Garden Photo of the Day

Sandy’s garden in Connecticut

Ornamental Garden: Stone walls replaced original railroad tie structures, with a grass path and stone stairs. Present garden with boxwood now a hedge and perennials.

Today's photos are from Sandy Motyka in Connecticut. Sandy is one of the sweetest women I know, and she's a copywriter for the Taunton Press, the company that publishes Fine Gardening. Sandy's been telling me about her garden for years, and she's a fan of the GPOD, so I finally convinced her to bring in some photos to share! She says, "For years we owned several acres of land behind our first home in Newtown. In the late 1990s we decided to build on a part of that land we had enjoyed walking through with dogs and family. It was important to us to preserve the natural beauty of the land and not turn it into a typical suburban lawn-centered landscape. This is just a glimpse of what we have done on five acres. These photos focus on the ornamental garden behind the house. It’s really stone-lined giant flower pots that were backfilled with compost and topsoil. Everything is grouped for impact and ease of care. It’s the most formal of the plantings. All else is geared to transition into the natural landscape with hardwoods, including beeches, lots of native ferns, and rugged stone outcroppings." Gorgeous, Sandy! I can't believe you waited so long to show me photos….now you need to show us MORE!

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Same garden in full summer, after white lilacs have bloomed

close up with butterfly

this garden when newly planted about 8 years ago

same garden as above when new with annuals and some perennials

stone stairs replaced railroad ties

The side yard plantings are designed to blend the beautiful natural landscape replete with native hardwoods and natural ferns, and to minimize lawn wherever possible. This is the side yard with a rustic patio – the little maple has since left us : (  

side yard keeping natural stone outcropping and native ferns to blend with stone wall with hydrangeas. White 'Ice Follies' daffodils and old-fashioned narcissus fill the area under the hydrangeas in spring

front yard

Entry to fern garden. This area was rubble from the house building and lots of stone, probably from the backside of the glacier, and some natural ferns. It was a mess, but every year we plant some more ferns to fill in.

We added natural stone steps and rustic ornaments to make this rubble pile look nice since we see right off the terrace

View Comments


  1. Nurserynotnordstroms 03/25/2015

    Sandy you certainly know how to blend your hardscaping into your landscaping and then on into the natural wooded areas. This is all so beautiful,I love the fern garden and what you said was a rubble pile. I am so happy Michelle convinced you to share your five acre estate with us. I love all of it,and what a wonderful morning stroll (with coffee in hand )this would be.

  2. susan749 03/26/2015


  3. GrannyMay 03/26/2015

    Sandy your garden is gorgeous! I especially love the natural looking stacked stone walls in the third-last photo and the stairs with the stone container in the second-last photo. That area looks ancient and peaceful, not at all a pile of builders' rubble.

  4. user-1020932 03/26/2015

    stone, ferns, natural forest absolutely beautiful. it would be a vacation everytime i went outside. i REALLY covet your stone walls

  5. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 03/26/2015

    What's not to love? I am so envious of the stones, stonework and beautifully integrated plantings. Great plant choices and placement make this a garden that is truly a garden and not just a piece of the forest, yet complimentary to the natural surroundings. Inspiring! Please do give Michelle more photos! oh, and that silvery plectranthus is shimmery gorgeousness (eh, Sheila?)!

    1. sheila_schultz 03/26/2015

      I already made a note, Tim ;)

  6. User avater
    meander_michaele 03/26/2015

    I think I'll join that butterfly and just flit about to my hearts content...although it would be hard to pull myself away from the setting that includes those beautiful soft lavender Japanese iris. Your garden areas look timeless, if they were meant to be.

  7. VikkiVA 03/26/2015

    I love what you have done with the stones(boulders) and your plant variety blends perfectly with your natural setting. The picture with the butterfly is magazine worthy. Thanks for sharing your beautiful garden. Vikki in VA.

  8. NCYarden 03/26/2015

    My goodness. I am blown away...I wish I was blown away to this garden. What a beautiful setting and fantastic complementary gardening. The stones are just unbelievable. I won't be able to show this garden to my wife today as she will be sooooo envious. We have longed to do some major stonework, similar to your stone stairs, on the hill in our back that leads up into the woods and "upper garden", but just hasn't been possible yet. Actually I love the inspiration, and going to save that photo, so thanks a bunch. Your garden is just awesome. Thank you for sharing.

  9. terieLR 03/26/2015

    After viewing today's woodland I am ready to keep spreading the native fern. How beautiful Sandy! I'm sure your lush flower beds are filled with butterfly and I can just hear your birds. Robins singing here this morning. ?
    Yes, more please.

    1. sheila_schultz 03/26/2015

      I thought of your gardens, Terie, as soon as I saw the first photo! You and Dandy are such thoughtful gardeners.

  10. thevioletfern 03/26/2015

    You had me at stone and ferns - the best combo ever! So beautiful. It is an art to blend a garden into the natural landscape - you are obviously, an artist!

  11. sheila_schultz 03/26/2015

    Sandy, I think I held my breath scrolling through the photos you brought to Michelle, I didn't want to disturb the peace of your gardens. They are simply perfect. If one can truly improve upon nature, you have achieved that goal. If that isn't possible, you have quietly enhanced the natural beauty of your surroundings. We need more photos please.

  12. Srasgarden 03/26/2015

    Love it! It is so beautiful and peaceful! I can not imagine doing all that stonework. I agree that it is beautiful the way you have made it all look so natural!

  13. digginWA 03/26/2015

    There is nothing like well-crafted stonework to anchor the garden to its site. Wow I love this--if I had to choose one pic, it's the rustic pot with the plecthranthus. Yum.

  14. User avater
    HelloFromMD 03/26/2015

    Beautiful blending. The stone work makes me miss the days when my husband and I lived in Rhode Island. So glad the hydrangeas are doing well. Do the mop head ones bloom for you every year? Very beautiful. The stone steps are fantastic. I would love to garden in the surrounding beds! Tell us about your grass paths. Can you mow them? Do you use a string trimmer? You definitely achieved the effect you were going for. Awesome.

  15. GrannyCC 03/26/2015

    I love the way you have transitioned from the area around the house to the wooded area.. It feels very natural. Beautiful stone work. You must have strong muscles!!

  16. schatzi 03/26/2015

    Gorgeous woodsy Heaven! Love the stone work and ferns...and flowers and butterfly and...
    the way you turned an eyesore (rock pile) into a beautiful asset. Love the silver furriness of Plectranthus and the beautiful Japanese irises. More Please. It's a dream garden.

  17. eddireid 03/26/2015

    Breathtakingly lovely Sandy! Is the rock from your own land - you described some of it as rubble - how fortunate if that is so. Lucky you. You have done a really brilliant job of blending into the natural landscape and enhancing it all. So many of my favorite plants and flowers, and ROCKS - who could not love it all? A joy.

  18. eddireid 03/26/2015

    Oh! And the stone pot on the stone steps containing the plectranthus is wonderful. I'm going to borrow that idea! Thank you.

  19. wGardens 03/26/2015

    Fabulous! I am loving what you've done with your property. The gardens, the stonework- oh! Just lovely! Certainly "Garden Tour" worthy! Marvelous setting and certainly looks like a piece of paradise to me! Superb!

  20. Cenepk10 03/26/2015

    Well, Sandy has been holding out on all of us !! Yes - Truly a blow away ! So awesome !

  21. Meelianthus 03/27/2015

    Well Sandy, I wish I had something more original to say, but - I just love all of the stonework. You must have worked on it for a number of seasons. It is absolutely breathtaking with all of your beautiful flowers, ferns, and forest. And that butterfly is amazing! Thanks for sharing the beauty of all your hard work.

  22. user-7007327 03/27/2015

    Love the mixture of flowers and plants. The stone walls remind me of Ireland.

  23. [email protected] 03/29/2015

    love all of your stone hardscaping. beautiful!

  24. foxglove12 03/31/2015

    Wow! So beautiful and lush! Love all the stone. Wish all these photos were in the hard copy of the magazine. It would be an issue I would keep for inspiration. Well Done!

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