Garden Photo of the Day

Sarah’s fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants garden in Minnesota

Today’s photos are from Sarah Brackney. She says, “I garden in frigid USDA Hardiness Zone 4b in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’m very new to perennial gardening, having only two years under my belt.

The garden on our property was unkempt and overgrown when my husband and I moved in, so I spent much of my first season ripping out everything in sight! I literally needed to start with a clean slate… because I didn’t really know what I was doing – and I still don’t! 🙂  The most interesting thing about my garden is that I’m completely organic and mulch free. I don’t know if this will change in the future, but it seems to be working out very well for me now. My secret is a lot of well rotted manure!

I have 5 different gardens that are all a work in progress, and a soon-to-be sixth when we install a patio at the back of our home (with a night garden around it). My gardens are far from perfect, but they’ve taught me so much and given me the opportunity to connect with other people in the gardening community.

I really enjoy documenting my garden (and the different plants) and I hope that my garden photography  inspires others to grow something… or to plan interesting plant combinations.

I’m definitely a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants gardener, rarely planning anything. I rely heavily on what I’m “drawn to” and the specific color schemes I’ve established for each area. I believe repetition is key to obtaining a cohesive and pleasing garden and I am really inspired by English and Swedish gardening styles.

Minnesota’s climate is dreadful, so I grow hardy plants like iris, salvia, artemisia, allium, clematis, achillea, and my favorite, Russian sage. This year is my first year with poppies (Oriental and Shirely) and I’ve found a new obsession! (Dahlias come in a close second!) I maintain a pictorial blog about our gardens HERE.”

WOW, Sarah. I cannot believe you’ve only been gardening for two years!! Incredible!

View Comments


  1. perenniallycrazy 07/11/2014

    No way this is a fly-by-the-seat of your pants gardening Sarah! (Michelle, it's Sarah right? because the title says Shirley...) So much vibrance in your young garden. So much promise and inspiration. I have a feeling you have an innate talent for gardening. Can't wait to see what you do next year, the year after that and so on and so forth.

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 07/11/2014

    Wow, Sarah, you are a whirling dervish of gardening productivity. Love your gardening philosophy expressed here and on your blog. You already have so many wonderful perennials and great combinations. With your energy and enthusiasm, you will probably be on bed #10 by this time next year. I'm with Perennially Crazy, can't wait to see what is yet to come.

  3. user-1020932 07/11/2014

    two years?!?!?! that is an incredible amount of work and plant material and growth for 2 years. i think the rotted manure and much elbow grease is working well for you. can't imagine what 5 years in will look like. great job!

  4. NCYarden 07/11/2014

    Ha, this garden is fantastic! You have no worries with the "fly-by" attitude. I too am what I call a rogue gardener, especially because despite any planning, the garden will still dictate what you can grow (even when the tag says otherwise), much like the Zone. It all works out. So keep embracing the philosophy, as you have tons of fun awaiting you in the years to come. You're are off to a great start with the short amount of time you have invested thus far. Please post your progress, and thank you for sharing.

  5. greengenes 07/11/2014

    Nice job, Sarah! The secret is out! MANURE! That's wonderful that you can grow those kinds of plants there. You have done a nice job with the photography as well. A garden gets better every year and you are off to a good start! I discovered the Shirley poppies this year too and they will be around in the gardens from now on! The deer seem to eat them though but if you plant a lot of them some survive. Have fun discovering more plants and plantings this summer! Thanks for sharing with us! Yes, Manure! We have this fish compost here in Washington state that I use and it is a miracle working amendment! Happy gardening!

  6. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 07/11/2014

    Dear Shirley Poppies, Please tell Sarah she is doing a great job! Great plants and nicely composed photos. No way that garden is only two years old. Glad you're helping out and digging in. Sincerely, Oriental Poppies

    1. User avater
      meander_michaele 07/11/2014

      Tim, your playful comment made me laugh out loud...literally! Thanks for the boost of happy energy!

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 07/11/2014

        Michaele, it is certainly a lot less funny now that Michelle has corrected the title! I certainly grinned when I realized how the title error happened. Wishing you glorious gardening!

  7. hostagal 07/11/2014

    Your blog entry for July 8 'Married' is wonderful! Love looking at your flowers, beautiful photos, and descriptions. Your blog page is done very nicely. Thank you for sharing!

  8. VikkiVA 07/11/2014

    Your garden is beautiful! I can appreciate all your hard work. Vikki in VA

  9. MichelleGervais 07/11/2014

    How the heck did I mess that up?? It's Sarah, not Shirley....I was obviously mesmerized by the poppies.... Sorry, Sarah! I'm trying to fix the title now. Good thing it's Friday!

  10. GrannyMay 07/11/2014

    Ah Sarah, I can sense that you have lots of new obsessions to look forward to! May I recommend another variety of poppy, the Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule) , for your yellow/orange palette. Congratulations on your garden and your blog! Great ideas and terrific photos!

  11. schatzi 07/11/2014

    Ditto to all the accolades! I am also a fly-by-the -seat-of-the pants gardener I guess, because I (almost) never met a flower I didn't like and nearly everything grows here in western WA. Until a cold snap kills off your hebes...I've about given up on them. Altho I have 2 that have survived very nicely despite the vagaries of the weather.
    Comment to Greengenes - where in WA do you live? and where do you get your fish compost? I live at Lake Tapps which is about 500' altitude and about a month later in the spring and earlier in the fall than down in the valley. It truly is a temperate jungle here.

  12. sarahbrackney 07/12/2014

    Thanks, everyone! And yes! The gardens are really only two years old. I definitely am the first to admit that creative photography helps to make them look better ;) There are still many places to be filled out, cut back, weeded, etc. I have found a happiness in my gardens that's though to be replicated elsewhere. I work retail 40+ hours a week, so gardening is my decompression.

    I cannot wait for them to grow and fill in so I can share better overall shots with you. Again, thank you all for the kind compliments.

    Garden on, friends!

  13. tonygcastaneda 07/14/2014

    Josiah . although Jacqueline `s stori is surprising, last week I bought
    themselves a Chrysler from having made $5060 thiss month and-in excess of, 10/k
    last-month . it's realy the easiest-work I have ever done . I started this 4
    months ago and pretty much straight away was bringin in at least $78 per-hour .
    why not look here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  14. ankie147 04/20/2019

    Most of the the plants are are really fantastic and very charming. These all are designed with free download firefox mozilla the planning and this a big advantage which I really like very much

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