Garden Photo of the Day

Margherita’s Garden in Ithaca

Big pots help deal with black walnut roots

Welcome to Margherita Fabrizio’s garden in, Ithaca, New York.

dahliasHello from Central New York State, where this glorious dahlia has been blooming since about mid-August.

I have actually grown it in a large pot for 10 years. I dig it up each fall, clean it off, and package it up for the winter. Despite being in plastic and in a closet, when I take it out in late April or early May, it has shoots. How does it know to do this while sleeping in a closet?

Plectranthus argentatus QuicksilverOther standouts for me this year include the annual Plectranthus argentatus ‘Quicksilver’. I adore this plant. While it was slow to get started, once established it was fairly drought resistant and flourished.

Peacock Red kaleThe flowering kale ‘Peacock Red’ (Brassica oleracea ‘Peacock Red’, annual) has been a delight all season, even before it started turning this amazing color.

agapanthusI should also mention that the blooming of the agapanthus (Agapanthus hybrid, Zones 8–10) is probably the most anticipated event of the season, next to the dahlia. Its buds magically appear out of nowhere a day after they were absolutely not visible. And the color is remarkable!

plants by a poolI have been gardening for 12 years at this site and for 25 years before that at a much smaller property. Most of the stone walls on the property were built sometime soon after 1918 when the house was built. My husband rebuilt one soon after we bought the property. He also built the stone terraces, new paths, and brick decking around the pool, which was a formal garden until the 1960s.

container gardenThere is a very large black walnut on the adjacent property, so I am restricted in many ways about what I can grow. I also have very little that gets full sun. But I love having the large pots. As long as you feed them well, they really can perform all season.

backyard gardenWide view of the lower garden


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  1. sd99 10/16/2020

    Is your dahlia the variety ‘Breakout”? I have one that looks just like that that I love. This is the first season I have grown it.

  2. nwphillygardener 10/16/2020

    That's a garden that I'd love to experience in person! The hardscape including benches, paving and the building shown in the last high view - really help us get a feel for the home that Margherita's favorite plants get to live in.

  3. giardiniera 10/16/2020

    Good Morning! Yes, good call. It is 'Breakout.' It is so amazing. It does need good staking and I give it lots of Miracle Grow bloom booster. It starts out a bit of a yellowish pink and then gets deeper pink as the days go on. Here are some more photos that might give a better sense of the terracing, much of which the original owner/gardener in 1918 laid out. That is an old garage in the lower level which I refuse to paint so we can keep it showing how it has marked its place in time. We have a lot of stairs so fingers crossed for excellent balance into a very old age!

    1. sd99 10/17/2020

      Hi Margherita,
      Somehow I can’t get into the photos with the URL, but I’m sure they are beautiful! Thank you!

  4. Sunshine111 10/16/2020

    Margherita I loved seeing all of your photos, including the ones on Flickr! 😊 Your Garden is a labor of love! So much work! Where do you store all your pots? In the garage? Also what is your trick for your blooming agapanthus? What do you feed them and how often? I have two in pots that haven’t bloomed for a couple of years now. I’m wondering if I need to repot them or just feed them more.

  5. giardiniera 10/16/2020

    Hello there. This is so fun to connect with all you gardeners out there, especially in these COVID times. I had very few in-person visitors this year. Thank you so much for looking at all those flickr photos and for your note.
    I store some plants in their pots in the garage. The Japanese maple I have had for about 10 years, too, like the dahlia. I finally root pruned it this year and it is so much happier. That goes in there along with some hydrangea. The empty pots I store in a place we call the lathe house which is a sort of large storage space below what amounts to a second story porch. The house is on a steep hill, really on the end of the gorge here. The big pots by the pool I just leave out. It does take awhile in the spring to dig them apart to refurbish the soil bc of that cyperus King Tut. Those roots are enormous.

    First I give the agapanthus an all-round fertilizer like Jack's 20-20-20 (new favorite) in the beginning of the season each week until it really gets growing, then each week I give it Bloom Booster. I read they don't like dividing or being transplanted very much. I would just feed them regularly. A friend gave this one to me about 4 years ago. It had been returned to him from someone who said it didn't bloom. But it did bloom for me that the first year I grew it. I do bring it in and keep it in the basement so it doesn't have any danger of freezing. For 10 years we had 3 enormous brugmansia that were totally root bound. They just existed on a liquid diet completely and they just kept blooming each year with weekly fertilization. They had to be carted out the back gate and wheeled around the corner, pushed up our hill and brought into the basement. I finally found them new homes last year and it cut my watering time down hugely. Really liberating though I loved them for so many years. They were about 5'x6' but hugely demanding, especially in the cramped quarters they were in. Don't give up on your agapanthus! It is so worth the wait.

  6. User avater
    treasuresmom 10/16/2020

    Love that last pic that shows us the whole lower garden.

  7. giardiniera 10/16/2020

    Thanks so much. That's a super dry spot and not much direct sun so poses some challenges but really feels like a secret garden down there. There are a few more of that area here

  8. Rebeccazone7 10/16/2020

    Ok I'd love to borrow your husband just long enough to do some stone work. I never thought when I put in my stone path that my body ouches would say NO MORE. I have been toying with getting an agapanthus and yours has put it top of my list for next year. I also love the quicksilver. I love the color and texture. Thank you for giving my morning slump a boost. I'm so thankful I can converse with others who speak garden.

    1. giardiniera 10/16/2020

      This is SO fun! I am laughing reading your post about borrowing my husband. Yes, I am super lucky to have a partner who can build anything. He has done all our fences, a brick driveway, bricks around the pool; the stone wall he de-constructed by hand (and then dug back about 5 feet) was about 12' tall. It was leaning toward the garage when we bought the property. It was a crazy ambitious project! Yes, grow agapanthus! Seriously, when you spot the buds poking up, you will get a thrill! Just keep feeding it. I am very big on liquid nutritional supplements!!!

  9. User avater
    cynthia2020 10/16/2020

    Giardiniera - what a wonderful space! Ithaca is such a special town. I enjoyed looking at the lovely plants, garden pathways, buildings, and reading about the history of the property. Thank you for sharing!

  10. mischael 10/16/2020

    Really beautiful, and love the way you have plants multiple years - I'm guilty of the same thing. What variety of sedum is by the agapanthus?

    1. giardiniera 10/16/2020

      I lost track of that echeveria. Have had it a long time. I bring it in in the Fall and keep it in a window--it gets a bit straggly by spring and then I cut it and stick pieces back into the same pot again. At the moment it is too tightly packed. I can't even get water in there very easily.

  11. Rebeccazone7 10/16/2020

    Ok I'd love to borrow your husband just long enough to do some stone work. When I put in my stone path years ago, I never thought my body would reach a point where the ouches said NO MORE. I've been toying with getting an agapanthus and your post was the deciding's gorgeous. I also love the quicksilver. I love the color and texture. It's such a gift to be able to converse with others who speak garden. Thank you for getting me over my morning slump.

  12. Rebeccazone7 10/16/2020

    Woops posted similar post twice....My bad

  13. User avater
    simplesue 10/16/2020

    Wow! Your garden is super! You and your husband did such a professional job creating this garden.
    So often I've seen photos of pools that are barren, so how nice to see it done with imagination and good design.
    That lower garden photo looks like a magical place in some old European village- perfection!

  14. giardiniera 10/16/2020

    Thank you so much. We think everyday how lucky we are to be here. That big pool rectangle is definitely a challenging feature as is that whole bed behind it, so close to the most toxic black walnut area (I had no idea how hard juglone can be to fight with). Without a lot of pots, it can look so stark, esp without some beautiful edging material (like stone or marble!) The metal coping around it was white with a blue stripe so I painted it brown, and shockingly, the paint has stuck all these years! When we bought the property, we assumed we'd fill it in and make more garden space. We later discovered it was originally a formal garden until the pool went in there. But the previous owner and my mother-in-law convinced us to keep at cleaning that pool and get it functioning again (the house had been rented for three years and pool unused). Our season is short and it isn't heated so most people don't want to get in bc it's pretty cold, but it is luxurious, esp on super hot days - which is not to say I haven't had my frustrations with how complex water chemistry can actually be! And I do have to fish out dozens of black walnuts each year for many weeks.....It's a gorgeous tree but it very much runs the place.

  15. perennialgrdnr_z4b 10/16/2020

    Wow! Margherita thank you for sharing your lovely garden with us. It is my kind of garden, one that I'd love to visit and explore and you provided that with the deeper look into the spaces and plantings on flicker. It was almost as good as being there to experience the garden as a whole. Great job and Well done!

  16. giardiniera 10/16/2020

    Thank you. I'm so glad you got to enjoy it. During these COVID days, we have had so few visitors. It has felt very selfish having it all to ourselves! And it has also been such a welcome respite.

    1. perennialgrdnr_z4b 10/16/2020

      I love your choices of plant material, the hardscaping elements, and the change of levels and viewing angles in your garden.
      I agree, my own garden is a place of refuge, and in these times as ever, I feel blessed to have the private open space and comfort it provides daily.

  17. User avater
    bdowen 10/16/2020

    What a beautiful garden! You have done so much with your hillside with the hard scoping as well as the bushes, flowers and potted plants. Perhaps most fun is reading all these comments and feeling like we are all in your garden, sipping our iced tea and chatting about gardens.

  18. giardiniera 10/16/2020

    Thank you so much and thank you for joining in! This is so much fun! I loved one of the first comments received from Rebecca: "I'm so thankful I can converse with others who speak garden." We're so lucky we have all discovered plants! I grew up in a neighborhood of women gardeners- my Mom and all those nearest us were into plants. And my Dad was a photographer and visually attune to all beautiful living things so I think plants and gardening were imprinted on me from very early on. Of course, this was before perennials were mainstream and available. One neighbor would order seeds of new things and then distribute young plants or divisions around to the other women and all the gardens flourished. So very lucky I was that gardens were absolutely an ever-present backdrop to my childhood. They weren't large, extravagant things but nevertheless considered essential.

  19. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 10/17/2020

    Thank you for posting. I didn't know much about Ithaca, NY before your post, but pulled up a couple searches for homes built in 1918, so much diversity in style.

    It's probably not surprising that some of Finland's period mansions of wealthy industrialists share many of the same building characteristics as those across the pond. At least during that period of history. It was a real treat seeing a well-established garden & architectural tableau.

    Congratulations and best wishes on your continued gardening successes!

  20. giardiniera 10/17/2020

    Thank you so much for looking and for your best wishes. Lovely to have this 21st century technology that can so easily connect us. We live in a neighborhood that was built between ~1910 and 1918 during the time of the devastating chestnut blight and Arts & Crafts construction. All of the houses here have interior chestnut trim likely a result of trees being harvested in a sadly futile effort to stop the spread of the infection. Hopefully one day it will be possible for them to flourish once again. Happy Gardening!

  21. dadeo1 10/20/2020

    Stunning garden. O so lush !
    Photo #4 has a very tall 'Rudbeckia' (?) in the background. Do you know its name? That's something I could do here in a 9B california zone.
    Keep on ! !

    1. giardiniera 12/28/2020

      Sorry I did not see your note until now. The orange flower is tithonia (Mexican sunflower-aster family) which monarchs adore (stake it--it can get very large and thick stemmed) and the very tall yellow behind it is silphium perfoliatum--does not need staking here despite its 6-8' height--very drought resistant, too (a native aster). Happy Gardening! Here in NYS we have to wait a few more months before we start again!

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