Garden Photo of the Day

More from Betsy’s townhouse garden in New York

This is the view from my back door. The shrub with the yellowing leaves is Cornus 'Winter Flame.' The winter twigs are red shading to yellow at the tips like a candle flame. The orange-leaved shrub is Rhododendron vaseyi 'White Find.' The rounded evergreen in center is Pinus strobus 'Nana.' Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Betsy Thompson

Today we’re revisiting a garden from one of my favorite posts. We first featured Betsy Thompson’s garden back in June of 2012 (refresh your memory HERE).

A recirculating waterfall was installed several years ago on the slope facing a patio near the back of the garden. (Apologies for the Ironweed stems here and other plants not yet dead headed.) The steps lead between two highbush blueberries to a shaded garden at the back. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Betsy Thompson

If you’ll recall, she lives in a townhouse outside Albany, New York, and in order to garden in her back yard, she hauls everything through her house. THROUGH HER HOUSE! Mulch, plants, amendments…whew! Anyway, the last time we saw her garden it was in spring. Today we’re seeing it in fall. (Betsy sent me these photos a while ago….better late than never, right?? Sorry, Betsy….)

View from the back towards the house. At left is Heptacodium miconioides; largest tree shown here is Cornus kousa. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Betsy Thompson

Betsy says that she took these photos on October 1st, and reminds us that her garden has no lawn and is just 22 feet wide and 100 feet deep. You’ll find much more info in the captions. Enjoy! And thanks so much again, Betsy, for sharing your garden with us!

In the foreground is Cornus ‘Wolf Eyes,’ Eupatorium ‘Chocolate,’ peonies, and Magnolia stellata. The lawn and glider are in my neighbor’s back yard. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Betsy Thompson
I added another row of rocks to this path this summer, reducing the size of the island to make it more manageable. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Betsy Thompson
Aster ‘Raspberry Tart’ offers a splash of color in front of the shade garden. Tree at right is a black oak I planted about 20 years ago. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Betsy Thompson
I love pagoda dogwoods! Cornus alternifolia is at left and the cultivar ‘Golden Shadows’ at right. (I am nursing along the delicate C. alternifolia ‘Argentea’ in another part of the garden.) The dahlia is ‘Fascination.’ Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Betsy Thompson
Visitors love this black-leaved pink dahlia, but I don’t know the name. Anyone? Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Betsy Thompson
Clematis ‘Bill MacKensie’ has proven to be vigorous! The plant is just 19 months in the garden, perhaps a precautionary tale. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Betsy Thompson
Duranta and purple shamrock add all-season color to a drivestrip. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Betsy Thompson

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View Comments


  1. PeonyFan 02/20/2013

    Wow! This is so impressive; it looks much larger than the dimensions indicated. Thanks for the photos and especially for the plant names. I love pagoda dogwood, too.

  2. user-1020932 02/20/2013

    i want to live here. one of my favorites too and apologizing for an ironweed stem? only someone who loves their garden would say that. it's all just perfect

  3. user-1020932 02/20/2013

    i just re read the intro and saw that she must take everything through her house i'm doubly amazed now

  4. user-95394 02/20/2013

    Ms Thompson, I believe the black leaf dahlia is called Juliet, part of the happy single variety.

  5. wGardens 02/20/2013

    Wonderful! Thanks for sharing- you have done amazing things with such a small area. I love, especially, the stonework in the first photo, the fabulous "Moon Shadows" Kousa and that awesome pink Dahlia! A wonderful back yard. Congratulations!

  6. user-1020932 02/20/2013

    just another thing i appreciate about this site. beautiful gardens AND if you don't know what a plant is someone out there will . happily_gardening has identified several cacti for me that i had never known what they were. still enjoying these photos and i am liking those plant markers

  7. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/20/2013

    There has to be some kind of award we bestow upon you, Betsy, for the beautiful results and the heroic efforts it has taken to achieve them. I remember vividly your previous sharing and the amazement I felt at the physical dimensions of your yard and yet, the seemingly endless garden your pictures showed. Your water feature looks convincingly like something I would see in a hike in the Smoky's just lovely.I'm quite taken with the yellow blooms of your clematis 'Bill MacKensie'. Your have to keep us apprised in the years to come whether or not he is over vigorous..he certainly looks glorious for the time being.

  8. bee1nine 02/20/2013

    Admiring all your laborious work for creating such a paradise
    of loveliness! Love those dahlias too!!
    Thank you for the photos, Betsy!

  9. user-1020932 02/20/2013

    i agree meander1 this is an award winning garden by anyones standards. i am enlarging each photo, zooming in and examining each one closely. i have used Duranta for its color and heat tolerance AND it's not tasty to deer it does have thorns and i have the puncture wounds to prove it

  10. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 02/20/2013

    OK. I am just plain jealous. Wonderful garden!

  11. user-1020932 02/20/2013

    me too, Vojt, jealous, envious and i covet this garden. i think there is a warning about this but i can't not feel these things. i'm just amazed

  12. mainer59 02/20/2013

    An amazing thing about a well planned garden, like yours, is that it looks full and lush in several seasons. When it seems a garden is gorgeous and there will be nothing to see in a month or so, a new cast of plants emerge to take the place of fading members. I loved looking back and forth between your 2 posts. The top picture in this post is especially fun because you took a picture from the same vantage point in the spring collection. Thank you for sharing another season with us.

  13. GarPho 02/20/2013

    I have been sick with some infection my doctor has been unable to identify for several weeks. Your comments have done so much to raise my spirits and get me excited about posting again, perhaps in another season. Thank you so much! And thanks especially to the member who identified my dahlia as 'Juliet'. What a lovely name for a lovely flower!

  14. bee1nine 02/20/2013

    To meander1,to answer back from the night before:
    I thank you for replying back to let me know the town you
    lived in. Yes, I'm familiar with Hopkinton, MA. Also admire
    anyone who can up all their belongings to move and start
    Would you believe I live in (Hyannis) on Cape Cod? A TRUE
    native, born and raised here with descendants dating back to
    the Mayflower. This little peninsular I call home, is known
    for our GREAT blue hydrandeas. I think the salty air and
    'sand in my shoes' will always keep me here!

  15. user-7006902 02/20/2013

    Love your garden - I can't imagine rolling all that stone through your house! Worth it. I aspire to remove ALL of my lawn - you are THE inspiration. I have been mulling over the Pagoda Golden Shadows but now I am SOLD. I have another Pagoda, young, but doing well. I love Dogwoods and so do the birds. All look so perfectly at home in your garden.

  16. MIOK 02/20/2013

    Absolutely love this garden! It draws one in to explore along the path and be delightfully surprised at every turn. The natural looking waterfall looks like it was exquisitely designed by Mother Nature. Thank you so much for sharing your bit of paradise!

  17. JTitus 02/20/2013

    I love your garden. I am still trying to get dogwoods to survive in my yard. I have only been gardening for about 7 years so I am still learning. I plant and some live and some don't. I can't afford a landscaper or large established plants so I plant small ones. Since it will take a long time to fill in, I am on a 5+ year plan when it comes to gardening. I plan to plant coleous this year to help fill in until they get bigger. I read a lot about gardening and my research shows that the pink daliah in your garden is called Wishes and Dreams.

  18. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/20/2013

    GarPho, so sorry that a winter crud has descended upon you and taken up unwelcome residence. Such an affliction can be so wearying literally and gets sick and tired of being sick and tired. Hopefully, you will look back on this stretch of time and be happy you weren't feeling well now instead of when spring starts knocking on the door.

    bee1nine, I made a few treks over to Cape Cod (not frequently enough as I think back on it)and was so taken with the charm (in spite of the traffic)and natural beauty of the area. It has to be quite a visual treat throughout the summer to see the mounds of blue hydrangeas in all their glory. I grew up in a seashore town (Ocean City, NJ) and the yearly hydrangea festival was always a highlight.

  19. tractor1 02/20/2013

    Just gorgeous! I well remember Betsy's last contribution (one of the few truly impressive contributions) and this is as memorable. Betsy's landscaping skills put any professional's to shame. And her photographic ability rivals the pros, every picture sharp and each composition a carefully thought out work of art (no easy feat in all that shade), it's very evident that Betsy takes as much pride in her photos as her garden. I like dogwoods, I've planted them previously but haven't planted any here because they are susceptible to several diseases and are not very long lived anyway, fifty years if fortunate but thirty years is more the norm before large branches begin dying and need lopping. Instead for small understory trees I prefer redbud forest pansy, and paperbark maple (Acer griseum) does very well in mottled light. Thank you, Betsy, and get well soon!

  20. greenthumblonde 02/20/2013

    GarPho, just beautiful! Your garden is getting me in the mood for planting. I hope you are up and healthy soon. I did what tntreenman suggested and went back and forth from your spring garden to the fall garden. So fun. I know you have to go through your house with everything, so I was wondering what you do with your blue ceramic pots in the winter? Cover them? Empty the dirt? Turn upside down? I'm always curious because I tackle this in different ways. But hauling pots inside is something I don't do anymore. Too many pots.

  21. greenthumblonde 02/20/2013

    Okay I went on line to buy that black foliage dahlia with the pink blossom and it is NOT 'Juiet'. 'Juliet' lacks the dark magenta center and yellow stamens. So with some google sleuthing I found it. It is called Black leaved dahlia ‘happy wink’. Now I'm going to buy one.

  22. tractor1 02/20/2013

    JTitus: I don't believe that dogwood will thrive in Pensacola, Florida. I suggest choosinbg other small trees that are more suitable for your tropical climate... locate a proper local nursery, one with a full time arborist to advise you. Usually the big box gardening sections don't employ anyone that knows much more about their stock other than what's stated on the tags from the wholesaler. Having never lived in Florida I can't really recommend much but were I living there I know I'd be planting citrus... if they'd grow here in NY I'd have a grove with at least one of each... my favorite being kumquat, a very tasty fruit that I enjoy but mostly because I love how that word rolls off my tongue. :-) I strongly suggest not skimping on size, trees grow slowly so if you plant seedlings you probably won't see them become trees... think quality before quantity.

  23. GarPho 02/20/2013

    To answer the question about what I do with my blue pots over winter: I bring the small ones into the garage, but the larger ones must stay outside. They do fine if I empty them, turn them over onto a stone and cover them with a plastic bag. I also try to keep the rims raised above any wetness that may accumulate on the stones underneath. The important thing is to keep them dry.

  24. NevadaSue 02/20/2013

    Betsy,Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful garden with us. This garden is beautiful! I wish I could walk out into it each morning myself. I can tell you are blessed with much joy and nurture in this little spot of heavenly delight. The rock work in the paths and water fall are amazing. This creek bed gives me new ideas for my dry creek that is in the process of being built. I'll not acquire such beauty in the desserts of NV where I live but your garden gives me joy in just looking. I always learn so much from the work of those who share. It is my early morning feast for the soul. I hope your illness is soon resolved and you can be out enjoying the dirt under your fingers come spring.

  25. Happily_Gardening 02/20/2013

    Betsy - Absolutely beautiful and spectacular...a perfect garden in every way. I am filled with feelings of quiet and tranquility as I gaze upon these pictures and your love and passion for gardening speaks in each one. The intro picture is wonderfully inviting, "come, relax, and stroll in my garden". To open your patio doors upon this must be heaven. And to think you accomplished this all by bringing materials through your home is nothing short of amazing. As the old saying goes, "where there is a will, there is a way"! I love how there is something to be found and delight in every nook and cranny...the face on the tree is wonderful. I had to do a double take, it belongs so well it looks to be part of the tree. Your garden..."simply lovely"! Hope you'll be feeling fit as a fiddle soon.
    tntreeman - so right you are this site is a great place to learn...I've learned tons here and not only about plants.
    greenthumblonde - I believe your ID is on the Dahlia. I know another gave a different possible name but the center core didn't quite fit Betsy's picture Dahlia.
    meander1 - you have lived in and around some lovely areas. I can just imagine all the beauty you have seen. I wonder if perhaps that is what makes you the warm, kind and well spoken person you are.
    To All - it is a pleasure to read the daily comments, to share our thoughts, our love and passion for our gardens and gardening. We are like a family..."Happy Day everyone!" What's blooming in your garden today...inside or outside?

  26. Jeandabbles 02/20/2013

    Beautiful garden! I don't think the dahlia is 'Juliet' but 'Happy Single Date," silly name for such a stunning flower.

  27. Cathy_Hosek 02/20/2013

    Love your garden! How old is you golden shadows dogwood? I planted one last year.

  28. janetsfolly 02/20/2013

    Thank you, Betsy, for a truly inspirational garden. If my view out the back door was anything like yours, I'd be out there every time my gaze wandered that way! And two particular thank you's: first, for naming the special plants in your lovely photos, so helpful. Second, I now know where my shrub plantings will 'migrate' to accent my vibernum collection, especially as 'cornus' offers the benefit of feeding birds. Do you have a particular supplier that specializes or were they happy discoveries?

  29. pattyspencer 02/20/2013

    You have a stunning garden! Would so love to be your neighbor as I'd give you free reign to expand your garden into MY back yard. I had a dogwood - struggled with it for about 3 years - finally pulled the stick up last summer.

  30. annek 02/21/2013

    wow, are my new Gardening Goddess heroine. What a wonderful combination of hardscaping, color combinations, textures and detail. I am just blown away. I now want to purchase a pagoda have brightened my day unbelievably.

    And best wishes to you concerning your health. I'll send 'healthy' vibes your way.

  31. sheila_schultz 02/21/2013

    Oh Betsy... all the Garden Gods must be watching you and smiling. The passion for what you obviously love shines through all of your photos. You are a tiche more than amazing!

  32. tractor1 02/21/2013

    Sheila_Schultz: tiche?

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