Garden Photo of the Day

Another Visit to Michelle’s Garden in Connecticut

The walkway from the driveway to the back patio. The bulkhead to the basement is on the right. The back door is behind that curtain of Dutchman's pipe on the top right corner of the pergola.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

It’s that time again–time to practice what I preach and share some photos of my OWN garden! My hubby Rob (rwotzak) and I have been working our behinds off this spring, getting the garden ready for visits from family and for a garden baby shower we had last weekend for some dear friends, and while it still feels very rough around the edges to me (damned weeds!), it’s in about as good a shape as it can be for early summer photos.

From the walkway, taken from a slightly different angle. You can see my cute garden shed on the far left (Rob built that for me last year, remember?). There are the containers that haven’t filled in yet! And you can see the fountain and mirror on the fence in the background. Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

Keep in mind that the containers have not filled in yet–I so admire people who cram plants in from the beginning and don’t have to wait for things to fill in, but I just can’t do it….I feel as if I’m torturing their roots! So I give every plant its space and wait patiently for them all to knit themselves together and grow up. Much more info in the captions….. Enjoy!

My containers, early stage. That big white container (“The Golfball”) is one of a pair I got at IKEA years ago–I love them! But they do swallow up an awful lot of potting soil. Empty soda bottles in the bottom help take up some of the space. This area is still looking a little rough around the edges. I need to refine it a bit–take away the blue pot, etc. Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

***SEE? I DID IT, SO NOW YOU CAN, TOO!! Dig out your camera, take a big long walk around your garden, and SEND ME PHOTOS! Thanks!!***

This area doesn’t look much different than last year. The fountain was just a bit too strong, and would splash water all over the place, so I popped a white glass lamp shade over the stream to tame it. I don’t mind it for now, but clear glass might be better. Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

***One more thing…..have you always wondered what your fellow GPODers are like in person? Never thought you’d get a chance to meet them? Check this out…. While the GPOD isn’t officially a taunton forum, it’s close enough, and I wanted to extend the invite. Anybody at all interested? I’d be willing to search for some gardens to tour…

Here is the second golfball, with my newest plant purchase–a Gunnera manicata!! I’ve wanted one of these plants for years, and finally took the plunge. For the unfamiliar, this is what it CAN look like when in the ground and happy. I don’t think it will get very far in this container, but I will fertilize and water it like crazy and see what happens! I have no idea what I will do with in the winter….. yikes! Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
The other side of the tool shed, with a painted portrait of my daughter that she and her dad made one evening after dinner. I added the heart. Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
This container DOES look filled in–simply because I never took that heuchera out of that pot last fall. I left it out (too lazy to drag that monster pot indoors) and it came back better than ever this spring. I just added a few things around it, and popped in the glass sculptures to dress it up even more. Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
Just a little vignette of plants and found items. If anyone has any idea what that rusted thing behind the sedum is, we’d love to know….. Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
This is the view of the (flooded) river in our back yard. This photo makes our property look HUGE, but in reality we only have half an acre. And part of that view is of the neighbor’s side of the lower yard. I think we bought this house for the view. We’re so, so grateful for it every single day. Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
The most exciting new addition to the garden!! Rob built this lattice, arbor, and fence from scratch this spring. It fences off the very end of our driveway and creates another usable garden room. It also gives us a bit more privacy for the back yard. We live in a busy neighborhood, and don’t know most of the peple who walk by day to day, so it’s nice to have some separation. Plus it just classes up the joint, don’tcha think? I’ve got purple hyacinth bean seedlings coming up at the base of the arbor, but would love some recommendations for perennial vines. But not wisteria…. Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
A new Magnolia ‘Ann’, planted by Rob on Father’s Day. He’s wanted a magnolia forever, and I think this one will be perfect for our very small front yard. Blooming oakleaf hydrangea in the background. What do you think–should we put black shutters on the house? Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
You can tell I haven’t had to water in a while….the Dutchman’s pipe on the pergola wandered over and took possesion of my hose! By the way–that is my favorite hose on the PLANET! It’s by WaterRight. They sent us some samples a couple of years ago, so I tried one out, and now I could never go back to a conventional hose. They are not paying me to say this….. 🙂 Here they are on amazon. Expensive, but worth every darned penny. They come in 4 snazzy colors, too. Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

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  1. user-1020932 06/18/2013

    i love it all. very personal space with family touches and a living backyard. most welcoming. the found items are fun (i have no clue what that thing is) i also like watching pots fill in during the season, the Chihulyesque glass things that i want but am too cheap to buy for myself :) and my favorite caption,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,but not wisteria

  2. user-1020932 06/18/2013

    i only now spotted the Gunnera in the white pot. i, too, took the plunge this year and it's still in a pot sitting in a washtub of standing water. the only way i can keep it wet enough. everyone tells me it's gonna die but so far so good, keep me posted on yours

  3. GardeningRocks 06/18/2013

    It's just wonderful, Michelle! I think the best gardens are the ones where you work with the existing conditions to make a personal retreat. You've done that very well! I don't know what the thing is, either. I am on a clematis kick, especially the small flowered ones. There is a nursery (Completely Clematis) in Ipswich MA that has a good selection, a good website and is near two Trustees of the Reservation properties, the Crane Estate/Beach and Long Hill if you wanted to make a weekend of it:)

  4. Luvmosaics 06/18/2013

    Michelle, I love the blue pot.don't take it away. It sets off the blue pillow in the background. In your 3rd pic, the one with the rusted thing..what is the name of the tall plant with the deep pink flower? I have some and would love to have the name. Love your yard your golf ball pots

  5. briandowns 06/18/2013

    I heareby dub your garden " Dreamweaver ".

  6. Daisy64 06/18/2013

    Michelle, I have always wanted Dutchman's Pipe over my pergola.
    Do the blossoms make a mess? I had Trumpet Vine over mine and tore it out. I cleaned up blossoms every day and the deck and chairs had a sticky substance on them at the end of the summer.
    Love your little garden shed and would love the river view. Thanks for sharing.

  7. GarPho 06/18/2013

    Clematis, Michelle! There are many lovely ones out there. Some grow to 20', some top off at about 12'. Just don't plant 'Betty Corning'. It's way too vigorous. Sweet Autumn Clematis is rather vigorous, too. I'd stay away from the overwhelming vines, such as trumpet vines, Akebia or kiwis. A climbing rose might be nice, too, but do your research before you acquire one.

  8. skipjackfarm 06/18/2013

    Love the new lattice...and of course the river view. I personally would plant kiwi vine on your new arbor. It has very pretty tiny white flowers in spring, it comes in red (Ken's) or variegated (arctic) or just plain green and your family and guests can get a refreshing snack on the way to the back patio. What's not to like ?

  9. User avater
    meander_michaele 06/18/2013

    Michelle, what a fun visual tour and engaging commentary. I know we all feel we got to take a personal stroll with you and share some smiles. You are way ahead of the game for knowing "not wisteria" on your lovely arbor and lattice fence. It would completely cover up and gobble up all the lovely details Rob included in his construction. I'd go for at least one deep purple clematis that is in pruning category 3 so you can cut it down drastically each spring in case you want to do any painting to refresh things.
    The photos on the link you included of the Gunnera manicata made me think of a movie I saw as a child...The just kept getting bigger and bigger as it took over the countryside!

  10. Miyako 06/18/2013

    Finally!!! I am so glad you did it. I visit Michelle's house very often, and asked the other day if I should take photos and submit. It's a beautiful space. Love it!

  11. bee1nine 06/18/2013

    Enjoyed the wonderfulness of your backyard retreat, Michelle!
    Like the idea of the colorful grouping of planted containers
    around the pergola leg. - and especially the little vignette
    with plants and found items.(those personal and creative
    touches can't be beat!!
    A proud hubby finally got his magnolia wish! Keeping a close
    eye on, is he?
    Black shutters?.. Why not, since it will nicely match the
    door to the far left!
    This has been fun, thanks Michelle!!

  12. dirtyhands 06/18/2013

    What, no comments regarding the shutters? Black is okay but what about a deep burgundy to add some color to that light gray? Great garden, too BTW!

  13. user-1020932 06/18/2013

    i'm with Miyako, finally! just to put you at ease since you are Michelle and the leader of the gpod pack, we ALL check every minute detail of your entire garden! :) it's all great by the way

  14. hostagal 06/18/2013

    I agree with Luvmosaics, don't take away the blue pot from your container grouping! I'd say 'add more color' to this section. I love the orange glass stake with the blue pot.
    I have the clematis, 'Blue Moon' on the white arbor my husband built me, but it is mostly in the shade, so might not work with your arbor. Fun seeing your gardens!

  15. bethnbijoux 06/18/2013

    I absolutely, positively adore your garden! I agree with tntreeman that your space is a spectacular reflection of your own personal has you, your husband and your daughter all reflected in it, and that is just part of what makes it so divine! Thank you so very much for sharing! And I concur with bee1nine on the black shutters. Go for it!

  16. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/18/2013

    Love your plants, your lot, your garden, your garden structures, but the best thing to me is the art portrait of your daughter! Awesome. Make sure it is weatherproofed so it lasts!!

  17. joycedaffodilhill 06/18/2013

    Wonderful show of a family garden, loved by all. The found item is a part of an old victorian cast iron fence. Have a few pieces spread around the garden and they are fun to include in the small vignette around the garden space. Love the pots and your groupings. The weeds you mention seem to be a common problem, with all of the rain we've had in the East, weeds are growing like "weeds". Thanks for sharing.

  18. BobPaulJohnSteveMark 06/18/2013

    Though I've enjoyed these pics many times, never registered before. Michelle, you garden is beautiful - the rusted thing looks like a part from a decorative storm or screen door.

  19. GailBW 06/18/2013

    What a wonderful peaceful place. To me the best marriage is a gardener married to a carpenter. I've been blessed with many multi weekend projects including a similar pergola. You are right not to plant wisteria - I can attest to what a mistake it is. I, too vote to keep the blue pot. I like the pop of color. And yes definitely black or maybe a charcoal gray shutter. You could also add an awning here or there to mix it up. Send some of that flood water my way.

  20. user-1020932 06/18/2013

    one more comment and i'll shut up (i'm rained out today) i'm not a "viney person" because i have to fight them so much on the job and they are high maintenance to keep in shape BUT i do use and like Honeysuckle Peaches and Cream, here they only grow 6 to 8 ft. are evergreen, flower all summer till frost, fragrant and they flower on new wood so you can cut them way back for painting or whatever you need to do. hummingbirds love 'em

  21. tractor1 06/18/2013

    Michelle, it seems you already have one window shuttered, can't imagine why other than for extreme privacy. I have those fake plastic shutters at all my windows (were there when I moved in) and I hate them, they are schmutz collectors that streak the siding when it rains and make a great home for stinging insects... I'd remove them but then what to do about all the mounting holes in the siding... I'm forever power washing them. From what I can see of your rusted chachka I'd only guess a creamation urn. Your new lattice arbor and fence is spectacular, almost too nice to cover with vines... I'd think perhaps something edible; merlitons. Your view of the river is very attractive/captivating, I'd be sitting there enjoying the water passing by so long as you kept my glass filled! LOL. But your cute garden shed is still my favorite, love it. Thank you for another peek, Michelle.

    Got stormed out in the middle of mowing yesterday, but the mallards didn't care.

  22. MichelleGervais 06/18/2013

    Tractor1--I agree with you--I'm not a fan of the vinyl shutters at all--there was a whole set of them on our house when we moved in, all the faded color of the ones still there on the closed window (there's no window on the inside. It's a mystery--The staircase to the upstairs is on the other side, but I can't imagine why they would have plastered over the window, unless they were tired of climbing up on a ladder to dust the window sill! Silly.). But if we do put on black shutters, they'll have to be vinyl again. I can't imagine spending the time or money on real ones to go over the vinyl siding. It's low on the budgetary priority list, anyway. Ah, the money-sucking joys of a 140-year-old house!

    Daisy64--Yes, the flowers do make a mess, but only for a week or two in spring. Trouble is, when they fall on the patio and get mushy, they kind of look like dead slugs....We just wait for a dry day and sweep them under the ivy for fertilizer. Done! Thanks for the warning on the trumpet vine. I actually considered it for the arbor for about 10 minutes. Crisis averted!

    GardenRocks & GarPho--I have sweet autumn clematis growing on the lattice for screening. I will probably end up with a big-flowered clematis on the arbor--meander1, great advice on getting a Class 3 variety! Tntreeman, I've had a couple of peop[le suggest honeysuckle (one of the newer varieties, of course...I grew up in VA, I know what classic honeysuckle can do!) Perhaps I can grow a clematis on one side and a honeysuckle on the other, and they can mingle up top! skipjackfarm--I love the idea of kiwi! We've been meaning to grow one for a while now (do you need 2 for fruit?) but I think I'm feeling the need for some crazy flowers here. Oh man, now we have to build another arbor somewhere else!

    And finally, GailBW, amen on the gardener/carpenter match theory!!

  23. MichelleGervais 06/18/2013

    Oh, and want to catch a glimpse of the inside of my house? It was featured on Apartment Therapy a couple of months ago! It's full of Rob's carpentry and lots of thrift store finds....

  24. ruth_d 06/18/2013

    Just beautiful, Michelle and Rob. Maybe next year, a pergola for northern kiwi?

  25. delancey 06/18/2013

    Keep the blue, Michelle; maybe add blue flowers to a few pots? We have a very plain, square-front, white, 90-year old home, and I'm thinking of black shutters to add some interest, so I vote yes (if we get 'em, as much a vinyl isn't a favourite, at this point in my life, I'm need low maintence). I love the relaxed feel of your garden; a real family lives here. Rob's arbour is beautiful; please post pictures next year of whatever climbers you choose to plant.

  26. annek 06/18/2013

    What a wonderful group of photos displaying your gardening and artistic abilities. So many charming personal touches. I loved seeing it all. (and a peek into the inside of your house reinforces that you have an eclectic and warm sense of preferred type :-)

    Do you love your dutchman's pipe? I have one that is begging for a proper trellis and after seeing yours, I'm ready to make one. The leaves are gorgeous!

    So overall, I loved the potted coleus. And the new arbor. And the view of the river. And the fountain (clever idea to use the lampshade)....OK, loved it all. (Oh and I just bought the afore-mentioned hose....thanks for the tip)

  27. GrannyMay 06/18/2013

    Wonderful garden Michelle! The perfect outdoor space for the family to enjoy.

    If you have sunshine on the lattice, I would recommend old fashioned climbing roses like New Dawn, or a temporary solution would be Scarlet Runner pole bean.

    Thanks so much for the idea of growing Gunnera in a container. I will definitely try it now.

  28. Tana40 06/18/2013

    Have not heard of the crushed soda bottles for filler for big pots. I use packing peanuts in a plastic bags which allows me to make the filler the size I wish. You also have a lovely yard!

  29. user-1020932 06/18/2013

    question. when you use soda bottles or packing peanuts do you not get ants living in there? i tried that and all i did was create an ant hotel

  30. GardenersWK 06/18/2013

    There are so many beautiful "rooms" in your garden. I love the first two pictures with the sitting area, but as much I love the ones with the water fountain, the new white pergola and the river view. It is all lovely!
    For climbers I suggest a Red climbing rose as "Blaze" that I grow or a purple clematis as "Purple Velvet" or both. I also liked the suggestion of the Honeysuckle but I suggest the variety "Goldflame" which is also not very aggressive and you have the bloom picture on the blog

  31. sheila_schultz 06/18/2013

    I can't believe how lush your gardens are so early in the season... but then you have had so much rain! Your gardens and all the tiny details tell the story of who you and Rob are, individually and as a family. Thoughtful, artistic, warm, loving and fun are just a few of qualities I see in your yard and home. I love everything about it...especially the painting Rob and Kaia created ;)
    Black shutters, yes. Vine? I have a Honeysuckle, Goldflame that I'm in love with. It blooms from early spring thru frost, and it's a hummingbird and butterfly magnet!

  32. user-7006902 06/18/2013

    Wonderful gardens Michelle! I love that you shared with us. I love Dutchman's Pipe. Mine has finally taken hold this year and will be the subject of a new painting. I love vines and I am very happy with our native honeysuckle, clematis and trumpet vines as well as Prairie Rose. I suggest you browse the selection at Brushwood Nursery (where I've purchased most of my vines). They have fantastic vines including many clematis! I am on hold for a hardy Kiwi vine and an American Ground Nut vine that really intrigues me. I love the art in your garden from found objects to the beautiful portrait of your daughter. I have always been wooed by the Gunnera! I hope it grows well for you in that fantastic container. Ditch the shutters - I am sure you can think up at least one or two creative window dressings instead!

  33. schatzi 06/18/2013

    Wonderful Michelle. Lovely view and garden. Cobalt blue is my favorite color. Try it with white-edged wine Martha Washington geraniums and blue and white fillers and trailers - gorgeous! This is one of my favorite combinations, and I usually have a row of them on my side deck in the summer. Stunning. I'm not much for vines, but I like clematis and roses - classic combin-
    ation. I vote to skip the shutters. Why spend the money when you can spend it on plants? Yes, I am a certifiable plant-aholic! I have more than I can keep up at 75, but I love it and do my best, but the weeds always seem to win. We have had lots of rain too, and growth is rampant. Enjoy your lovely garden.

  34. kuszler 06/18/2013

    Luvmosaics: the deep pink flower on the gray leaved plant is lychnis coronaria or rose campion. It's a biennial, so only blooms every other year. I took some from my old garden (originally from my mom's garden) with me to the new garden. I brought both plants (1st year) and seeds and planted last fall. So I have flowers this year and should have them again next year from the newly developing plants.

  35. Wife_Mother_Gardener 06/18/2013

    How fun to have a Gunnera! I never thought of growing one in a pot. Interested to see how it does. Shutters are nice. :) And what a view!!!!!

  36. southdown 06/18/2013

    Michelle - gorgeous yard. Don't give up on Wisteria too quickly. I have Wisteria frutescens 'Amethyst Falls'(lavender) and Wisteria macrostachya 'Clara Mack'(white) on the front porch. They are both native, fairly restrained (only 10-12') and absolutely gorgeous. We stop traffic in the spring! Just started Clematis on trellis in front of the garage. Hope they are as beautiful.

  37. terieLR 06/18/2013

    Yay! I placed heuchera in containers this year (trying to cut down on annual $$$)and will see if they winter over like yours. The combinations look great Michelle and I really like the jazzy glass implemented throughout your gardens.

    Rob's newest contribution is perfect in every way.(NICE Rob!) I think you will be happy with the hyacinth bean. Take your time deciding on it's replacement. Your daughter did a great job on her portrait. Perfect placement.

    Shutters would be nice but you have to consider the front windows being very close. It may not work well.

    Thank you for 'walking the talk' and taking the time to detail all this newsy information for us to ponder. You have a beautiful backyard retreat. I'm sure the baby shower was lovely!

    PS Oh, I really like how you chose to tame your fountain. Classy! Clear would be great too.

  38. User avater
    meander_michaele 06/18/2013

    Loved the feature on your literal under the roof about making a house a home. Everything is so charming and personal. The picture of your daughter at the corner writing area is that will stand the test of time and bring a smile when you are old and gray....heck, when even she is old and gray! Goodness, what will the world be like by then, I wonder?

  39. cwheat000 06/18/2013

    Michelle, your yard looks fabulous. I love all the new details. I vote yes on the shutters. I have that exact hose in that exact color in my shopping cart. Thanks for the positive review, as I was debating getting it. I like that they are USA made and a smaller diameter so they are lighter. How is it with kinking? It looks like your Rozanne geranium is filling out really nicely. What is the really large leaf plant to the right of the golfball ( love it!) in the first picture -ornamental rhubarb? I think the portrait of your daughter is really special, also. Thanks for letting us be nosy. I will check out the inside of your place later. P.s.-Rob is awesome.

  40. cwheat000 06/18/2013

    Correction- what is the plant to the LEFT of the golfball? Shame on me, I should know my rights from lefts, I was in the military. I will drop and do 20 push ups now.

  41. MichelleGervais 06/18/2013

    Annek--I LOVE the Dutchman's pipe!! It's probably my absolute favorite plant in my garden, and you know how hard it is to choose just one...

    tntreeman--I leave the caps on the bottles, and I don't crush them. They're like big rigid bubbles at the bottom of the pot.

    cwheat000--My hose has never kinked. Seriously, I can't find one fault with it. That said, I hope it's just as good for you! Let me know what you think of it. And you need to come visit my garden in person--you're just down the road!

    Thanks for all the positive comments, everyone!! This has been fun!

  42. rwotzak 06/19/2013

    I second Michelle's remark about the best hose on the planet. I'm the one who has to repair and store our hoses--the WaterRight hose has saved so many headaches.

    My favorite plant is the Dutchman's pipe, too, but I can't wait to see what the Gunnera does! If it outgrows that pot, I'm seriously considering doing what they do at Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, NY -- they cut their Gunnera to the ground every year and wrap the base of the plant in a combo of insulation, straw, and an enormous plywood box to keep it alive through the snowy winters.

    I do know what the odd rusted object behind the sedum is--it's a tool for removing heavy-duty truck wheel hubs. The iron grapevine in front of the sedum is indeed part of a fence.

    I'm liking dirtyhands' suggestion to get more-colorful shutters (if we ever add any). Tractor1, the closed up shutter (with what I'm told is a complete original window under it--though I've never actually checked) was strictly for aesthetic balance, even though there was no need for a window there.

    I'm all for planting kiwi vines on the lattice. If I could put nothing but edibles in our backyard I would...but I'm glad Michelle tempers that urge with her selection of ornamental plants. :) Michelle, we do have room for another structure behind the big shed (where Kaia's playhouse door will be), so you could have more room for vines someday if you have a tough time choosing just one for the arbor!

    And, cwheat000, Michelle is right--we DO need to have you over to the garden one day soon!

    This garden truly is a personal retreat for us (and for our great neighbors and friends). I believe that the best vacation spots are the ones you can come home to every day.

    Thanks, everyone, for all of the wonderful compliments! This garden is a labor of love, and we built it as much for our guests as we did for ourselves. I'm glad we could share a little bit of it with all of you!

  43. greenthumblonde 06/19/2013

    Oh my gosh I've been so busy I almost missed your garden Michelle. It's awesome. I love your style and your details and I appreciate adding such great notes and your thinking behind your decisions. I'm going to do some shooting and try to contribute too. If you can do it, so can I. Nice work!

  44. pattyspencer 06/19/2013

    Almost missed this - been very busy today and just now getting some computer time. Lovely garden - I can just imagine having my morning coffee out in it. I like your house without shutters.

  45. BethinIowa 06/19/2013

    Michelle, your garden retreat is a beautiful place, so inviting and very personal. Wow, Rob is a pro. The lattice and arbor/gateway are a gorgeous addition to your yard. These photos remind me of the wonderful yards and gardens I remember from childhood that were at my aunt's and grandmother's homes. Thank you so much for sharing your special place with us!

  46. BethinIowa 06/19/2013

    Michelle, your garden retreat is a beautiful place, so inviting and very personal. Wow, Rob is a pro. The lattice and arbor/gateway are a gorgeous addition to your yard. These photos remind me of the wonderful yards and gardens I remember from childhood that were at my aunt's and grandmother's homes. Thank you so much for sharing your special place with us!

  47. Nurserynotnordstroms 06/19/2013

    I too almost missed this. It has been a very busy day but I thought I would look a at few emails real quick. I am so glad I did. I love your gardens. The white pots I have not seen anywhere else. They remind me of milk glass. I am so glad you gave us another look at your fantastic gardens. You can tell you have been hard at work and its beautiful. I would love to see it in the fall or winter also.

  48. TeriCA 06/19/2013

    Thank you for sharing your garden with us, it is so nice and inviting. I also truly admire the wonderful job your hubby did on the arbor, lattice, and fence. I love the Clematis idea for growing over your arbor, and I also have one other suggestion, but I'm not sure it will grow in your zone. (This grows in Sunset Zone 4-24.) I'm putting in a Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium). Evergreen,needs full sun to part shade, and the 1 1/2 inch long yellow flowers will bloom in late winter and early Spring. They are supposed to be very fragrant....the one drawback I see with this plant is that the whole plant is poisonous.....but who comes along and munches down on your flowers and vines? Best of luck in choosing whatever will grow around your beautiful arbor.

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