01/2021

    Very, very beautiful! I love the tall pines as a backdrop, and your plants are amazing!

  10. Mashabear21 12/02/2021

    I really love this kind of place. This is my dream garden. Hopefully, we can build this year.

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