Garden Photo of the Day

READER PHOTOS! Jay’s design in North Carolina

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jay Sifford

As promised late last week, today we’re featuring a garden designed by Jay Sifford for a client in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jay says, “I find generally that there is very little relationship between a house and its yard, rather like the house landed on the lot.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jay Sifford

“I looked at this house and saw beautiful blues and grays in the stonework, and lovely rose pinks in the brickwork. That was my starting point. I also wanted to soften the artificial stone walls that were in place when the owners purchased the property. My strategies were to use lots of blue and purple flowers to pull the house into the yard, with some roses and pinks to cause the blues to pop.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jay Sifford

“Since many of my clients are somewhat impatient, I chose fast growing perennials with a long bloom season. In the front garden, the season starts with the ‘Firewitch’ dianthus and Salvia nemorosa, then progresses to the ‘Rozanne’ geraniums and Russian sage, followed by the purple coneflowers and the ‘Little Lime’ hydrangeas. The heucheras, ‘Blue Dune’ lyme grass and ‘Blue Zinger’ carex ground the space all season long.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jay Sifford

“The clients are somewhat formal, but the lyme grass intimates being on the water, which they love. Although somewhat aggressive, I love using the lyme grass since nothing beats its color. Strays can always be pulled. The verticality of the lyme grass speaks appropriately to this house, which is rather tall. I also chose oversized, tall Italian terra cotta pots to emphasize the height of the home.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jay Sifford

“In the back garden I was much freer with color. I chose perennials on the basis of height, color, texture and length of bloom. The wonderful ‘Diablo’ ninebarks were already in place. I loved the combination of the ‘Karl Forester’ feather reed grass, purple coneflowers, and Verbena bonariensis in front of them. It’s a free-for-all which makes me very happy.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jay Sifford

“I have three criteria by which I judge my work: (1) Is it no longer a yard? Has it become a garden? (2) Do the garden and the home now have an appropriately blended relationship? (3) Does the garden make me happy? This garden scores highly in my mind on all three counts!”

Great job, Jay–I find it sophisticatedly understated but floriferous–perfect!

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jay Sifford
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jay Sifford
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jay Sifford
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jay Sifford
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jay Sifford
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jay Sifford

Want us to feature YOUR garden in the Garden Photo of the Day? CLICK HERE!
Want to see every post ever published? CLICK HERE!

**Check out the GPOD Pinterest page, where you can browse all the post in categories…fun! CLICK HERE!**

View Comments


  1. User avater
    meander_michaele 07/09/2012

    Hi, Jay, thanks for being so forthcoming in describing the thinking process you go through in making your plant selections for such a large landscaping project. It has to give your clients a lot of confidence in your vision for the finished look since you are able to explain why you are making the choices you are. The finished result is very successful to me because the large impressive home is now softened with enough interesting plant material so that the eye has something more to absorb and react to than just all the hard materials of the house. The owners must be very pleased when they pull into their driveway and see that first impression of graciousness in and elegance in their landscaping.

  2. tractor1 07/09/2012

    That's quite a flashy castle... I'd love to be able to see the views through its windows from inside. To me the most important element of landscaping a home is what people see and how the view affects the senses from the inside looking out. If the view from the exterior is more impressive to the senses than is the view from the interior then residential landscaping fails. I don't think that landscaping has much to do with gardening, they are very seperate and different topics, many of the most impressive landscapes on the planet include no gardens... a garden per se is not landscaping because in most all cases the people who the gardens belong to rarely if ever actually see them, they are mostly to impress passers by, and to me that is not landscaping a home as much as it is putting on a public spectacle.

  3. tractor1 07/09/2012

    I forgot to say that if that humongous house is on a relatively small lot (which I suspect from how so much is compacted into so little space), and if all the hardscaping was already in place, especially that absolutely grotesque driveway (that in no way is harmonious with the architecture and coloration of that *eyesore* of a house) then Jay really didn't have much to work with so I must say he did a fabulous job with his plantings.

  4. cwheat000 07/09/2012

    Really nice color combos. I especially love the blue grasses with the purple flowers. I will have to try a similar combo in my garden.

  5. pattyspencer 07/09/2012

    Had to go back and see all the other photos (been in the middle of redoing my kitchen all last week - all consuming) I love the colors - the textures - the combination - the lushness - everything! It looks so inviting. That being said I wish today's pics looked just as inviting - not your fault - you did a great job from your side of the project and this was probably what the client wanted and could afford. For some reason today's pics are just not doing it for me (maybe Tractor1 and I are on the same page on this only I'm not expressing it the same)

  6. sheila_schultz 07/09/2012

    Jay... your vision for the plantings paid off. The colors definitely work with the home, and the varying heights and textures softened the overall feel. I love that you used Agastache, one of my favorite plants. I'm heading out right now to get more Verbena Bonariansis!

  7. slr88 07/09/2012

    Tractor1, this is the homeowner here. I'm sorry that you find my flashy castle to be an eyesore with a grotesque driveway. The views from the house of the lake are fabulous, and the landscaping Jay has done is very much appreciated and complimentary.

    It seems to me that you could be a little more constructive in your criticism instead of using hurtful words like "grotesque," "eyesore," etc. I'm happy to have constructive criticism, but the way you wrote your post is just plain mean.

  8. soilgoil 07/09/2012

    Jay, the color palette you and your client chose is lovely, soft and cooling for those hot Charlotte summers. I especially admire the terra cotta container set off with a purple frill of heucheras. Sir88, tractor1 is a regular commentator on this blog. He frequently offers valuable observations and is always outspoken, but can be brusque at times. I believe it was Meander1, another "regular" on this site, who once dubbed him "the Simon Cowell" of Fine Gardening's Photo of the Day blog. Thank you for sharing your home and garden with us; may you enjoy it for a long time to come.

  9. greengrowler 07/09/2012

    Jay, your convergence of naturalistic plants in a semi-formal manner is so successful! Full, but not too overcrowded - beautiful.

    I'm so glad to be back.... I live in Mountain Shadows and the last few weeks with the Waldo Canyon Fire have been horrifying. Thanks to firefighters, our neighborhood was saved but so many homes around us were lost - 346 at last count.

    I surely missed everyone!

  10. Jay_Sifford 07/09/2012

    Greengrowler, I'm sure I speak for all when I say I'm grateful that your home and garden were spared.
    I would also like to speak to the controversy which has developed with regard to this post. My belief is that one can glean insights from viewing all sorts of gardens. I frequently look through garden posts and probably learn more from the ones I don't like as I do from the ones I love. I stop to analyze what I do and don't like from each one. In the end, I'm a stronger designer because of it.
    The truth is that not everyone has acres out of which to carve a garden. Excuse the grammar, but most of us "garden where we're at". Perhaps that 100 foot tall oak tree needs to be moved 14" to the right, or the house 2.5 feet to the left, but we deal with the raw elements and hope to bring something beautiful out of it which invokes emotion. Judging by that criteria, this garden posted here today has definitely been a success, as much emotion has been forthcoming! If you've learned something new from this post, such as how the vertical lines of the lyme grass accentuate the size and shape of the house, or you've discovered the versatility of Verbena bonariensis, or you can now visualize a serpentine blue atlas cedar as a sea monster.... well, then it's a good day for you. A day without learning is a wasted day.

  11. MichelleGervais 07/09/2012

    slr88--I think your home is lovely, but I guess tastes vary. I fear that Tractor1 would find my home hideous, too... but I still appreciate his input. Tractor1--go easy on us, will you? :-)

  12. User avater
    meander_michaele 07/09/2012

    Oh, GreenGrowler, your absence was noticed but I had no idea you were in the middle of such a terrifying situation. I'm so glad you were one of the fortunate ones but know that your heart aches for the devastation others in your area suffered. Although we regular visitors to GPOD are most always big fans of Mother Nature, we are also humbly aware that she is a formidable force. Just watching the tv video footage of those fiercely burning fires was definitely distressing. I can't imagine what is was like to experience the possibility of being in their path. The bravery and dedication of the fire fighters is awe inspiring. Take care.

  13. greengrowler 07/09/2012

    Yes, Meander1, we were in the path of the fire and had to evacuate - run for our lives, really, with barely enough time to gather a few clothes, important papers, and most critically, our dogs. I agree with your view on Mother Nature, however, the fire was not caused by natural phenomenon, which makes it more heart-wrenching. The authorities are keeping mum, but are asking the public for leads.

    Mother Nature did take great care of my garden and pots; after being evacuated for almost one week with no rain, scorching temps, and thick smoke, everything except three hanging baskets survived!

    Jay, I went back a few days and viewed your garden as well; you are a hugely talented garden designer - LOVE your style.

  14. tractor1 07/09/2012

    GreenGrowler: I'm so glad to hear that you and your home are safe. Fire is horrifying and I am constantly concerned here in the Catskills as well as we are now in the midst of a terrible drought. With large expanses of forest and so many careless people fire is always on my mind. I saw the news about the Colorado fires on TV and was horrified to see how in those wide open spaces the homes were built so near each other and right up against conifer forests, entire developments with no surrounding buffer zone whatsoever, just reach out the window and pick a pinecone. I wondered how the town zoning departments permit builders of relatively new developments to cram so many homes into so small a space of heavily forested land without a perimeter buffer. And the homeowners even kept several large conifers right up against their homes. Watching the news of those fires made me forget all the hours I spend keeping a wide clear swarth around my home. Welcome back!

  15. greengrowler 07/09/2012

    Tractor1 - the homes are so close together because the developers can squeeze as many homes as possible into a tiny space and be assured PEOPLE WILL BUY THEM. Transplants from other areas of the country don't understand the drought/wildfire problem - they see nice, affordable homes close to the mountains and snap them up. Under these conditions, it wasn't a matter of "if" it was a matter of "when". We are just as guilty; we have a tiny lot and the person next door (10 feet away) has a 40 ft towering Colorado Blue Spruce literally 4 feet from his home - the natural shape is ruined by jamming it up against the house.

    One would hope this is a horrible lesson learned but often times the terrifying event fades and development resumes as it does. The only way to stop it is to elect intelligent officials AND the public's refusal to buy the homes - both of which are sadly unlikely.

  16. tractor1 07/09/2012

    GreenGrowler: I appreciate that you agree with me on this issue. These circumstances occur for the same reason they always have, payola and dishonesty. I know it's not easy in these economic times but perhaps you should consider moving, your area won't change. I tried living in a development once, lasted eleven months, too many silly rules gleefully obeyed by too many infantile sheeple. And by now you must realize that I wouldn't do well with silly rules and I abhor dishonesty, nor do I waste energy arguing trying to change people. Consider your options.

  17. pattyspencer 07/09/2012

    Greengrowle - Glad you're safe!! Glad you're back with us!!!

  18. sheila_schultz 07/09/2012

    This has been quite the day for GPOD... GreenGrowler, I have missed you terribly and I am so happy your home is standing. My sister was evacuated, too. She is also back in her home. I need to give you a big hug if you make it up to Denver 8/18! Tractor1. If life were perfect it still wouldn't follow all of your rules. Sir88... Tractor1 seems to be the crochety fellow in our neighborhood. What I've learned over the years is that our homes and gardens can bring beauty and peace into our lives and when it comes down to it... ignore Tractor1, he doesn't walk in your shoes. We all see the world from a different perspective. And Jay, I'm with you... a day without learning is wasted. Still love the verbena ad agastache combo!!!

  19. tractor1 07/09/2012

    Sheila_Schultz: I'm not the one with rules, I have no rules, I said that I detest/abhor rules... I live by the dogma that good fences make good neighbors. I also don't admire quantity, I respect quality. But most of all I respect honesty and sinceriety. Those who always make only positive comments are neither honest or sincere. And I hold those who hold themselve out as professionals to a far higher standard, and you don't really wnant to hear what I think of those who attempt to pawn off something that was required a whole crew as somthing they've done and maintained all by themselves.

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest