Garden Photo of the Day

Rich Soil and Sturdier Blooms

By: Kim Charles


Laurel Statz from Wisconsin has successfully improved the conditions in her soil, resulting in many rewarding blooms.

"I have gardened in the rural dairy country of Wisconsin for about 10 years now and had hard clay and gravel soil to work with. This past year, I learned how to amend the soil and stake plants in various ways, resulting in sturdier plants with more flowers."

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Herb planter that DH built and is on the deck right by the kitchen door.

One side of the border along the aspen fence. Showing Hosta 'Gold Standard', white tiger lilies, rose campion, lambs ears (which are strictly deadheaded), SunPatiens, Hosta 'Halcyon' among others.

Another view of the bed in 3. Daylily 'Chorus Line', & Hosta 'Gold Standard'. The rock is a huge chunk of granite that was dug out when they dug our basement. The stacked stone is disguising our well pipe, and the bowl on it is for the birds.  

Close up of a fancy Datura which I got the seed for in Hawaii. 

 My whiskey barrel birdbath this year.  Bedecked with 'Strawberry Drop' coleus, hot pink verbena, deep pink million bells and a few others that didn't make such a great showing.  Behind is a lily which I don't have the name for. 

 A weeders eye view over the top of some flower beds.

A fun whiskey barrel of greens and purples.

Each year I try to consider the the colors in the birdbath when I choose the colors for the surrounding flowers in the pots. 

View Comments


  1. mjensen 09/21/2017


  2. user-7007498 09/21/2017

    Good morning, Laurel. What a beautiful garden you have. I love the extensive borrowed views of the farmlands, but I think I would miss the many trees around my area. I have rotted the roots of many a plant over the years in our heavy clay. It took a number of years of composting to get things right. Glad to hear you've improved your soil so quickly.

    I love the collection of plants on your deck, and the herb planter looks great. It must be so nice to have them close and elevated. The Datura flower is pretty. Quite the poisonous plant, and has been used over the centuries for murders and suicides (I am not implying that was on your mind).

    The granite boulder makes a great backdrop for plants. Loved the photos. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Cenepk10 09/21/2017

    Nice !!!!!

  4. user-4691082 09/21/2017

    Laurel, I was really impressed with your disguise of the well pipe. The view of the planted corn reminded me of my childhood home. Folks don't realize that running through the corn produces nice cuts on bare legs and arms! Those leaves are sharp!!! I, too, love the herb planter that your hubby built. Great job!

    1. LaurelEm 09/21/2017

      Yes, I know about the sharp corn leaves. They are bad. Even worse when they dry down. The well pipe cover was a second attempt. We first stacked up old bricks around it and it just didn't do anything for me. My dear patient hubby. When I said we have to make a trip to the quarry and get limestone...he just rolled his eyes and went along with it. Just one bad thing. Small critters can get in there and then it drives our rat terrier crazy and he tried to dig the one out, that got in there. It was a gopher.

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 09/21/2017

    Love how you framed pic 2. Your planter reminds me of a horse feeder & a barn is way in the background. Great pic as the others are as well. And I have to add that your rudbeckia is gorgeous as well. It is one of my top 5 plants.

    1. LaurelEm 09/21/2017

      Thank you, Actually the herb planter is made of thick oak boards that used to be a horse stall. The thing weighs a ton and a half. We don't move it often. We have the sliding doors from the stall too and I am trying to decide where to put one as a trellis.

  6. chelleisdiggin 09/21/2017

    Laurel, I was hoping you'd give us the secret of improving the soil! I'm here in Missouri, much like you, plunked down in the middle of a beef cattle pasture and I'd love to hear your tips.

    Seriously, your color combinations are lovely and everything is so filled in and cozy. I never thought of covering the well pipe with stacked stone, it looks great! Good gardening!

    1. LaurelEm 09/21/2017

      Well I have hauled out some of the clay that resembled the clay in the barrels at the art classroom in high school. You know the stuff? I have added leaf compost and mushroom compost, peat moss, rabbit manure (which is a cold manure so you can plant directly after adding it), sand, rock phosphate, hay chaff, chicken grit, let's see what else? Well anything at hand that is organic but I bought bags of leaf compost and mushroom compost. Now this year we discovered a product that I'll have to get the name of but I think it's just called garden soil and the bag says something like "compost from the forest floor" but I'll check and get back to you. That is the nicest stuff. Just full of organic niceness.

      1. chelleisdiggin 09/22/2017

        Wow! Thanks. That's a lot of work. We've always added compost and sometimes topsoil but I've never hauled the clay out. When we put in our front yard landscaping, the nurseryman recommended just putting on a thick layer of shredded bark mulch (small pieces) and mixing it into the planting holes. I was skeptical, but a year later, it seems to be working. That 'garden saoila' compost sounds like a great product. I would like to have the name.

        1. LaurelEm 09/22/2017

          The product is Schultz Garden Soil. It is in a distinctive green bag. It is really not what I would call "soil" is it very organic and looks like compost more than soil. We bought it at a Wisconsin Company building and everything store called Menards, but I bet a person might find it at a Lowes? Or maybe just any local garden center?

          1. chelleisdiggin 09/25/2017

            Thanks Laurie, we have both Menards and a Lowes, here as well. I'm sure I'll be able to find it. I'm definitely willing to give it a try.

        2. LaurelEm 09/22/2017

          I corrected my misspelling the Saoila was supposed to say "Soil and". Did I mention I've never been hired for my typing skills?

  7. VikkiVA 09/21/2017

    What a beautiful birdbath. You have chosen well in the color echo. Your landscape is beautiful and I really like all your plant choices. Your barrel of greens and purple is especially beautiful. Vikki in VA

  8. cheryl_c 09/21/2017

    I love the color groupings that you have, particularly the pink one and the purple and green (one of my favorites for our garden). Crazy pretty bird bath! Did you paint it? Wonder what type of paint would work? And your 'weeders view' comment made me chuckle - great vantage point!

    1. LaurelEm 09/21/2017

      HI, Thank you for your nice comments. The birdbath we got on a trip to Florida, but it's Mexican Talavera pottery. There is a little roadside store, I believe at Barberville. They have tons of Mexican Talavera stuff for reasonable prices. Souvenir.

      1. LaurelEm 09/21/2017

        Oh My I just looked up the Talavera place. The photos. !!!!
        or put in google maps Barberville Yard Art Emporium. 201 photos of their stuff. In case you get to Florida.

  9. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 09/21/2017

    Your hard work has really paid off. Everything looks so healthy and well-tended. Great that you've got that stone from your property. I love seeing the corn in the distance. Reminds of me of where I grew up in Iowa.

  10. Doxnmomx2 09/21/2017

    Everything shouts fun! I love it. Those orange daylilies in the rudbeckia are just the right pop. What is your hedge? You are the perfect example for "borrowing" landscaping.

    1. sheila_schultz 09/21/2017

      The 'hedge' looks like a gorgeous field of corn to me!

      1. Doxnmomx2 09/21/2017

        Oh, you're right! Ha ha ha!

        1. LaurelEm 09/21/2017

          Yes it's corn. I think this is the last year for corn, in the rotation and then we'll have alfalfa next year. We look forward to that, because we can't even see the road and people don't realize there is a house back here, like if you're giving someone directions to come over. Isn't there a novel by the name "The Corn is Tall"? or is The Corn is Green. both true.

  11. NWAgardener 09/21/2017

    Hello Laurel - Lovely colorful garden with spectacular distant views! If you would like a Lamb's Ear that doesn't require deadheading, try 'Helen Von Stein'. It is a large leafed variety that rarely ever blooms (hence, no deadheading). :-)

    1. LaurelEm 09/21/2017

      Thank you. I'll look into those.

  12. sheila_schultz 09/21/2017

    Your gardens and planters are a delight, Laurel. The color combos are comfortably pleasing and seem perfect for your beautiful rural surroundings. Looking out your kitchen door must give you the feeling that all of your hard work has paid off!
    BTW, I love your name, it's my daughters name as well! Have you been called Laura or Lauren as often as she has? It took her a long time to be happy with her name! Haha!

  13. wittyone 09/21/2017

    Lucky you living in Wisconsin-----a beautiful state! Lovely rolling hills and so neat and orderly looking.

    Your plantings look wonderful and healthy, I'm surprised that living in dairy country you don't also utilize the ever abundant manure that all those cows produce so readily. I get horse manure from a local stable but think that cow manure is better since it has fewer weed seeds. The rabbit stuff is great since it's not "hot" and can just be shoveled in whenever. There are so many great additions that can be added to improve soil and as your garden proves: good soil makes for happy plants.

    1. LaurelEm 09/21/2017

      Thank you, So far I don't have any compost bins or a place that I care to stack manure for breaking it down. I have easy access to cow, horse, poultry and rabbit manure. Since rabbit manure is cold and I have really a lot of it, I just go with that. Someday I'd like to have a set of compost bins, but not too high on my motivation list, so far. So many things!!!

  14. Sunshine111 09/21/2017

    I loved all your photos, especially all the colors and textures. It is so much fun to design new container combos each year. Some years mine are more successful than others, but it's always an adventure!

  15. edithdouglas 09/21/2017

    Love the garden & plants and the combinations. You have done an excellent job on all fronts. Thanks for sharing.

  16. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 09/21/2017

    Good morning, Laurie, in beautiful WI. Looking at those farm views and corn fields makes me nostalgic for gardening there where you occasionally get rain in the summer and everything stays green and lush. Your rudbeckia bed looks so happy and I also love that herb planter. The datura is an interesting dangerous plant as Kevin said. We grow brugmansia which is in the same family and overwinter it in the greenhouse. Do you take yours in for the winter? Thanks for sharing.

    1. LaurelEm 09/21/2017

      Hello, thank you for your nice remarks. The Datura we grow as an annual in Wisconsin. I know the common white one reseeds itself to a pesty proportion. I don't know yet aobut this one. I am keeping several pods of seeds to grow on, just in case it doesn't reseed here. Some day I want to get a Brumansia. I've heard instructions for overwintering it in a dark basement, so I'd like to give it a try sometime. I am working on a "faux tropical" garden. This year is the first start of it. If I get it figured out, in a couple years I hope to share it on this blog also. It's halfway where I want it right now, but needs more.

  17. JoannaAtGinghamGardens 09/21/2017

    Wow, everything is so beautiful! My favorite are the tall white lilies. Thank you for sharing.

  18. btucker9675 09/21/2017

    Your garden looks so joyful!
    I'm excited today because the milkweed and parsley I planted a few weeks ago have two "customers"!


    1. LaurelEm 09/21/2017

      Years ago I used to plant parsley as an herb, to use. I always got swallowtail cats in them and never used the parsley. I left it for the caterpillars. This year I planted a bunch of parsley for the swallowtails. Not a single caterpillar. I see linguine and white clam sauce in our future.

      1. btucker9675 09/22/2017

        Ha! I have parsley in a container on our raised back deck for use in cooking. So far no caterpillars on that. When I bought the milkweed plants for the border in front of our wooded area, the woman at the nursery suggested planting the parsley with them. Guess it worked. Enjoy your weekend!

  19. User avater
    meander_michaele 09/21/2017

    Besides all your lovely pictures, I was also charmed by your phrase "a weeder's eye view ". I never thought of it that way but it's so true. You have a very happy looking garden with joyful color combinations. In one of your earlier comments, it certainly sounds you have invested lots of sweat equity in giving your plants a well nurtured place to thrive.

  20. tennisluv 09/21/2017

    Nice, really nice. Ditto on every thing that meander 1 said. Living in the deep South, I am so envious of what you northern gardeners can do. Don't get me wrong, I love what we can do in our humid, hot environment with Georgia red clay that you cannot. In a perfect world we would all be able to plant anything we wanted and it would thrive. That said, love the challenges that Mother Nature throws our way.

    1. LaurelEm 09/22/2017

      I am envious of the greater range of plants you can grow in the south where they won't freeze out and die in the winter.

  21. Chris_N 09/21/2017

    Everything looks wonderful. You are in a beautiful part of Wisconsin. Actually most of Wisconsin is beautiful but some parts are more beautiful than others. :-) Add me to the list of the birdbath admirers.

  22. user-6536305 09/22/2017

    That birdbath is surely eye catching and surrendering pots certainly enhanced it. Thanks for your link of the birdbath and pottery. Love your whiskey barrel planter and water feature. Thanks for sharing your beautiful garden Laurel!

  23. user-7008735 09/22/2017

    I really like your colourful whiskey barrel planting, Laurie, and your fabulous birdbath. The views across the rolling green fields are also beautiful.

  24. thevioletfern 09/27/2017

    What a savvy gardener you are! Love "weeder's eye view!" Your soil amendments really do reward! The Datura is gorgeous and love, love, love the bath — how clever of you to play off its wonderful color.

  25. chris_buscemi 10/01/2017

    Love your bird bath and how you incorporate plants with same colors. So colorful and exciting. It's pretty cool you grew Datura from seeds in Hawaii.

  26. mabelgoodrich 05/31/2021

    Thanks for letting us know about the importance of having good soil for gardening! This website is so interesting to the people who love to have a wonderful moment during the online browsing time. I am thinking to reorganize my garden with these tips!

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