Garden Photo of the Day

Making a New Garden in Connecticut

Transforming a blank slate

I’m Sue Webel. I’ve been a Fine Gardening fan since the mid-90s and a GPOD follower for many years, but this is my first photo submission. (Find me on Instagram as @musabasjoosue.)

In 2016 I packed up hundreds of plants, a pile of garden paraphernalia, and three cats, sold my home and garden of 20 years, and moved 25 miles northwest to my current home in North Canton, Connecticut. I traded a mature garden on a quarter-acre suburban lot for a blank slate on 2 acres in a rural neighborhood.

In the spring of 2017 I hit the ground running. My first order of business in the new garden was to have a patio installed to better connect the house with the someday-to-be back garden.

Here’s how the back of the house looked in the winter of 2016-2017.

And here’s how it looked in August 2019. I’m a self-taught gardener and plant collector. When designing my gardens, I consider foliage color, texture, and form first, and I take a mixed garden approach. My gardens incorporate trees, shrubs, perennials, tropical plants, and annuals. I enjoy designing container gardens using unusual annuals.

Acalypha in a containerA container on the stump of one of the towering trees removed from the backyard features an acalypha (Acalypha wilkesiana, Zones 10–11 or as an annual) that I overwinter indoors.

Colocasia Maui GoldThis patio container features Colocasia ‘Maui Gold’ (Zones 8–11 or as annual).

Garden along a path from the patio

garden fountainThe buyers of my former house did not want the fountain that had been the garden focal point on the patio, so we had to move it here. I’m so glad we did! It’s once again a patio focal point.

In late 2019 we had the front walk replaced. I had to redo the grade along the whole walk and integrate the existing gardens. It took about 12 yards of topsoil to fill and grade. Most of the plants in the existing gardens had to be moved, and the whole area had to be redesigned. I spent most of April and May working out here. Naturally there will be tweaks, but I’m pretty happy with the first pass.

One of my two cats is enjoying one of the back gardens. I use rock excavated from the property to edge all the gardens. I called my old garden Idyll Haven. The new garden has been aptly named Idyll Haven on the Rocks.

One of my back borders features a sourwood tree (Oxydendron arboreum, Zones 5–9) and an Aralia ‘Silver Umbrella’ (Zones 4–8). When I moved here, this area was wooded.


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View Comments


  1. sd99 09/03/2020

    I love your beautiful gardens! Where did you get the tall wavy garden art stakes with the blue birds?

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      Than you! The garden art was created by an fabulous gardener from PA, Inta Krombolz. A few years ago, Inta moved south. She still gardens but I don't know if she's still welding.

      1. sd99 09/03/2020

        THANK YOU!

  2. sandyprowse 09/03/2020

    Just absolutely spectacular! Well done. You should be very proud of your efforts.

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      Thank you Sandy! I very much enjoy the physical work involved in garden making and the creating part when it comes to choosing plants and combining them.

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 09/03/2020

    Yowza, Sue, after taking the enjoyable journey through your pictures, I had to scroll back up to the top and make sure that I had read correctly that you had started your garden transformation just a few years ago. You have not only done a prodigious amount of work but you have done it with beautiful results. Your container plantings are outstanding as well. Congrats on everything.

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      Thank you! Sometimes I think I've bitten off more than I can chew but I love the process and plan to continue gardening as long as I'm physically able to do so.

  4. User avater
    user-7007816 09/03/2020

    What an amazing transformation. Beautiful.

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      Thank you!

  5. OneKSGardner 09/03/2020

    Spectacular garden! What is the variegated plant in the first pic to the right of the fountain? It kinda looks like a hosta but maybe not? What zone are you? Do you use drip irrigation to water? My garden is looking kinda tired right now as everything is winding down in KS!

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      The variegated plant is one of my top ten perennials, Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold'. My garden is in CT zone 6a and our house sits at about 800 feet above sea level. Water has been one of my biggest challenges here. Our well doesn't produce water fast enough to use sprinklers for a beneficial amount of time and I move plants around too much for drip irrigation. I hand water which is incredibly time consuming, especially in drought years like this one. Much of the garden does look tired but the annuals and tropicals I plant are holding it together.

  6. User avater
    treasuresmom 09/03/2020

    Oh, my, this is out of this world!!

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      Thank you!

  7. NC_Yarden 09/03/2020

    Love watching this evolution. Hard to believe it was bare just a relatively short time ago. Looks exquisite. Garden on! 🌱🌺🌲👊

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      We're getting ready to open up another garden space. Just waiting for the excavating contractor to come and take out the stumps and move some of the larger rocks. Stay tuned...

  8. User avater
    simplesue 09/03/2020

    I love your house and garden and EVERY thing you've done to it! Love the house and door colors, even the little white starfish in the window!... the setting of house and garden in the woods...oh've done such a great job and in such a short amount of time! I'm not on instagram but it allowed me to see a few photos and I will peak back to enjoy your photos! Are you on Pinterest?

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      Hi Sue-Thanks for your kind words. It's been fun transforming this property into usable space. My partner cleared the land here and had the house built in 1994. It was all woods then and there were no other houses nearby. I do have a Pinterest account but use it mostly for recipe bookmarks and inside house projects. I also occasionally post on the New England forum on Gardenweb (now Houzz).

      1. User avater
        simplesue 09/04/2020

        Oh, yeah, I post on Houzz Garden Forum too, I answer a few questions there and ask a whole lot more LOL!
        Well, even more of an amazing story knowing that you built your own house!

        1. User avater
          musabasjoosue 09/04/2020

          Ha! I wasn't part of the family when the house was initially built but it's nice to have the pictures and history for the house I call home now.

  9. Joycelaubach 09/03/2020

    I concur with all the prior comments. Your garden is just lovely and so artistic. You surely have a marvelously artistic style. Congratulations.

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      Thank you Joyce. I'm an accountant and I think the garden represents the break out of the repressed right side of my brain :).

  10. Sunshine111 09/03/2020

    An amazing amount of work with spectacular results! You go girl!😊

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      I love the process, including the work. I'm happy when others can enjoy it as well. Thank you.

  11. btucker9675 09/03/2020

    Oh my heavens - what an unbelievable job you've done! I can't believe the folks who purchased your old house didn't want that beautiful fountain, but it looks wonderful in its new home. No accounting for taste, that's for sure because I would have certainly wanted it! Kudos on a spectacular garden!

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      Thank you. I know. I was surprised when my real estate agent said the buyers didn't want the fountain. They definitely weren't gardeners. I wish I had taken more plants.

  12. cheryl_c 09/03/2020

    Such an amazing, intriguing garden! Yay for self-taught! Several things I love - the repetition of the red in your Adirondack chairs and the not one, not two, but THREE different flowers behind! Can't have too much of a good thing. Also, perhaps it was accidental, but your new front walk has exactly the same curve as the light colored trunk of a mature tree behind it - continuing the eye down the walk and up the tree! And your cleome repeating the 'firework' structure of your dried allium heads. You have a real knack and I love it. Please send more pictures soon- would love to see more of your raised patio.

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      Thank you Cheryl. I did repeat the red of the Adirondack chairs in the patio container plantings this year but the Cleomes and curve of the walkway are just happy coincidences. I worked with a landscape designer/installer on the design of both the patio and front walkway. He skillfully turned my vision for both spaces into reality.

  13. JohnsonofMillCreek 09/03/2020

    What a transformation! I think you have a great eye for planting too---love the combination of plants in the pot. Very beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      Thank you. I really enjoy playing with the container plants. The tender and tropical plants can really carry the garden right through to frost here, even when other plants give up the ghost.

  14. avongardener 09/03/2020

    What a beautiful garden and what a wonderful transformation! I live in the neighboring suburb of Avon and I know how challenging it can be to garden in Connecticut with the unpredictable weather (heat, humidity, rain, drought) and deer grazing through our gardens. You have done such a great job in spite of all these obstacles. Congratulations!

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/03/2020

      Thank you. Drought has certainly been a challenge this year! I moved to Canton from Wethersfield which is also zone 6a but some of the plants I easily grew in that garden have struggled here. Summer temperatures here are four to eight or sometimes ten degrees cooler than the surrounding valley and due to the elevation, we get some wicked wind in the winter. But we work with what we've got, right?

  15. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 09/04/2020

    Thank you for sharing your garden.
    All of your garden looks so much nicer against the beautiful backdrop of your home. I'm in love with the color and the fact all the trim and eaves are same color. Very unifying and easy on the eye.
    I noticed some window jambs are white and some doors are black. Are you leaning one way or the other on a final color for them? (the black looks great!)
    Also the hardscape walkway really adds a lot of visual appeal, as do the other elements.
    Congratulations and keep up the great work!

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 09/04/2020

      Thank you for your kind words. You caught me! We're in the process of changing all the window sash trim color to black, but since neither of us likes to paint, we only do it under duress. I was going to hire someone but we're dealing with multiple contractors now for other projects so painting is once again taking a back seat.

      1. User avater
        vanhatalosuomi 09/05/2020

        Thank you for your reply!
        I've never used contractors for garden work - only for electrical/plumbing/and major construction of our home remodel. For that, my husband usually takes the lead and I just wait to see how it all develops. Living in a different country & language barriers do present challenges at times :)

        Our eaves were ordered in black, which looks good against our red house. We chose a wood stain color, not common here, so we also get a lot of feedback about the color. I have wished the window jambs were black, but I don't think it was a color option when we ordered new windows. The older, wooden jambs could easily be painted out - not sure about the newer ones as they are metal clad.

        Neither of us use instagram, but should you ever have a free moment, you can always see our project at or through facebook via the link on our page.
        Do you have a webpage? I'd like to stay in touch :)

        1. User avater
          musabasjoosue 09/08/2020

          Hi Kate,

          I was just reading your blog post about the shed renovation. Wow! I followed your Facebook page. My blog has been very neglected as Instagram has become my social media of choice for all things garden. The address is below.


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