Garden Photo of the Day

Returning to the Garden in 40 Shades of Green

Spring brings more colors to this Virginia garden

Today Emmanuel Touhey, who has shared his garden with us before, is back to give us a glimpse of what it looks like in the spring.

I thought I’d share some new pictures from my garden in Burke, Virginia. I hope you like them.

Daffodils in bloom in the cottage garden by the garden bench. I look forward to seeing these gems each spring. They remind me of fried eggs.

Hellebores (Lenten roses) were among the first flowers I added to my mostly shade garden. This is a new variety that I added to my collection in March.

Bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis, Zone 3–9) were planted last year. They have bloomed with abundance this year and pop against the woodland backdrop.

The azaleas frame the garden and wrap around the porch. You don’t realize how important structure is to a garden until you see shrubs like these perform in spring. Without them, the flowers and plants in the garden would be lost. Get the structure and soil right, and the whole garden will shine.

This is the view of the garden path from our deck. The logs in the lower right corner are the remnants of several old oak trees that become unsafe after a recent storm and had to come down. Their loss means more light and less shade—an opportunity to experiment anew in this space. You can see here how well the azaleas frame the space and contrast with the different shades of green.

When I began to design this garden, I wanted a loose feel to the space that would play off the woods in the background and continue the natural feel of the planting. I think this picture captures that vision perfectly, with the ferns and azaleas blending seamlessly with the trees.

A host of golden daffodils. Wordsworth comes to mind when I see these golden yellow trumpets strut their stuff each spring. They are always the first to bloom among the five varieties of narcissus I have planted in the garden. They mirror and enhance the leafless trees in early spring.

Each garden needs a place of quiet reflection where you can stop what you are doing and just take in the view. The garden bench faces the woods and gives a good view of the plantings and allows me to see what works and what maybe needs to change. Seeing the bench nestled among the daffodils and the flowers that follow warms my heart and makes me feel like I might be doing something right. We gardeners are always learning, right?

This is the view of the garden from the southwest. It is the only hotspot in the mostly shade garden, so I make the most of it and fill it to overflowing with flowers throughout the seasons. The daffodils are now gone, but they delivered a bumper crop this year.

Nature is truly breathtaking. The beauty of these bleeding hearts suspended on an arch above the ferns and creeping Jenny is something to behold—and yes, they do make my heart flutter.

The view of the garden from our upstairs bedroom gives you a sense of the space and its ongoing potential.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    devinkoblas 05/07/2019

    So Beautiful!

    1. netouhey 05/07/2019

      Many thanks.

  2. User avater
    treasuresmom 05/07/2019

    Love bleeding hearts but it is too hot & humid in the deep south in zone 8b for them. Love your azaleas. Do you know the variety?

    1. netouhey 05/07/2019

      Alas, I don't know the variety. I inherited them. I am however adding some new varieties, including Western Lights, which should look lovely next year--hopefully.

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 05/07/2019

    Your spring garden is a delight, Emmanuel, and I can well understand your gratification as it matures and evolves. I love the double daffodils that are in the foreground of the picture highlighting the quiet spot with the bench. I am guessing that they are particularly fragrant...the doubles often are. Everything looks lovely.

    1. netouhey 05/07/2019

      I make the mistake that many gardeners make--namely throwing away labels thinking I will remember the names. But I do love these doubles with their hint of yellow in otherwise white blooms. Thank you for your kind comments.

  4. btucker9675 05/07/2019

    Thank you for sharing your lovely garden - it is giving me inspiration as my property is also wooded in the back. I have yet to put in bleeding heart,which I had many of in NJ, here in my NC garden. Your excellent sense of how to make a garden feel natural and part of its surroundings shines through.

    1. netouhey 05/07/2019

      Thank you, thank you. I initially wanted a rose garden--if you can believe that--but I quickly learned that the deer loved them and ate them all. Besides, it was a case of "wrong plant, wrong place." Not enough light to fully bloom. So the limited lighting and the deer, who still visit the garden but don't nibble anymore, forced me to research and rethink the kind of garden this needed to be. So I embraced the space and came up with this plan. I'm still learning, and loving the journey. That's what it's about, right? Thank you again and good luck to you. Happy gardening.

  5. User avater
    simplesue 05/07/2019

    Spring sure does add a lot of color! Soon the woods next to you will be a lush green! Love the birds eye view of your garden! Best pictures ever of the Bleeding-hearts!

    1. netouhey 05/07/2019

      Thank you. I enjoy taking pictures of my garden, as well as others. I try to capture what I see, and that helps me figure out what works, what doesn't, and what I should try in future. The British plantswoman Gertrude Jekyll used to talk about "perspective" when writing about plants. Seeing them from different vantage points helps you understand their role and how they fit into a green space. My pictures help me see different perspectives, and I go from there.

  6. cheryl_c 05/07/2019

    Emmanuel, you have created a wonderful 'bridge' between your home and the woods - such a graceful transition from civilized to nature. I love it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. netouhey 05/07/2019

      Thank you. Beth Chatto used to talk about "right plant, right place." I tried and failed, before I began to succeed in this space. After I cut my losses, I took a step back and rethought my whole approach to the space. I couldn't fight it--well I could, but I would lose--so I embraced it. The good thing now is that I'm on a journey I would have never imagined, and it's very exciting. Learning is fun.

  7. User avater
    KevinHuggins 07/16/2019


  8. fromvirginia 04/05/2022

    Lovely. Googling shade gardens on here and wonder8 g if there’s an update on your garden. I’m also developing a shade garden in NoVa.

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