Garden Photo of the Day

Mid-Atlantic Spring

Front yard, with the porch in view

Kevin Kelly has been challenged by Mother Nature this spring, but appears to be prevailing!

"This has been a very challenging spring in my zone 6b garden in Harrisburg, Pa. My garden is in a residential development, just under 1/2 acre. We had very warm temperatures in March, which started the season off with a bang. Since then, it has been cloudy, cool and rainy for the past 5 weeks. We had snow 4 weeks ago, and are expecting record lows (near freezing), on Sunday and Monday (of course, after I have planted most of the annuals/tropicals). Despite my longing for sun and warmer temperatures, the garden shows its resiliency and is becoming very lush. Most of the photos are within the last week, a couple from 1 month ago. Hope you enjoy."

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Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’, Hakonechloa, Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’


Brunnera macraphylla 'Looking Glass’

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’




Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’

Fothergilla gardenii

Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’

Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’

View Comments


  1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2016

    looking great as always! same weather here and it IS frustrating. cold/wet all last week and cool/wet all this week. I especially like that Little Honey, I am not familiar with that variety.

    1. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      'Little Honey' is super cool. Took me years to acquire one (well actually 3, as I took the only 3 the nursery got-right off their truck). One died, but the other two are great. They do not put on a great floral display, but the leaves are beautiful, and shine in the moonlight.

  2. diane_lasauce 05/16/2016

    Kevin, very pretty!
    38F here overnight, so no more frost to ruin more spring. Your viburnum managed to miss the last killing frost...everything there looks very lush.

  3. User avater
    user-7007816 05/16/2016

    Surprisingly, you are about in the same place growing-wise as we are in central Michigan. I see a lot of my favorite plants. Good job.

    1. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      Thanks, Dale. We started out warm in early March, but then fell into this prolonged cool spell. It kind of slowed things down. The benefit is that the spring bulbs have bloomed the longest I have ever seen them.

  4. user-4691082 05/16/2016

    Kevin, what's your secret for the brunnera? Mine came back beautifully the second year and never again??. I love that tulip, do you know the name? Your yard is just beautiful, I just want to sit on that beautiful porch and take it all in! That urn may disappear if I ever make it to Harrisburg !!! ?

    1. jeffgoodearth 05/16/2016

      Brunnera disappears for me as well

    2. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      The soil here is clay, which is death for all Brunnera and Heuchera. Over the years, I have certain beds that I have amended well with leaf compost. These areas now drain well, and the spoil is light. With our humidity in the late summer, the Brunnera does best in full shade or only dappled sunlight in the morning.

      I guess I am going to have to chain down the urn in case you get to Harrisburg?

  5. User avater
    meander_michaele 05/16/2016

    Based on your first overview photo, things look lush and thriving so it doesn't seem like the hardy plants are complaining about the temperature swings. That is such a fancy tulip you have is one of the peony types? And, what a beautiful closeup of your's a treat to see its exquisite details.

    1. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      Thanks. Yes, that is one of the peony types, but I forget the name. I have had great success from Brent and Becky's Bulbs online.

      I loved the allium photo as soon as I took it. The out of focus hosta behind it provided great color contrast.

  6. user-7007498 05/16/2016

    Thanks, Diane. I searched all my records for the viburnum. It is 8 years old, and stands about 8 ft high and 5 ft wide. It is definitely a plicatum tomentosum with strong horizontal branching. I think it might be 'Summer Snowflake' (because it is taller and more narrow).. I believe mariesii is wider.

    If anyone knows for sure, that would be great.

    We got through the cold night. Only dropped to 38. No frost.

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 05/16/2016

      Like Diane, I have 'mariesii' (and very poorly sited, I might add). It's very, very horizontal and broad as opposed to your narrowish specimen.
      Light frost at my house in Columbus, with low lying areas dropping to 30°; I actually don't have a thermometer, but running out the door this AM, looks like it didn't drop below freezing in my neighborhood. Fingers crossed...

      1. NWAgardener 05/16/2016

        Hello Kevin - your garden and plants are beautiful! I, too, am in zone 6b (NW Arkansas) and we share many of the same plants. I believe your viburnum is 'Summer Snowflake' as it looks exactly like mine. I tried to attach a picture, but it had too many MB for the application to accept it. Our spring has been warmer and sunnier than most and my Summer Snowflake peaked a few weeks ago. Interestingly, the tag says its mature dimensions should be 6-8 feet tall x 8-10 feet wide, but mine is narrower like yours. It's a wonderful plant and I am limbing up a younger one to be tree-form in different bed.

        1. user-7007498 05/16/2016

          Thanks. Plants just never read the labels. Mine keeps growing up, rather than out, which is OK by me. I have been pruning it it layers, which was hard to see on the photo. It has increased the flowers in the interior, since there is better light.
          Thanks for confirming my suspicions that it was 'Summer Snowflake'. Back in the day, I used to remember all the cultivars I had, now I am starting to resort to labels.
          The perils of aging, or possibly buying too many plants.

  7. Cenepk10 05/16/2016

    Well- no worse for wear, up there. Such a nice collection of plants/ combos. Very very nice to see !!!!

  8. User avater
    HelloFromMD 05/16/2016

    Hi neighbor! Love your front yard. You're growing so many of my favorites. Little Honey hydrangea is spectacular this year, isn't it. The color is the best ever. I used some branches in flower arrangements for my mother's 90th birthday party yesterday. Is the Japenses maple the one that is exceptional in the fall? Brillant orange?

    1. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      Thanks. Yes, 'Aconitifolium' has awesome fall color. Mixtures of reds and oranges. It is so pretty.

  9. anitaberlanga 05/16/2016

    Kevin, this is gorgeous - LOVE the viburnum! I'm in 5b (but it can shift to 5a if it's in a bad mood) and we had the same high/low swings - it made for some tough decisions but Summer is on the way!

    1. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      Anita: the last few years have been tough. 4 years ago, pockets of my area were reclassified as zone 7. Since that happened, we had 2 brutal winters that knocked out some of my zone pushing plants. What can you say about Mother Nature.

  10. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 05/16/2016

    So great to see more of your yard and great plants, Kevin. I've been ambivalent about Little Honey, which is strange because my garden is full of acid-yellow and chartreuse foliage. How doe the color change during the season? Is it vigorous? Fall color? Love your Acer japonicum. I ordered 'Vitifolium' a couple of years ago and was accidentally sent 'O Isami' and I just kept it. It got pretty frost bit. Did any of your maples get nipped this year?
    PS Due partly to your bad influence, I added Fothergilla 'Blue Shadow' and Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice' to my tiny garden this spring. Cheers.

    1. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      Thanks, Tim. 'Little Honey' holds the yellow color throughout the season, so it is a great accent plant. Does not develop any another color in the fall. Superb peeling bark for winter interest. The branches like to grow contorted, which adds additional winter interest.

      All my Japanees maples came through without a hitch.

      You will love 'Blue Shadow', but it is a very slow grower, so you will need patience. You will love 'Ruby Spice'.

  11. cheryl_c 05/16/2016

    Hi Kevin,
    Wonderful pictures! I've also been interested in Little Honey, but the nurseries here don't carry it - one told me that theirs develop black spot fairly quickly, so they can't get people to purchase them, despite the nurseryman's feeling that, in a home garden, the black spot would not be a problem. I too will be interested in your response. Thanks for all the species names! Great shots!

    1. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      Mine are both in locations with decent air flow. The plants get some black spot by August, but it actually makes the leaves look interesting. This hydrangea just doesn't flower heavy.

      1. cheryl_c 05/17/2016

        Thanks for your reply!

  12. GrannyMay 05/16/2016

    Kevin your garden looks lush and lovely in spite of your weather problems. We share many of the same plants, which shows how resilient these plants can be, as we have been unusually warm and far too dry this spring. I don't have that viburnum, nor the Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’, which are both gorgeous and giving me the "I need that" feeling!

    1. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      Thanks. That is the toughest part of this blog. I see so many awesome plants that everyone is growing, and I just want more and more.

  13. sheila_schultz 05/16/2016

    Good morning Kevin... it looks like at least your plants are happy with all of the temp swings Mother Nature is throwing at you this season, they are gorgeous! I adore the horizontal branching of your viburnum, if only I had the room, I would certainly plant one since it has been one of my drool worthy faves for years! I'm not familiar with 'Little Honey,' it has the potential of being a real showstopper, love the color.
    It's interesting that so many of us across the country are having a crazy spring... we've had a couple of big, wet snowstorms bookended with 70's! Actually, the forecast the end of last week looked stable enough in the evenings to FINALLY take out all the succulents and cacti I overwinter. As soon as they went outside, the temps dropped, so they have had to endure a few 35 degree nights. We'll see how much damage is done when we hit the 80's the end of the week! That said, my perennials have exploded in size and many are blooming like crazy! Oh well... we should be used to this by now? Garden on, my friends!

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 05/16/2016

      I think I've told you that everywhere I've lived, people say "If you don't like the weather here, wait five minutes and it will change". Denver is the only place I've lived where it's true! I hope your tender babies are all happy. I didn't even have the heart to walk through the garden this AM, although things looked fine from my windows.....

      1. sheila_schultz 05/16/2016

        Last year, as soon as the non-stop rains ended we went to summer heat and intense sun, so there was a lot of sunburning going on on the succulent leaves, this year they are acclimating at a totally different temp! You'd never know I am obsessed with watching the local weather segments on TV! Bad Plant Mama! If the gardens still look good after a few days of cold rain I'll take some photos!
        BTW, the tarps got attached to the roof line yesterday and are ready to unfurl over all the containers when the hail starts :) Ha! Dang, we know how to have fun in Denver!

    2. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      Hope your succulents make it through. We tied a record low here last night. Luckily it was breezy, so no frost. We have had rain 12 of the past 15 days of May. The plants are loving it, even though I am experiencing a sun deficiency.

      1. sheila_schultz 05/16/2016

        I'm thinking that El Nino puts so many of us in a weather roller coaster ride. Last year when Denver turned into Seattle and we had 6 weeks of everyday rain in the spring... a landscaper doing a piece on the local evening news implored everyone to be nice to gardeners since we were having a really, really hard time! She was right... we were all cranky and depressed!
        The plants loved it!!!

  14. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 05/16/2016

    Kevin, your 'Little Honey' looks like a plant that would like my garden but I don't think that I've seen it in any of our nurseries. Quercifolias are not usually the best form of hydrangeas for the PNW but my 'Ruby Slippers' is doing well in it's second year so I'm willing to try others. Love your viburnum. We just planted 'Spring Delight' and it's still pretty much an infant, but the one that you have with the almost hydrangea like flowers is what I've been searching for. They sell out quickly since they are deer resistant and that is huge here. Really enjoyed your photos this morning. Thanks.

    1. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      Linda: 'Little Honey' was very difficult to find. I had heard about it around 14 Years ago. After 7 years of no luck, one day my local nursery had 3 of them. I bought all 3. One did not survive, the other 2 are in the pictures I shared. They do not have abundant flowers, but the foliage color is so worth it.

      I love viburnums as well. I wish they weren't so large, or I could fit it more. I have the one in the pictures plus 3 viburnum nudum's (2 Winterthur's and 1 Brandywine). Great plants.

  15. GrannyCC 05/16/2016

    Everything looks wonderful despite your changeable weather. Lovely photos Kevin.

  16. schatzi 05/16/2016

    Beautiful, beautiful! Love the viburnum. and the tulip. and all of it!

  17. user-7007498 05/16/2016

    They sure are. And viburnums are such easy to care for plants. Look great year round.

  18. Meelianthus 05/16/2016

    Beautiful photos Kevin and I do love the view of your front garden area, everything seems so happy. It is so difficult when we have to work around temperamental weather, but so great when the plants pull through. It was 80 here in the PNW on Saturday and raining and 48 on Sunday. I guess it is strange all over! Beautiful Acer, is it very big? And 'Gold Heart' is one of my favorites. Would love to see more of your gardens. Thanks.

    1. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      Thanks. The weather has certainly been a challenge, but probably more for me than the plants. They seem to be loving the cool, moist spring days. We also are supposed to hit 80 this weekend. I guess this is part of what makes gardening so fun, knowing that no matter how much we try to fool ourselves, we really aren't in control.

  19. nenitafranck 05/16/2016

    That's a huge beautiful Viburnum. I had no idea they can grow huge. I have 2 that are about 8 yrs old and they are both just 3ft still. I have them close to the street and now I might have to move them again if they plan to grow as huge as yours eventually. I have been propagating them as hard wood cuttings and they are slowly growing and have even bloomed. Looks like a nice neighborhood with larger lots with nice landscaping.

    1. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      Thanks Nenita. 8 years old and only 3 feet? I would love to know what cultivar of viburnum you have. I have trouble fitting in Viburnums in my landscape because of their size. Mine is showing now signs of slowing down the growth.

  20. grannieannie1 05/16/2016

    Beautiful photos, Kevin, and what an eye-catching vase. Your combo of airy forget-me-nots waving over brunnera is delightful.

    The thing that draws me most to Viburnums are the berries which the birds love and the fragrance of the one we have, the common Spice Bush. Are other varieties fragrant?

    1. user-7007498 05/16/2016

      The only other ones I am aware are plants in the V. x burkwoodii and V. bitchiuense families. There may be more. I think the one you have, V. carlesii has the best fragrance.

      By the way, Brunnera goes by the common name, false forget-me-nots, so those are the flowers of the plant. I love the airy blue, perking up a shady nook in the spring.

      1. grannieannie1 05/17/2016

        Now that Brunnera is one clever plant! I grow Chinese forget me nots, but it still tricked me. Will have to try growing some under our Japanese maple. Thank you for the idea.

      2. cheryl_c 05/17/2016

        My brunnera sulked for years in an afternoon shade bed, but I moved it under a dogwood, and it has rebounded and is doing well - it gets no direct sun all day. I'm in zone 6a but on a south sloping limestone hillside, so I sometimes am more of 6b.
        Kevin, you may already be aware of, (Gary and Susan Ladman) in Nebraska. Not only is their website a virtual encyclopedia of viburnums, Gary was very helpful to me in choosing a smaller viburnum (Blue Blaze) that would potentially be polinated (and therefore a better fruit set) by the dentatum that I'd purchased locally. He also helped me choose a pair that would grow large enough to provide screening on the north side of our lot. What a great experience purchasing from them, and all three shrubs have done extremely well despite challenging growing conditions. Anyway, he might be a source for some smaller stature viburnums.

        1. user-7007498 05/17/2016

          Cheryl: Thanks for the link. I will check it out.
          All of my Brunnera are sited in full shade, with at most dappled morning sun. They seem to do best in beds that have been established for a while and have had plenty of organic matter added to improve fertility and drainage. Glad to hear you found a great location for yours.

  21. perenniallycrazy 05/17/2016

    Your spring garden is no less than fabulous Kevin! Keep those photos coming.

    1. user-7007498 05/17/2016

      Thanks, Cherry. Spring is so special, even with our cold, cloudy and rainy one this year. Nothing can keep me out of the garden.

  22. user-7007940 05/17/2016

    Nice garden. I love Fothergilla gardenii. I have the 'Blue Shadow' variety. I also have the Brunnera 'Jack Frost' (love this plant) and the Gold Bleeding Heart. The Little Honey Oak Leaf Hydrangea looks cool.

    1. user-7007498 05/17/2016

      Thanks for the kind remarks. I love fothergilla, because they can be tucked in a numbers of spots in the garden, and often can be used to support other perennials that are prone to flopping.

  23. greengenes 05/17/2016

    You people back there sure have had a hard winter and spring. But your gardens look wonderful. Hopefully it will get warmer soon! Thanks for sharing!

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