Garden Photo of the Day

Spectacular Spring Ephemerals in Jay Sifford’s Back Garden

Fleeting spring flowers in a lesser-seen section of a well-known garden

spring ephemerals in the garden

It’s always a treat when award-winning landscape designer Jay Sifford sends in photos of his fabulous home garden in the mountains of North Carolina. Today we have an extra-special treat:

Many are familiar with my septic drain field turned stylized meadow in the front yard of my house called Rhodwood, which is located in the western North Carolina mountains at 3300 feet. We were Zone 6b; now we’re 7a. Fewer have seen the back garden, accessed by a series of switchback steps. This area is comprised of a large rhododendron maximum forest with a high tree canopy, complete with two natural bogs and a stream with rapids.

The natural plant palette contains mostly spring ephemerals that are gone by the end of June, just about the time the front garden peaks. Hundreds of native skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus, Zones 4–7) , Trillium sulcatum (southern red trillium, Zones 4–7), Veratrum, and marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris, Zones 3–7) form the framework. My goal was to embellish this natural wonderland with native and nonnative plants that look at home in the space.

silver statue of a kneeling man surrounding by bright green foliage and purple flowersThe sculpture of a male figure greets visitors as they step off of the boardwalk that spans bog #1.

Ostrich fern with purple woodland phlox and other foliage plantOstrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris, Zones 3–7) , woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata, Zones 3–8), and Veratrum say spring more than any other plant combination in the garden.

purple woodland phlox behind pink bleeding heartsWoodland phlox and bleeding hearts (Dicentra and Lamprocapnos spp. and cvs.)

close up of Ghost Dancer Japanese mapleI have a dozen or so Japanese maples in this lower garden, varieties that like partial shade. This one is Acer palmatum ‘Ghost Dancer’ (Zones 5–9).

maidenhair ferns emerging in springEmerging maidenhair ferns (Adiantum raddianum, Zones 3–8) glisten in the afternoon light. I love ferns!

close up of bright yellow globeflower bloomTrollius chinensis (globeflower, Zones 3–7) is new to me. I’m going to love it!

close up of purple crested irisNaturally occuring Iris cristata (crested iris, Zones 4–10) lives at the top of the switchback steps.

close up of Tiarella cordifolia in bloomI’ve planted hundreds of Tiarella cordifolia (heartleaf foamflower, Zones 4–9).

close up of Arisaema ringens bloomingArisaema ringens (Japanese cobra lily, Zones 5–9) blooms by the steps.

Jay sent a true treasure trove of spring plant photos, so we’ll be back in his garden tomorrow to see more of what he’s growing.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    musabasjoosue 05/06/2024

    What a treat to wake to inspiring pictures of your garden, Jay! I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Thanks for sharing them!

    1. JaySifford 05/06/2024

      My pleasure. I'm glad you're enjoying them.

  2. islandlover 05/06/2024

    Awesome! Looking forward to tomorrow.

  3. User avater
    simplesue 05/06/2024

    The modern sculpture of the figure is so cool placed in with the all plants! Who is the artist?! Would love to see more of their work!
    Your Acer palmatum ‘Ghost Dancer’ has gorgeous tones in the leaves!
    The pretty grouping that has Veratrum is perfection! I had to google Veratrum, never heard of it until now, I like it!

    1. JaySifford 05/06/2024

      Thanks simplesue. The sculpture is by an Indonesian artist named Timbul Raharjo.

  4. btucker9675 05/06/2024

    Dazed by the beauty of your garden... everything is perfection. Trollius chinensis is new to me also and I'm going to find it for my small boggy area.

    1. JaySifford 05/06/2024

      Thanks so much! Good luck on your search.

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