Garden Photo of the Day

More Sunflowers, More Wildlife

Skipping the grass to create a beautiful wildlife habitat

Today’s photos come from Lisa McMillin in Boise, Idaho.

I live in Boise’s historic North End, in a bungalow more than 100 years old. I’ve been gardening for 30 years, 15 fanatically. I have a small city yard that’s Wildlife Habitat certified, with food plants, water, and shelter. My front yard has no grass and is full of sunflowers.

Orange helianthemum with gray-blue foliage (rock rose, probably Helianthemum nummularium ‘Henfield Brilliant’, Zones 4–9).

Masses of sunflowers (Helianthus annuus, annual) line the walk up the front yard. Beautiful to look at, they are great food for pollinators and birds.

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta, Zones 3–7) dominate this bed with their brilliant yellow-and-orange flowers.

Clary sage (Salvia sclarea, Zones 5–9) is in full bloom, with each flower backed by a large bract that is even showier than the actual flowers. This beautiful plant is a biennial or short-lived perennial, and Lisa calls it Audrey, after the Little Shop of Horrors plant.

The clary sage (or Audrey, if you prefer) earlier in the season, with the flower buds just beginning to develop.

Black cherry petunias (annual) mix with lettuce in the early summer. Little clary sage is in the background, only an inch high at this time.

Digitalis obscura (Spanish foxglove, Zones 4–9) is a lovely perennial foxglove that is better adapted to dry climates than many of the more common foxgloves. And what a terrific color!

Lisa loves this goldenrod (Solidago) hybrid because it’s bushy, tops out at 2 feet, and blooms on the Fourth of July! This looks like it might be the variety ‘Golden Baby’, which was developed in Europe from North American native species for use as a cut flower.

A mullein (Verbascum sp.) flower with white petals and delicate purple hairs on the stamens.

Like the other species of milkweed, showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa, Zones 3–9) is a key source of food for monarch butterflies and caterpillars.


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View Comments


  1. LauraJaneS 07/29/2019

    Lovely variety and colour on display here. Well done. Every year I plant sunflower seedlings with great success - this year I didn't have time to start them so planted directly with seed and had zero come up. Do you plant seedlings with your sunflowers? Thank you.

  2. garden1953 07/29/2019


  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 07/29/2019

    What a fascinating selection of flowers you have growing in your wildlife habitat sanctuary. That generous stand of sunflowers makes me think of the effectiveness of McDonald's golden arches in communicating the message that "food" is available to those who come in...except yours is healthy and free!

  4. User avater
    treasuresmom 07/29/2019

    It is all gorgeous but that sage is to die for!

  5. cheryl_c 07/29/2019

    I love it all, the bounty and beauty of the flowers, the mix of textures and foliage. But the picture that stole my heart is the one of the Spanish foxglove - what a gorgeous flower! I MUST find some!

  6. Cenepk10 07/29/2019

    Absolutely fantastic!!!! Most everything you grow has died in my garden. Never heard of that sort of foxglove- thank for sharing. Just fantastic garden !!! Pretty home, too.

  7. user-5117752 07/29/2019

    How simply marvelous to wake up to this garden everyday! You've picked such exciting colors and plants that I've never heard of. What a delight for your flying friends! Now I have plant envy and will give my local nursery some serious suggestions. Thank you for sharing such lovely pictures!

  8. btucker9675 07/29/2019

    Gorgeous!! Now I am suffering from another acute attack of garden envy... : )

  9. User avater
    simplesue 07/29/2019

    You had me at "sunflowers in the front yard instead of grass". The clary sage aka Audrey made me laugh!
    Just a super selection of plants. Your bungalow is darling with all those sunflowers out front.

  10. carolineyoungwilliams 07/29/2019

    Lisa, I've enjoyed your beautiful, colorful garden. You have done an awesome job. My grandmother had all flowers and no grass as the beginning, that was my intent too but there is too much work and not enough time & energy :-)

  11. Musette1 07/29/2019

    love, love, LOVE everything about your garden! I have several stands of sunflowers in my own but I think I will grow a 'walkway' next year - yours is so awesome!

    I love Audrey as well - it's fun to see the evolution, from early Spring through midsummer. Clary sage is such a wonderful plant - but it can be beastly! You've grown it to great effect. Congrats!

  12. Pollen 07/31/2019

    Great presentation of your gardens, such wonderful choices and your photography brings us right into it as we view up close and personal if we were in it! Just fantastic to see!

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