Garden Photo of the Day

Packed with Beauty, Part 1

Michigan gardener plants tightly for maximum impact

Today’s photos come from Joanna Kenyon from Owosso, Michigan. Actually, her garden is so awesome that we’re going to spend two days on it! So enjoy today, and come back tomorrow for part 2.

I started the garden in 2004. My soon-to-be husband had purchased the home because it was right next door to his business. Location. Location. Location. I started with a small garden beneath a fir tree in the front yard using plants I moved from my garden in Dimondale, Michigan, and it just mushroomed from there. Expanding the gardens in any appreciable way stopped 4-5 years ago. Now it’s fine tuning and rearranging plants.

It was a challenge to incorporate a large factory building into the landscape, although it would have been even more difficult had we not been the owners of both properties. The building is 10 feet high in some places, 20 feet high in others, and 80-100 feet long. The factory wall is 10 paces from our side door. It is also the north side of the building, which can present its own challenges. The soil is pretty heavy clay and is wet most of the time. It was a moment of inspiration when we thought about decorating the side of the building with sun sculptures. It really incorporates the building into the landscape.

Learning to garden along this wall is a lot of trail and error, a lot of planting something and seeing if it grows. The wall reflects light, which makes a big difference. I had gardened under tree shade before, which is much more difficult.

I sometimes ignore conventional wisdom. I planted a clematis in my total shade and wet muck, and it has grown like a weed, even though it supposedly needs full sun and well drained soil. I try to plant things that will grow in the soil I have rather than try to fix the soil for the plant. Again a lot of trial and error. I move stuff around a lot. I have an Annabelle hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle , Zones 3–9 ) that I’ve moved 4-5 times. It is finally happy.

My other strategy is to grow things really close together. I don’t pay much attention to spacing instructions. I just cram things all together and see what happens. This really makes weeding much less of a headache. The weeds don’t really have much of a chance. The downside is that a lot of thinning goes on as plants grow and crowd each other out. But I love the crowded look.

 A way to integrate the factory next door into the landscape.

A view of my garden was turned into an art quilt by my sister.

I like to plant a variety of plants close together to keep weeds at bay.

A view between our house and our neighbor’s driveway. This is the north side, and hostas are a primary feature.

We found an old city light post and repurposed it for the garden.

Another look down the north side of the house.

We have an art bike contest every year in Owosso. This was my entry a few years back, and it is now prominently featured in the garden.

This outbuilding, which we affectionately call the Hog Pen, is where my husband keeps his motorcycle. The apron in front of the door served as the platform for my son’s wedding in June.

A good view of the factory next door. Sometimes people think we manufacture those suns!



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View Comments


  1. Maggieat11 07/09/2018

    I enjoyed seeing your garden photos this morning! LOTS to look at. LOTS to love! Wonderful old city lamp post and lovely quilt, also!! Looking forward to tomorrow's post. Thank you for sharing!

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 07/09/2018

    What a delightful sharing from you today, Joanna. Your pictures and story are a real treat. I heartily agree that it really was pure inspiration to decorate the factory wall with the all the various sun sculptures...keeping the subject matter (a sun) the same gives the collection a very appealing unity and yet it has wonderful variety. Oh, the fun you must have had (and perhaps still have) buying a sun, bringing it home and deciding where to hang it. Your plant selections and combinations are stellar. Really looking forward to Part 2 tomorrow.

  3. sandyprowse 07/09/2018

    Absolutely delightful. Your garden is full of fun and happiness and was a true joy to witness. I loved it! Thanks for sharing such a unique garden.

  4. Sunshine111 07/09/2018

    It was so much fun to see your post this morning! I really enjoyed the virtual visit of your garden. I especially loved all the suns! You’ve got a great eye for combining plants and adding whimsical touches. If you wanted to go on the gardening business you could. I am looking forward to seeing what you have to share with us tomorrow. Namaste

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 07/09/2018

    Every factory should have someone like you planting & beautifying! Everything is so pretty.

  6. Chellemp 07/09/2018

    Hello Joanna! You have created a beautiful garden. It's so cheery and makes me smile at every turn. Thank you for including the picture of the quilt. Your sister captured the garden almost as if it was a photograph. Kudos to both of you!

  7. JoannaAtGinghamGardens 07/09/2018

    Wow, just WOW! Joanna, your gardens are amazing! What a feast for the eyes. Great name too. Thanks for sharing. I can't wait to see tomorrow's pictures.

  8. Cenepk10 07/09/2018

    Wow... So perfect, could be in England. Outstanding. Amazed.

  9. btucker9675 07/09/2018

    Your wonderful garden made me happy just looking at the photos! And your sister is a genius with needle and thread.

  10. annek 07/09/2018

    You have a lovely garden! The trial and error method works well (also my preferred method)and you’ve done a great job of keeping your flower beds cohesive....a colorful quilt in its own right.

    Your sister’s designed cloth quilt commemorating the beauty of your garden is spot-on perfect

  11. cheryl_c 07/09/2018

    What a happy place! I love it that we get to see so many long shots of your beds, so often we don't get those. I love your whimsy and your plant combos! Can't wait to see tomorrows shots!

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