Garden Photo of the Day

READER PHOTOS! Denise’s garden in upstate New York

Path through side yard, May 2011.  Here’s grass!  It keeps coming back between the stepping stones, although I could never grow it successfully as a lawn.  The tree peony is ‘Kamatanishiki’ and the bench has entered its blue period. 2 WAYS TO ENLARGE! Click directly on the photo to enlarge in a pop-up, or click HERE to see this image, larger, in a new browser window.
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Denise Dyko

Today’s photos are from Denise Dyko. She says, “This garden is located in the midHudson Valley of New York.  It is less than ¼ of an acre in Zone 5a (new zone map), although I do have zone 6b microclimates.  When I bought the house, the garden was lawn with seven mature trees and five huge yews and I wasn’t a gardener.  More than 35 years later, there is no lawn (although grass appears from nowhere to grow between stepping stones) and there are more than 350 species and cultivars of plants (not counting annuals or bulbs).  The 350+ species include more than 150 perennial species, almost 100 shrub species, and 20 tree species (and then there are conifers and bamboos and broad-leaf evergreens and vines…).

Path through side yard, June 2009.  The path through the side yard detours to a bench that catches the morning sun.  The shrub behind the bench is a spikenard (Aralia racemosa, Zones 5-9).  The perennial in bloom to the right of the bench is Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica, Zones 5-9).  To the left of the bench is one of my favorite Japanese maples, Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’ (Zones 5-7).
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Denise Dyko

“I design the plantings, my husband and I do the unskilled labor (including digging the hole for the pond), and the same professional (Matthew Rollins) has worked with me for 30+ years to do the major hardscaping.  Although there was one “before” when I bought the house, there have been many “afters”; these pictures represent some of them.  I’ve dated them to give some sense of time; the same garden furniture shows up in different spots and in different colors over the years.

Islands in the pond, June 2011.  Since we’re running out of room in the garden, we’ve replaced water lilies in the pond with two small islands.  They’re planted with dwarf shrubs and perennials; we’re hoping that root pruning by the fish will ensure that they stay dwarf.  (The fish in the photo are Sunshine and Zorro, two of the seven koi who live here.)  The bulb blooming in the foreground is the California firecracker (Brodiaea coccinea, syn. Dichelostemma ida-maia, Zones 5-8).
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Denise Dyko

“I don’t expect everyone to like my garden.  Chris, a young man in the neighborhood, has started to help with some of the heavy day-to-day work of gardening.  His father commented, “I don’t know why you put in all those plants.  Now you’ve got no yard.”  I think I’d like to put that quote on a plaque at the entrance to the garden.”

Amazing, Denise! Thanks so much for sharing your garden with us!

Lower patio, June 2006.  The tree in bloom behind the teak chair is Magnolia tripetala (Zones 5-9); it was recently drastically pruned by our October snowstorm (21” of snow when leaves were still on the trees).  The birches are in my neighbor’s garden (and I thank her).  The building in this picture is the back of another neighbor’s garage.
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Denise Dyko
Path through the side yard, June 2010.  A group of perennials (hostas, astilbe, doll’s eyes, Solomon seal…) and more recently planted woody ornamentals (dwarf cultivars of oak-leaf hydrangeas and even a Japanese maple).  The leaves in the upper right-hand corner are a Pawpaw (Asimina triloba, Zones 6-8).
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Denise Dyko
The path divides around the pond to lead to upper and lower patios, June 2011.  The ginkgo on the right is ‘Jade Butterfly’ (Zones 5-9).  The rose on the left is Rosa glauca (Zones 2-8), a self-sown seedling.  The dark burgundy plants just emerging are two pineapple lilies (Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’, Zones 8-11) that obviously believe in global warming; they’re protected under a thick carpet of the groundcover Mazus reptans (Zones 5-8).
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Denise Dyko
Path to upper patio, July 2011.  The tree in the upper left is the Japanese angelica tree (Aralia elata ‘Variegata’, Zones 4-9).  The huge Japanese pine in the background is actually in my neighbor’s garden.
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Denise Dyko
Ground-level deck, May 2009.  We originally hung a hammock between the two evergreen tree trunks until aging backs rebelled.  Just as well:  Mother Nature, using a tornado-like wind, took down the Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana, Zones 3-9–it’s the tree trunk behind the Buddha’s head).  Count our blessings:  we couldn’t have afforded to have it done and it opened up the area to sunlight.
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Denise Dyko
Ground-level deck, May 2011.  This is the view of the ground-level deck from the front porch.  The rhododendron in bloom is ‘Goldfort’ (Zones 5-9), next to it is Hosta nigrescens (Zones 5-9), and the conifer next to it is Abies concolor ‘Green Globe’ (Zones 3-7).  The small-leaved shrubs in the center foreground are cultivars of dusty zenobia (Zenobia pulverulenta, Zones 5-8).
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Denise Dyko
View across pond to upper patio, November 2005. We were very fortunate to have a slope in such a small garden; it begged for a stream and waterfall.  The conifer in front of the left side of the garage is a dwarf Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Nana’, Zones 4-9) that we loved but removed when it became overwhelming after 25+ years.  That is the difficult (even heart-breaking) part of gardening with woody plants in a small space.
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Denise Dyko

**I’m in the process of going thorough a TON of your emails–so sorry to everyone who thinks I’ve totally forgotten them… Plenty of amazing gardens from you guys coming right up! –MG

**Oh, P.S.! Did you know that we’ve posted photos from 31 of the 50 United States (not to mention across Canada and beyond??) Keep sending in your photos! Bonus points if you’re from AK, AL, AR, AZ, HI, IN, KS, KY, MS, ND, NE, NM, NV, OK, SD, VT, WI, WV, or WY……  ;-D  

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View Comments


  1. BerkeleyBubbe 02/13/2012

    What a lovely garden! Denise may not have been a gardener 35 years ago, but she certainly is one now! Love the diversity of plants and Denise's description of changers in her yard.

  2. gottagarden 02/13/2012

    All your stone paths lend a relaxed, natural note, and having stone paths everywhere unifies the garden. Superb foliage plants.

  3. Wife_Mother_Gardener 02/13/2012

    I love the position of your Aralia tree! A beautiful finish for your path.

    Thanks for sharing all of your beautiful, hard work, Denise!

  4. tractor1 02/13/2012

    Wonderful fall color in the last picture, and matches the garage wall perfectly... I'll assume painted by Denise (love that color). Now if the next roof (it needs a new roof, and gutter cleaned) is done in chocolate/adobe, and a real copper gutter/downspout added... can also benefit from a cupola with weathervane. Denise needs more yard, I'd be happy to lend her a couple of acres here to putter on.;)

  5. Kris_at_Blithewold 02/13/2012

    ...sigh... This is just what I want my garden - about the same size - to feel like. Cheers to more plants/less yard!

  6. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/13/2012

    Denise's garden is fascinating to me particularly because it seems so much larger than it is. She and her husband have done a masterful job of filling it with many interesting plants and garden features. I love the bench in blue especially complimented by the soft pink of the peonies. This might be a stupid question but has the bench aged to that color or was it helped along?

  7. wittyone 02/13/2012

    What a nice job of layering. I think that is why the area seems so large. And how kind of your neighbors to help out with those wonderful tall interesting trees.

  8. KatyS 02/13/2012

    Beautiful, tranquil garden. Thank you for sharing it with us. And your neighbor's comment is hilarious! I'll have to share that one.

  9. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 02/13/2012

    Great plant collection; Beautiful garden. Who needs a yard? (Ok, I know some people do,and when our kids were little we did). Does it give you a little perverse thrill, like it does me, when something dies and you have room to shoe-horn something new in? Kudos to a job well done!

  10. paiya 02/13/2012

    Wonderful garden with so many interesting features that show off the plants ,bushes and trees so well. You and your husband have created an oasis, a place of site not having a "yard"

  11. pattyspencer 02/13/2012

    Truly a beautiful garden and on only 1/4 acre. Wow! It has lushness from all the plantings but doesn't look over planted. I would rather have your garden than "a yard" any day.

  12. MizScarlet 02/13/2012

    I look forward to the photo of the day each and every day. They seem to get better and better. They give us inspiration and hope of a beautiful Spring. I can't wait. Thanks

  13. sheilaschultz 02/13/2012

    Denise, you've created one of the most charming 1/4 acres I've seen. What a labor of love...

  14. terieLR 02/13/2012

    Hooray for Garden-Yards! Given limited space I would do the same Denise. You have inspired me to divide and plant a row of variegated loriope on a corner that needs to be redefined. Thank you for a carefully labeled posting of your garden spaces.

  15. YuraAdams 02/13/2012

    fabulous. what a symphony of beauty.

  16. lijda 02/13/2012

    (This is Denise, alias LIjda): Thank you all for your comments, it is a joy to share the garden. I haven’t had this much fun since before the ground froze. Michelle, thank you for adding the zone information to the plant IDs. I could have/should have done that.

    Tractor1: my husband painted the garage walls after we chose the colors together; I think this color is ‘Apricot Brandy’. And I enjoyed your ‘offer’ of a couple of acres of puttering greens.

    Meander1: The bench is painted (“blue lapis” was the name of the color). We chose the blue after rejecting the black-and-white leopard pattern the birds were providing (although they are certainly persistent).

    Vojt: YES, when something dies, at first I cry, then I reach for the garden catalogs. I’m currently waiting for room for a Stewartia….

  17. tractor1 02/14/2012

    Hmm, Apricot Brandy, I knew there was a reason I liked it... probably I'd put more in me than on the wall! Denise, I'm probably not too far away (Northern Catskills), I have several areas for you to use as your personal palette.

  18. Formandfoliage 02/14/2012

    Love the G. 'Jade Butterfly' and the Rosa glauca. Your garden has a lot of flowers but you also have a lot to satisfy a foliage gal like me. Beautiful

  19. appaloosa 02/15/2012

    I really enjoyed your garden. Thank you for the plant Ids. That is very helpful.

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