Garden Photo of the Day

Returning to a Sculptor’s Garden

Today we’re taking a trip back to the Philadelphia garden of sculptor Syd Carpenter. If you missed our last visit to her garden, check it out here.

Ariseama ringens (cobra lily, Zones 6–9). This plant gets its common name from its unusual flowers, but here the enormous, glossy green leaves are the star of the show.

White caladium (Caladium bicolor, Zones 10–11 or as an annual) always makes a brilliant statement in the garden, but pairing it with dark foliage and flowers is just magical.

Blooming annuals catch the sun.

Fall color on a hosta, combined with a turquoise pot that Syd made herself.

Syd is a great lover of beautiful garden pots, some of which she has made herself, and others, like this one, that she has collected over the years. I love the idea of using pots as sculptures rather than always needing to put something growing in them.

The garden along the sidewalk. How lucky Syd’s neighbors are to get to walk past this every day!

A perfect use of different foliage blending together, with the yellow ‘Sun King’ Aralia (Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’, Zones 4–8), a begonia, and the leaves of the hardy impatiens (Impatiens omeiana, Zones 7–9), which has the beautiful dark green leaves with a bright white stripe down the center.

A wide view of this wonderful garden shows the color coming primarily from foliage plants.

Another one of Syd’s beautiful pots, this time with a plant in it, catching a ray of sunshine.

‘Sun King’ aralia in the back anchors this planting, and in the front left, lettuce leaf poppies (Papaver somniferum, annual) have mostly finished flowering, but their gray foliage and seed heads still contribute a lot to this planting.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 02/15/2019

    Syd's garden is possibly the best that's been showcased. I loved his first GPOD photos and the second set are just as great.
    We don't use annuals here, but realize many people love them & use them extensively. Syd has taken them to all-time heights! Delightful!

    1. nwphillygardener 02/15/2019

      Where's "here", Vanha? Are annual ornamental plants not available in your area?

    2. sydneyleigh 02/15/2019

      Hi Vanha, thank you for your very generous reaction to my garden. I love combining annuals with my perennials and shrubs. There are so many good ones especially some of petunias and the coleus.

  2. nwphillygardener 02/15/2019

    Just for the record (and I am sure Syd, a.k.a commenter Sydney Leigh, will chime in ) that we should be using female pronouns as Syd is a woman. She and are are gardening buddies here in Northwest Philadelphia. Her amazing garden - much of it presented on banks along the sidewalk - are indeed beloved in this walkable urban, but leafy neighborhood. Syd is an incredible resource not only for inspiration but information, as she helps support the community to aim high and have as much fun as she does.

    1. User avater
      treasuresmom 02/15/2019

      Administrator, you need to take this down & make the correction. Syd is definitely a woman.

    2. User avater
      CAlexander 02/15/2019

      Thank you for bringing this to our attention! We have fixed the error and have forwarded to Joseph so that he is aware and will make sure that he reaches out to Syd. Our apologies for the confusion!

    3. sydneyleigh 02/15/2019

      Thanks, philly guy, you of the amazing garden that was recently featured on GPOD

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/15/2019

    I'm so glad that the nice expansive view of the front garden was included as well as the wide shot of the back. I love seeing the overall impression of how the plants and objects of art relate to each other.

    1. sydneyleigh 02/15/2019

      I agree, I need to see how plants compliment each other in the grand scheme of things. And then you can go in for a close up. But first they have be worthy of the precious real estate they occupy through their color, leaf shape and resistance to bugs and fungus.

  4. paiya 02/15/2019

    This is such a beautiful garden, obviously planted by an artist balancing all the different hues and foliage ( and flowers). The berm next to the sidewalk is breathtaking. Thank you for brightening this gloomy morning in Philadelphia

    1. sydneyleigh 02/15/2019

      Gardening on that hill, which is on a busy corner, is where I meet so many interesting people. I feel obligated to provide something of interest for them to enjoy. it’s sometimes difficult because the entire site is choked with maple tree roots.

    2. sydneyleigh 02/15/2019

      The pleasure is all mine

  5. User avater
    simplesue 02/15/2019

    Wow, I really enjoyed seeing the garden with the house along the sidewalk. The little lanterns in the tree are a nice touch too. Gardening really is a fine art, and this really is some "Fine Gardening". Wish you lived on my street.

    1. sydneyleigh 02/15/2019

      Thanks for enjoying my place.

  6. btucker9675 02/15/2019

    This is one of the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen - such artistry, both with the plants and her sculpting. Wow...

    1. nwphillygardener 02/15/2019

      Syd often allows her garden to be included on garden tours and you are surely not the first to declare "this is one of the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen"! Even through the course of a growing season, new elements are introduced to keep it dynamic and exciting throughout. "You should been here last week" never needs to be evoked by this gardener.

    2. sydneyleigh 02/15/2019

      My garden is quite visible, being on a busy street corner. So I get a lot of good feed back from people who walk by. But my neighborhood is lucky to have many many beautiful gardens tended by some very talented gardeners. I hope more of them will submit to GPOD so you can see what a gardening hot bed I live in.

  7. 18bees 02/15/2019

    Wow, this is fabulous! All I want to say is 'Won't you be my neighbour?' I would love to walk past this garden every day, it would probably take me a long time as I slowly took in every plant there. Thanks for sharing!

  8. user-7009037 02/15/2019

    Are the “dark foliage and flowers” paired with the Caladium a Tradescantia or a Commelina? A friend of mine says Tradescantia, but I think the leaves are too broad and resemble Commelina. I can’t find any Commelina with dark leaves like that though.

    1. sydneyleigh 02/15/2019

      That dark plant is a tradescantia. It is Tinantia Pringlei. It is perennial and a rampant spreader but easy to control. It prefers shade or dappled light and blooms in the morning. One of my tried and trues for difficult shady places in the garden. But you must keep it in check once it gets happy in your garden.

      1. user-7009037 02/15/2019

        Thanks so much for letting me know! Already found it on Plant Delights. You made my friend’s day because she was betting Tradescantia. Thanks again!

      2. nwphillygardener 02/15/2019

        The Tinantia being "kept in check" is because it's a rampant self-seeder but it doesn't spread underground or regenerate from roots. And those seedlings are quite easily yanked out when they develop in places where not wanted. The curious smokey green color with purple spots are a surprisingly good companion with most leaf colors and it fills in between plants with stronger form. Periwinkle blue flowers from June until frost here in zone 7

        1. nwphillygardener 02/15/2019

          Tinantia pringlei also roots quickly in a cup of water and can be pruned as often as needed to best complement it's neighbors without swamping them as they continue to enlarge through the growing season. And lastly, they are perennials late to arrive in spring….. sometimes into May before they re-emerge…. and seeds may germinate throughout the season, too.

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