Garden Photo of the Day

A Visit to Michelle’s Garden in Connecticut

My garden! --I figure I beg you for photos of YOUR gardens, so I should have the guts to show you MY garden... Check it out HERE.

I know I pester you guys an awful lot to send in photos of your gardens, so I figure it’s only fair that I show you mine, no matter how scared I might be to do it! So, here we go… Keep in mind that I am a garden EDITOR, not a garden DESIGNER, and that my garden is small and cozy, and could be generously described as “shabby chic”. It’s a serious work in progress, but it makes me happy. I give more info about each photo in the captions.

OK, have at it, but be kind…..  😀  (Oh, and I used my home camera, which seems to be having some issues…forgive!)

A wider view of the pergola/patio, with some containers that are taking their sweet time filling in…I’ll post updates on those later in the season.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

<<<>>> Thanks to everyone who sent in photos last week. The three winners, chosen randomly, are Ellen Garvey, Carol Thompson, and Julie Brocklehurst-Woods. Congrats!

Each of the posts closest to the house is cloaked in Dutchman’s pipe vine (Aristolochia macrophylla, USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8). This vine knocks my socks off. It takes partial shade and produces oodles and oodles of massive, heart-shaped leaves that cast incredible shade. In spring, tiny little peculiar flowers appear amongst the leaves. The only downside is that when the flowers start to fall, they resemble dead slugs scattered on the stones. Yuck! Totally worth it, though.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
As you can see in the previous photo and in this one, our back stoop is an old concrete pad. Our next big project is to replace it with a small mahogany deck. We’ve already got the wood, just need to find the oh-so-scarce time. In the meantime, this is the shadiest spot on the patio, so all of my houseplants tend to get clustered here, as well as some shade-loving annuals.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
This is our new fountain. I’ve had a fountain in this spot for a few years, but we upgraded to a new pot this spring. I love how the sound of the water masks noises from the street, since we live in town. It’s psychologically cooling, too. Just behind the fountain is the golden Japanese forest grass, ‘Guacamole’ hostas (my favorite!), yellow waxbells (Kirengeshoma palmata, Zones 5-8), and a small clumping bamboo.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
My husband rocks. He built me this little garden shed last spring, so I have somewhere to store all of my gardening tools, away from his jumble of stuff in the bigger shed. I placed it in the middle of my perennial border to be a focal point and to give me more corners to work with. It’s made out of mostly reclaimed materials, including 150-year-old barn wood siding, a really old window, and an old door we found in the attic of our 1871 house. I’ve been told one too many times that my shed looks like an outhouse. Grrr!
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
A wider view of my border and shed, with my newest planting bed in the foreground. This area used to be  for veggies, but I’ve decided that I’m a miserable failure at growing veggies, so I rethought the whole thing. I think I’ve stuffed a bit too much in here, but I’ll just see what does best and do some editing next spring.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
A close-in shot of some plants in the new bed, including Geranium ‘Rozanne’, common sage in bloom, purple perilla, a dark sedum, cosmos, and Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus, Zones 9-11).
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
A close-in shot of some plants in the new bed, including a variegated miscanthus, Salvia coccinea, a euphorbia, and a dark-leaved heuchera.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
A Black Lace sambucus (Sambucuus nigra ‘Eva’, Zones 4-7) and a miscanthus in front of the barn.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
My little shade garden under the huge Japanese maple in the back yard–this planting is a little past its Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

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View Comments


  1. Sylvestris 06/12/2012

    What a beautiful little garden shed! And how clever of you to place it in a border; instant height, color and a focal point. An idea I will be stealing... Also wonderful for a couple of clematis. Can't have too many of them!

  2. JuleMG 06/12/2012

    It's beautiful, Michelle. Clearly a labor of love. I will come and sit on your patio anytime! Those garden designers like those swaths of plants, but I love a nice variety of plants so I can see how they all grow.

  3. Steepdrive 06/12/2012

    Michelle, I love your reuse of old objects in new ways. Also my favorite spot would be on that patio with a good book enjoying the scene around me. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  4. user-258617 06/12/2012

    I would love to sit on your patio, sipping coffee, reading and and listening to the birds. What a wonderful garden for children to pretend in!

    Marilyn S

  5. tractor1 06/12/2012

    Michelle, with your schedual how do you find time to garden too? You have quite a variety of plants to tend and I love that massively built pergola. Your little garden shed doesn't look like an outhouse to me, when did anyone ever see an outhouse with a window... btw, that shed can use a window box planter. And for your friends that say it looks like an outhouse hang a little sign on the door that says "Occupied" on one side and "Vacant" on the other. I really like the relaxed look of your garden, thank you, Michelle.

    (newly planted "Fat Albert" Colorado blue spruce... I need to plant things deer don't eat)

  6. Daisy64 06/12/2012

    Loved your patio and pergola. What vine do have growing up it? My pergola is in the sun and trumpet vine did great but the flowers left a sticky residue on the deck and furniture. Any ideas for a sunny pergola?

  7. User avater
    meander_michaele 06/12/2012

    Well, Michelle, breathe a sigh of relief and hold your head high, your photos show you are NOT a case of the cobbler having no shoes...the garden picture editor has a beautiful and charming garden! I totally agree with Sylvestris on how well it works to have the shed as a focal point in your perennial border. I love its proportions and soft subdued colors (it's too classy to give off an authentic outhouse vibe). Please pass along kudos to your husband for his fine's such a blessing to have a talented partner in crime when it comes to garden hardscape projects.

  8. Deanneart 06/12/2012

    Looking great Michelle! Love, love, love your little shed. The patio is a wonderful outdoor space. I'm sure lots of great times are had there.

  9. bethnbijoux 06/12/2012

    Oooh, Michelle...I just love your garden! It is so inviting! You are a gal after my own heart...using all those wonderful "upcycled" items!! I especially like the shot of the starfish with the gazing ball.

  10. pattyspencer 06/12/2012

    It's just beautiful Michelle! Worthy of being highlighted and on the cover of your magazine. Love your fountain and your garden shed (and I didn't think outhouse when I first saw it - my eye was drawn to the door - very cool)

  11. pattyspencer 06/12/2012

    Tractor1 - for Sally's photos the slide show is under the photo link

  12. plantlady57 06/12/2012

    How beautiful Michelle. Love the garden shed and it does not look like an outhouse. Thanks so much for sharing.

  13. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/12/2012

    Wonderful, Michelle! Thanks for stepping up to the plate! Love the cool, inviting patio and arbor. Great fountain. I see many of my plant-friends in your garden, too. I am dying to see a picture of as much of the japanese maple that can be photographed. It really does look massive! Kudos!

  14. sumhillgardener 06/12/2012

    What fun it is to see your garden ! I've always wanted to place a mirror and yours is ideal, on the patio, with the lovely fountain. I love the new, shady border plants with a view of the charming shed !!! I'm trying to grow verbena bonariensis which I see in that bed --- so lovely in England. Thanks ! Sally

  15. bsavage 06/12/2012

    Michelle, your gardens are lovely! I really love the mirror, and I personally like borders and beds that are very full. You are in Connecticut, what zone are you? I'm wondering how the Dutchman's Pipe vine (which I also love) makes it through your winter. Anyway, beautiful, and thanks for sharing!

  16. EyeLean 06/12/2012

    Wonderful garden! Thanks for screwing up your courage and posting it! I always love seeing how 'real' people garden instead of plucked, groomed and primped-by-professionals garden photos...easier to imagine myself doing the same in my OWN garden. Speaking of which..does your hubbie hire out for shed building? LOL That garden shed is super cute and perfect for that spot. And OUTHOUSE?! Please...farthest thing from it people!

  17. sheilaschultz 06/12/2012

    Love your gardens, Michelle. You clearly are having fun making it distinctly yours. All the textures and colors of the plantings, plus your special touches make it the perfect setting for a bit of relaxation... if you ever have the time!

  18. oldsquaw 06/12/2012

    Michelle, thank you for sharing. It's definite now, I must have a mirror in my shade garden. Any chance you can lend your handy husband for a weekend? I like your shed too.

    What did we do before Rozanne showed up. It bushes, it winds,and it goes forever.

  19. oldsquaw 06/12/2012

    PS I forgot to mention how great the bold colors look under your pergola. It puts me in mind of the brilliance of flower colors when they're not competing with the sun.

    And a question...How do I attach a picture to my comment. Does that require a web page?

  20. tractor1 06/12/2012

    pattyspenser; I see no button for a slideshow... I'm thinking perhaps I'd need to sign in and I really don't want to create yet another account just to see a few photos.

    I'd like to suggest again, that anyone who takes garden photos, especially to post on the net, really should be using a tripod... and be aware of lighting, natural and artificial... keep all stronger lighting behind you. And the best landscape compositions include some sky, idealy about 1/3 above the horizon, I know that can be difficult but if need be lie on the ground to focus, a small tripod will prove invaluable. And unless you're a professional photographer put your digicam back to factory settings and take all shots in Auto. Fuzzy photos make me nuts, and are totally unnecessary.

  21. wittyone 06/12/2012

    I love the grouping of the fountain, guacamole hosta and the yellow waxbells.

    You do realize that you will have to give that yellow wax bell quite a bit more room to grow at some point? Mine is about 6 feet across and 5 feet tall. That's after 12 years of growing so you've got a few years yet to work with. Mine is planted next to a Blue Billows Hydrangea which is billowing away and causing some crowding. Even when looking at information about size at maturity, spacing is hard when you're looking at a large area to be covered and putting in fairly small plants

    The shape of the leaves and the general shape of the plant is really nice. Also you don't see it too often (at least not around this area). It's nice to have something that is somewhat out of the ordinary so you can feel knowledgeable when someone asks you what that plant is and where did you get it.

  22. MichelleGervais 06/12/2012

    Thanks for all of the wonderful comments, everyone!! I was nervous....
    Believe it or not, my hubby DOES hire out! He was a general contractor and finish carpenter before signing on as the web producer for Fine Homebuilding magazine just down the hall, and he still likes to get his hands dirty once in a while. But, unfortunately, he can only do local stuff, what with his busy schedule and a 6-year-old kid to help me raise...and a 140-year-old house to keep ahead of, which is a full-time job in itself...
    Tractor1, I knew you were going to call me on my photos! I didn't have my tripod on me that day, and my home camera needs a checkup, but I haven't found the time or $$$ to send it out to Canon. I'm sorry!!
    Daisy64--Dutchman's pipe vine will grow in full sun! Try it, you'll love it.
    Vojt--I will have to give the Japanese maple a couple of years to recover before it's photo-worthy again. It lost at least 30% of its major branches in the Halloween blizzard of '11. It was heartbreaking.
    SumHillGardener--I have to buy Verbena bonariensis every spring, even though everyone I talk to says it reseeds like crazy. Not in my garden...I wish!
    bsavage--I'm in Zone 6, in the northwestern corner of Connecticut near the New York border.
    wittyone--I'm just glad that yellow waxbells is growing at all! I put it in 3 or 4 years ago, when everything else around it was small, and it's been floundering until this year. I'd basically written it off. I will need to decide if I want to risk moving it now that it's happy, because the 'Guacamole' hosta HAS to stay--it's dreamy.
    oldsquaw--the photos that Tractor1 posts in his comments are actually profile pics that he changes out once in a while. Go to your profile page and upload a new profile pic from your computer.

  23. pattyspencer 06/12/2012

    Tractor1 - I didn't have to do anything to start the slide show. I clicked on the photo tab and it took me there and the slide show started. Maybe you need to change your browser? I just used my AOL but I know on some sites I need to switch to IE or Firefox. Hope you can get it working

  24. olympic_mtn_gardener 06/12/2012

    Hard to choose a favorite . . . garden shed, pergola, or fountain, mirror and gorgeous surrounding plants? Hmm. All fabulous!

    I love the psychologically soothing fountain and plantings this time of year, but I'm thinking the garden shed would be a fun focal point even in the winter, especially with holiday lights.

    I'm intrigued by the idea of a garden mirror, but I've always wondered whether they survive the elements, or do they have to be stored inside for the winter?

    I agree with EyeLean--I also love seeing how 'real' people garden. And 'real' people photography. Perfect gardens and perfect photography can be found in the Fine Gardening Magazine. It would be great if people could share their work-in-progress gardens here without feeling nervous!

    oldsquaw--I also found it hard to figure out how to update one's profile picture. Sign in, then look at the "Fine Gardening" banner across the top of the page. In small print it says "Welcome . . ." and to the right is a link for "Update Account". From there you can upload a photo.

  25. tractor1 06/12/2012

    Michelle, my photography comment was actually meant for everyone's benefit but in particular I was addressing/answering pattyspensor regarding Sally's contribution as we were discussing my inability to access the photos at her web site... and I did mention yesterday that Sally's gardening was superb but not so her photography. I think a lot of hard work and effort is lost when photos of gardens are not nearly as good as they can be, especially sice gardens are dynamic, they are constantly in flux, so when a photo is lost it's lost forever Actually your photo work is pretty good considering you're working in heavy shade, and I appreciate the minimal antique effect you achieved whether puposely or by accident with those sepia overtones... in keeping with your This Olde Circa House. Even in sunny gardens, especially in sunny gardens, one should plan their day of photo taking around where the sun will strike their various compositions, it's not a good idea to take all the photos within the same short space of time just because that's when one is out with their camera... take some in the morning, some around noon, and others later in afternoon, and often over several days due to climatic conditions and peak plant development. I'm sorry if you thought I was critiquing your photography, I wasn't. Also Canon will walk you through putting your camera back to the factory default settings over the phone, and help you resolve any other issues, for free. And at the Canon web site one can sign up to receive their photography newsletters, they are very informative.

    It's raining again, I can't mow, I'll soon be haying.

  26. MichelleGervais 06/12/2012

    No sweat, Tractor1! No matter how many years I photograph gardens, I still feel like a novice, but there are lots of simple tricks that can improve your garden photos. In fact... (shameless FG plug) check out this article on simple ways to improve garden photos!

  27. Wife_Mother_Gardener 06/12/2012

    I love the mirror with the think frame. And the beautiful back-lighting in your photos with your shed. Wonderful backyard resting spot with some great plantings too!

  28. MichelleGervais 06/12/2012

    One thing I forgot to mention--that creature-looking bird house on the pergola post by the fountain in the first shot is a bird gargler. It was a house-warming gift from my Aunt and Uncle, and we love how weird and wacky it is! No birds have ever nested in it though. :-( Here is the artist's website:

  29. User avater
    meander_michaele 06/12/2012

    Thanks for passing along the name of the artist who did the bird gargler. I just went to his website and he certainly is bountifully blessed in imagination and creativity. Your relatives were very thoughtful to give you something so unique and interesting. I think I'll tuck his name away until closer to Christmas when my husband is wondering what the heck to get me. I'm always happy to receive a fun gardening surprise.

  30. Liberty1889 06/12/2012

    Michelle--Your garden is lovely! One little thing--I like to use my favorite Fine Gardening photos as backgrounds on my computer screen, changing them frequently. Photos that are taken horizontally, rather than vertically, work much better for this purpose. So I am always happier when a gardener's photos include some horizontal views. I love Fine Gardening magazine and all your gardeners' photos.

  31. Beazel 06/12/2012

    Don't know why you're apologizing for a lovely space, Michelle. All gardens are works in progress. You've made attractive plant combinations, and they appear to be very happy in your care. You and your husband can be proud of your horticultural and architectural achievements.

    I envy you the variety of garden structures that accent or backdrop your plantings. (A window and planter box on the garden shed might reduce the number of "privy" comments.)

  32. tractor1 06/12/2012

    Bookshelves-R-Us; A window box was what I was thinking to dissuade the privy comments, I'd add curtains too. And if it's too shady there then plant plastic flowers and they won't need to be remembered to water. I might instead put a bookshelve, maybe an entire book case... a place to display little garden whimseys... one of my hobbies is collecting bronze and brass bookends, I find interesting examples at local estate auctions, I often attend, a wonderfully entertaining way to spend a winter evening even if I don't bid on anything.

  33. Formandfoliage 06/13/2012

    Michelle it is great to see your garden and the outdoor living space is inviting and comfortable. The hardscape and structures are lovely and we bet that you just love spending time outdoors. That's what gardens are for! Lovely!

  34. cwheat000 06/13/2012

    michelle, I would have checked the gpod earlier in the day if I knew it was you. I know how scary laying your garden out for all to see can be, now that I have too. No need to worry. So many wonderful touches. My favorite is the fountain area. I was thinking of doing something similar with a large royal blue ceramic pot my mom bought me. Yours is done to perfection with the surrounding stone and plantings. What a wonderful way to add a water feature without a contrived pond that doesn't look real or spending a zillion to make it look real. You do have a designer's eye when it comes to garden ornamentation, color and hardscapes. I also love the simple combo of the ornamental grass and elderberry next to your great barn. I need to remember less is more. I have a tendency to want ever new plant I see. Thanks so o much for sharing.

  35. cwheat000 06/13/2012

    i see you have the purple perilla too.

  36. perenniallycrazy 06/13/2012

    What a lovely and charming garden Michelle - definitely with personality and soul! Love your plant combinations. Thank you for sharing.

  37. annek 06/13/2012

    I love your cool and serene patio. You and your husband work as a great landscaping team and your photos are visual proof. And you should feel no humility about your design abilities. Very lusciously pleasing to the eye. So fun to see a part of your gardening life. Thanks for the bravery it took to show the world (and your GPOD FRIENDS) your garden reveal!! SIMPLY GORGEOUS

  38. terieLR 06/14/2012

    WoW Michelle, so many great elements to draw from! I love the fountain, mirror, plant color combos and that door on your garden shed. My first thought was to brighten the window frame with a soft white and add a window box. (miniture host would work for a season, then plant?) The composition of the picture with the swing is delightful... I'd have that one in a frame. Thanks for letting us get personal with your spaces.

  39. terieLR 06/14/2012

    whoops, host = hosta ;)

  40. crazeknot 07/03/2012

    What a great garden!!! Just love the framed mirror. At my daughter's house, I thought we could make a great looking outside garden too. We have some allot of things we could reuse.Already there's a inside covered patio, but like to extend it too a outside garden. My daughter's husband like too BBQ allot in the summer. With a outside garden,for a place too grill & relax. Thanks, for some new ideas Michelle!!! Peace-Out

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