Garden Photo of the Day

Nicki’s New Garden Project

Creating a new garden space

new front garden bed after new pollinator-friendly plantings

Today we’re in Lake Bluff, Illinois, visiting Nicki Snoblin’s garden.

This year I decided to dig up about a third of my front yard to make a place for sun-loving, pollinator-friendly perennials. I had many plants in my backyard that were no longer getting the sun they needed as the landscape matured over the years.

I spent the winter mulling it over, drawing up plans that I struggled to make to scale, thinking about plant placement, and then did what I always do: tossed it all out and flew by the seat of my pants, so to speak.

edges dug out for new garden bedIn April I laid out a rope, adjusted it until I liked the shape, then dug the edge. My husband rototilled it—twice—and then we spent many hours picking out the remaining clods of grass and clay. I amended the soil as best I could with many bags of composted manure and mushroom compost, and then, as I planted, I added compost to the fill dirt.

flagstone path laid out with pieces of cardboardI wanted several flagstone paths in the garden to make it easier to tend and also for the delivery people who sometimes prefer to take a shortcut to my front door. I laid the paths out first with sheets of cardboard and then purchased flagstones.

paths laid out in new garden bed before plantingsI like a little whimsy (OK, a lot of whimsy) in my gardens, so I put in a traffic roundabout surrounding an as-yet-unknown focal point.

close up of purple clematis flowerSpoiler alert! The focal point turned out to be a tuteur/trellis with a charming Clematis ‘Rooguchi’ (Zones 4–8).

new front garden bed after new pollinator-friendly plantingsNext I started moving in plants from elsewhere in my gardens: coneflowers (Echinacea, Zones 4–8), turtlehead (Chelone obliqua, Zones 5–9), black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta, Zones 3–7), native spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis, Zones 3–9), bee balm (Monarda), catmint (Nepeta, Zones 3–8), Penstemon, anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, Zones 4–8), and more. I also shifted several of the existing plants to blur the line from the old border. Part of the new bed is fairly shady, so I moved in several hostas and ligularia from other beds.

close up of blue sea holly flowersI needed to keep the cost down, so at this point only about a third of the plants in the bed were purchased, among them this sea holly (Eryngium ‘Big Blue’, Zones 4–9). I also tucked in a few annuals for instant color.

wide view of completed garden bed later in the seasonThe bed as it looked in early June

view of finished garden bed from aboveMy plan now is to wait a year and see how things fill in. Since I planted many things in ones (instead of the typically recommended threes or fives), I may need to divide them to create drifts instead of spots. Meanwhile, my neighbors keep telling me it’s beautiful—perhaps in contrast to the bare dirt they were looking at for several weeks!


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View Comments


  1. sandyprowse 07/11/2023

    I applaud your gusto, what a great idea in making this project come to life. It will be wonderful to see it in the future. Please post again and soon! Well done.

    1. nicki_s 07/11/2023

      Thank you! Here’s a July photo.

  2. user-7392754 07/11/2023

    What a transformation!!! I’m glad you took before pics and shared them with us! It looks so inviting. If I lived in your neighborhood I’d have to take a walk on your pathways to admire the plantings!

    1. nicki_s 07/11/2023


  3. Oxdriftgardener 07/11/2023

    Looks like you are off to a very good start. I love your choice for the round about focal plant.

  4. btucker9675 07/11/2023

    What a great idea to plot the flagstone placement with cardboard! Can't wait to see this next season - it's just going to be better and better.

  5. foxglove12 07/11/2023

    Great job! You should post each year at this time so we can all see how it fills in.

  6. ellen_h 07/11/2023

    It is going to look great. I appreciate the effort you have put in; I am revamping some beds and I know it is hard work to dig existing plants and move to new areas. Thanks for the narrative of the steps you have taken. I intend to use your idea of laying out cardboard "flagstones" - I need to make a path through a large bed for the pest control guy to use when checking the termite bait stations.

    1. nicki_s 07/11/2023

      I had a lot of cardboard on hand because we were doing a DIY kitchen remodel at the same time, which left us with dozens of boxes. It came in handy!

  7. User avater
    simplesue 07/13/2023

    Nice work! And smart to put flagstone in at this stage, I wish I'd thought ahead like that with my flagstone!
    Pretty and you will have years of enjoyment!

  8. jos29803 07/13/2023

    Great Job!!!! I LOVE IT!!!

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