Garden Photo of the Day

READER PHOTOS! Jean’s Touch of Heaven garden in Wisconsin

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Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jean Mazzella

Today’s photos are from Jean Mazzella in Ashland, Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Superior. Jean says, “I have been gardening for over 50 years, 38 of them in this location. There were two beds that I tended for a long time. Eight years ago, when the boys no longer needed the yard for play, I began Operation Less Mow – the more I gardened, the less I had to mow. Besides, it’s much more pleasant to look at a rainbow than a green carpet. Plus I have no luck growing grass. Now there are pathways going between gardens with only small patches of lawn for utilitarian purposes. Even the 150-foot-long boulevard has become space for a wide variety of species.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jean Mazzella

“The beds have evolved from traditional pull-out-all-the-weed type gardens to a much wilder variety. The turning point came when I added the pond. This was surrounded by native plantings. These have become inter-mingled with the other species to create a more natural landscape in which weeds are really not very noticeable. What a freeing experience! Also, flowers, veggies, fruits, and berries happily co-exist to create a wonderfully peaceful environment. Hence the garden’s name, “Touch of Heaven.”

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jean Mazzella

“This year, I started a small shop on Etsy. It contains nature-inspired items which will include a wide variety of my flower seeds starting in November. You can check it out HERE.”

I feel like a broken record every day, telling everyone their gardens are “beautiful!” But they all are, and yours is no exception, Jean. Thanks so much for sharing it.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jean Mazzella
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jean Mazzella
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jean Mazzella
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jean Mazzella
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jean Mazzella
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jean Mazzella
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Jean Mazzella

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  1. Kris_at_Blithewold 09/05/2012

    Jean, I love "Operation Less Mow"! I've still got a ways to go-more lawn than I like to mow- in my own (tiny) garden but yours inspires me to keep digging and planting. Beautiful.

  2. Wife_Mother_Gardener 09/05/2012

    I love your curb planting! Great job, Jean!

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 09/05/2012

    Jean, your property is not only well named but looks well as well loved and well tended...Operation Less Mow is a resounding success. Your grass paths are very inviting and invite a relaxing stroll to gaze upon all your lovely plantings.
    Is the final picture a view from your about icing on an already beautiful cake!

  4. marciaelaine 09/05/2012

    I am so envious of her beautiful garden and the last view was awesome (now I sound like my grandchildren).
    I checked out Jean's website again, I had forgotten what a great trip it is to see all the beautiful things.

  5. annek 09/05/2012

    I once looked at a house for sale in Colorado that was $100,000 more than any similar house in the same neighborhood. When I asked the real estate agent why the cost differential, she said, "it's the 'charm' factor". Jean, your house, beautiful gardens and views definitely have the 'charm' factor!! What an incredible gardener you are!

  6. rwotzak 09/05/2012

    Wow, Jean. Your garden has just the perfect texture and flow. It looks like you've wrapped your home up in a comfy, well-worn patchwork quilt. Seems as though you could wander through many times and not see everything. Do you have any little corners carved out for resting and enjoying the view?

  7. plant_lady_55 09/05/2012

    Jean, you have my kind of gardens. I could stay there all day and be happy. Beautiful. What a stunning view of the sunset in the last picture. Doesn't get any better than that -- lots of plants and a beautiful view. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

  8. tractor1 09/05/2012

    After reading the lawn comments I must say that I come from a very different perspective, I like wide expanses of lawn, and I have no problem with maintenence, how hard is it to mow? I mow ten acres of lawn area once a week all through the growing season, and all I do is mow, no watering, no chems, no fertilizer except that deposited by the critters, and no edging, from a distance it looks edged. My lawn is no specail kind of grass, actually it isn't much real grass, it's every kind of flora that decides to grow, but when mowed it's neat and green, on a sunny day so green it hurts ones eyes. I have flower beds and shrubs around my house, and I tend to the plantings along my creek (three hundred feet each side, mostly wild flowers and daffodils in spring, things the critters dont't eat). I have a large vegetable garden that keeps me busy, and I have a three acre wildflower meadow that I rough mow once a year in late summer/early fall to keep it healthy and to help it reseed, in fact I mowed it last week, takes most of a day bouncing around on a tractor... rough mowing a wildflower meadow with mulching blades creates a layer of mulch from the six foot plus growth and at the same time ensures a greater quantity of seeds get planted, seed heads left on the stems most get eaten by birds, by mowing about half get distributed in the mulch with half laying on the surface, while I'm mowing the birds arrive to feast. I mow the wildflower meadow at a six inch height, so as not to harm the many small critters that call it home; all kinds of frogs, snakes, moles, mice, and many insects... there are several small vernal ponds in the meadow too. I have quite a bit of forest area that I pretty much let be except for removing fallen trees. I have several specimen trees planted but I like them to have lots of space to reach their full potential and so that I can enjoy them without other trees impinging on their space. I don't like the cluttered landscape look, it all together has to make one picture rather than many disconnected pockets. I don't have an obsession with having one of everything, especially not indoors either, I like lots of empty space in my closets and cupbords, and I don't like too much furniture, I don't like to feel like I'm living in a rummage sale.

    Just snapped this view from my PC... my mowed meadow is beyond that rock wall.

  9. MichelleGervais 09/05/2012

    Tractor1, I love lawn, too. Ours is a mix of whatever grows best--clover, etc., and we do nothing but mow. (We made the mistake of fertilizing it once--my gosh, we had to mow it twice as often that year!) But I have to say, mowing is the last thing we feel like doing while my husband and I juggle 2 demanding careers, a 140-year-old-house, and a 6-year-old. I'm just not convinced that a garden in place of a lawn is less work. Maybe in California, but not in Connecticut. I'm still up in the air on what to do, but for now we'll just keep mowing the lawn occasionally.

  10. tractor1 09/05/2012

    I've been spending some time perusing Jean's pictures and noticed in the first one what looks like a peach? tree that's half dead, I'd trim off the dead portion, it should put out new growth and fill out. I'd also like to know what those trees are in front of Jean's lovely old farm house, the larger one to the left looks interesting. Jean has a lot of interesting plantings, I wish they were identified.
    Thank you, Jean.

  11. greengrowler 09/05/2012

    Jean, your gardens are a lovely balance between naturalistic and loose structure - peaceful yet exciting. Like others, LOVE the sunset (?) view of the lake - heaven for sure!

    Tractor1 - it sounds like your type of "lawn" is nature left to her own devices, which you gently tend. Your expanse of green is soothing; living where you do, the "green" comes naturally. Yet, in many areas, "grass" doesn't look so lovely - or even survive - without weeding, fertilizing, dumping random chemicals to control "pests", etc. I gave up on "chemical intervention" other than a tiny, judicious squirt with dandelion killer in years when the 'lions threaten world domination (and neighborhood harmony).

    Once a year, my small front lawn is core aerated (alkaline clay - yuck!), then I top-dress with compost and organic fertilizer - that's it! Of course, I must water living in an arid state, but limit it to 2, at the MOST 3 times per week - no more no matter how dry it gets. OK, so my lawn isn't pristine, putting green green, or weed-free - so what? Nature is the better for it.

  12. sheila_schultz 09/05/2012

    Your garden is a feast for the eyes, Jean. One of the things I like about GPOD is that we get to see the beauty in what others create. I love the diversity.

  13. tractor1 09/05/2012

    Michelle, it all depends on what you use to mow. For small bits of lawn here and there a light weight push mower should do it in about thirty minutes, but if you need to push a mower for much more than 30 minutes then you really need a riding mower, and if your property is fairly level then consider one of those new zero turn mowers, they are terrific for mowing around things. My neighbor bought one last year and it cut his mowing time in half... works for him because he has a lot of things about to mow around. I mow with two tractors (I'm partial to Kubota), one large one with a seven foot rear mower and a smaller tractor with a five foot belly mower... and I still use a push mower in some areas and a string trimmer too. The one thing you don't want is a self propelled mower, they are much too heavy to use in confined areas. Being in NY growing conditions are the same as Connecticut. The last people who lived here mowed the meadow with goats and sheep, most of the rest was in hay, very dirty, buggy, loaded with pollen, and after cut leaves the land with nothing but ugly stubble. I enjoy the mowing, maybe because I'm retired, I have the time. Speaking of retirement, I don't understand why so many people who really enjoy gardening choose to live on such small lots that they need to squeeze in and jumble everything together one plant atop another, especially those who are retired. Me, I'd rather mow from an air conditioned cab than spending the day on my hands and knees weeding. And I still have plenty of room for gardening, but before I plant anything I consider how it will fit into my mowing pattern. Last week I planted an open spot in a hedgerow with Norway spruce and juniper, these were volunteers I plucked from the foundation plantings in front of my house, they didn't belong there but I hated to throw them out... I didn't notice them until I worked in those beds pruning shrubs, they were growing up into my muhgo pines. My property at first looks like all lawn but with all the forest hedgerows, rock walls,and paths I created there are literally miles of edges where there are interesting plants growing that would go unnoticed without walking about.

  14. greengrowler 09/05/2012

    One more thought about lawn care - TWO HANDS UP for reel mowers!!! I got a hand-me-down reel mower a few years back and LOVE it! So quiet and mesmerizing to watch the cut blades of grass gently fly. It is a softer cut - not perfect and screechingly uniform, but the grass seems to like it much better and so do I - no deafening noise and spewing of fumes/gas. Would love to upgrade to a better model, if anyone has a recommendation...

  15. tractor1 09/05/2012

    GreenGrowler: Push reel mowers are nice if you have a very small lawn and don't mind the workout. Reel mowers work well if one has a very nice turf (golf course grade) and you are willing to mow often, they don't do well with tall grass, they are not good for mowing more than 1" per cut, so you pretty much need to mow every 2-3 days. Reel mowers give a better cut than rotary mowers because reel mowers shear rather than whack off the the grass leaving a mangled end on each blade of grass that will quickly brown. There are many companys that sell push reel mowers, here's one:,2160,51170,10190

    If you have a very nice estate type yard you can mow like they do at the finer golf courses, with gang reel mowers towed behind garden tractors or even larger machines.
    The beast:

  16. tractor1 09/05/2012

    Try this:

  17. joycedaffodilhill 09/05/2012

    These photos show the amount of love, hard work and time that have gone into the project. Love the comment about the boys no longer needing the space. I tried to garden with baseball, but found it hard to manage balls and iris blooms without disaster. I used to come home from work and mow the grass to relieve some of the stress. I love an old push mower, especially around "delicate" flower beds. Tried to find you on etsy but the system is down, will try later. Keep mowing!

  18. JeanMazzella 09/05/2012

    I will be selling seeds for many of my flowers in my Etsy shop starting in November.

  19. pattyspencer 09/06/2012

    Beautiful garden! And the picture at the end is the iceing on the cake.

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