Garden Photo of the Day

Poolside Garden in Maine

Reclaiming overgrown gardens

Today’s photos come from Jonathan Harris, a recently retired attorney in Maine.

I bought an 1879 vintage Victorian house in 1991. It had been in an estate for several years in a slow market, so the once abundant gardens were overrun with weeds and aggressive perennials. My mother and grandmother grew flowers, and I decided I would take on the massive project of reclaiming a number of overgrown beds. It took years, but I got the bug and stayed with it.

I have perhaps seven “pockets” in my acre, each with a different character and focus.

The most recent is the pool garden. My then-wife wanted a pool. She would have been happy with a rectangle surrounded by a chainlink fence. I wasn’t crazy about the idea of a pool in Maine, but I figured if I have to have one, it’s going to be part of a garden.

ornamental grassThe pool garden is the first garden I planned from scratch. I knew I wanted grasses to be a main element, and I went on from there.

A tall cedar fence on two sides serves as a backdrop.

I have added found objects and other whimsical touches as the years have passed. This garden will always be a work in progress.

Several of the other “pockets” involve daylilies (Hemerocallis hybrids, Zones 4–9).

‘Hyperion’ dayliliesA 45-foot stretch of yellow ‘Hyperion’ follows the edge of the yard along the main approach. I added this at a rate of about 10 feet a year. It was lots of work to dig out a foot of gravel along the road and fill with soil and compost.

Daylilies are featured in other places around the house and detached garage.

In the front of the house is a bed of poppies (Papaver orientale, Zones 3–8), bearded iris (Iris germanica, Zones 3–9), and more daylilies.

I have a lot of containers on my back porch, and each year I welcome the volunteer Datura (annual) that seed themselves and literally grow out of the cracks in the asphalt driveway.

The last “pocket” I want to share is an ever increasing circle of Anemone canadensis (Zones 3–8). This was one of the very aggressive plants that had overrun all the beds when we bought the house. I loved the plant, but it was clear it refused to share space with anything else, so it had to go. I planted a small patch of it at the end of the front yard in front of a small cedar seedling I transplanted from my northern Maine lakefront camp. Both the cedar and the anemone have thrived. The latter expands more each year, and I let it grow.


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View Comments


  1. sandyprowse 02/07/2020

    A sight to behold and a good one on this snowy morning in Toronto, Canada. What a wonderful story and lots of sweat and toil made the property a delight to view. Thank you for sharing such an interesting garden & home with such history. Congratulations.

  2. garden1953 02/07/2020

    Stunning! I love the pool area and the other gardens as well. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Jonathan44 02/07/2020

    I should add that the daylily in the first photo is a hybrid by Bobbie Brooks of Distinctive Garden Designs, Beverly, Mass.

    1. Jonathan44 02/07/2020

      And the hybrid is called Sugar Plum Jam.

  4. nwphillygardener 02/07/2020

    Thanks, Jonathan, for sharing those photos which clearly show you've got well beyond taming an old garden. You're doing great things. The photo highlighting the poolside grasses also show a bit of finesse in the placement of groups of stone inserted in mulched beds. I think it's instructive to demonstrate that we have the option to fill new planting beds incrementally. Whether Jonathan sees those stones as place holders or permanent foils for foliage, I think gardens often benefit from including natural elements that compliment the plantings, like stone or an artfully placed branch or segments of a sawn tree trunk that has serve as pedestals or simply add sculptural impact.

    1. Jonathan44 02/07/2020

      The stones were collected in Little Compton RI. They have been there from the start and I have no plans to remove the; that said, I am always making impulsive changes and nothing is "permanent."

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 02/07/2020

    Love it all including the shape of the pool.

  6. paiya 02/07/2020

    Jonathan, congratulations on restoring and improving your garden. The mass groupings of picture-perfect plants are beautiful - even if you don’t swim a lot, sitting around the pool must be so relaxing. Your trees and shrubs add good “background” . We have given up trying to control anemone canadensis and just enjoy them.

  7. btucker9675 02/07/2020

    Your gardens, especially around the pool, are an inspiration for me - our pool is still under construction, slowed by an exceptionally rainy winter here in the Charlotte area. I was thinking of grasses and seeing yours sealed the deal! Love all of your happy daylilies and that you have found an area to allow "free range" anemones!

  8. User avater
    simplesue 02/07/2020

    It's nice to see how you restored the house and the garden-and they are both excellent design, done with an artistic eye.
    Not everyone has that ability.
    Things like houses and gardens only survive time by the luck of being bought by someone like you.
    There are people that buy beautiful things already done, and there are people that make beauty like you did.
    Also I had just been googling and learning about Datura for my sister-in-law who wants to plant one in zone 6b so I was pleased to come across your photo and description of it coming back from seed in Maine! Just the information I needed!

  9. sheila_schultz 02/07/2020

    Funny thing... when you indicated not wanting a pool and the next photo showing a 'pool garden' I saw the curves and assumed you filled in the pool with a gorgeous garden. I thought that was a brilliant idea!!! Your plantings are thoughtful and delightful. They must give you great pleasure.

  10. Cenepk10 02/07/2020

    What a beautiful home & garden ! Love it all - I would never dig. Lay some cardboard down & layer compost & woodchips in the early fall- by springtime you have a diggable bed to plant in. Thank you for sharing the beauty you’ve made !

    1. Jonathan44 02/09/2020

      There was less than an inch of topsoil next to the road. It was all gravel and stone.

  11. user-5117752 02/08/2020

    Aaaahhhh!!!!! How beautiful your home and gardens are!!! You don't say in what part of Maine you're located. My family owned a summer home outside of the little town of Surry, Union River Bay was their back yard. Gardening was a terrible effort for my mother. She had beautiful gardens one year and then not the next. The winter weather was always a factor. But that was a very long time ago. Pools were certainly never thought of in that neck of the woods. But yours is lovely! Enjoy it!

  12. darylsavage 02/09/2020

    I love the curbside photo of your house and the daylily bed; fantastic. We can't have daylilies here in No. Jersey because they are a deer favorite. What kind of tree do you have planted in front of the house there? I also love the last photo of the evergreens with the anemones; spectatular. Keep up the good work. We all know how much it is.

  13. User avater
    EmmanuelMiles 02/28/2020

    I like it

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