Garden Photo of the Day

Starting Over

Leaving an old garden, and creating a new one

Here is the new garden after four years of work. Can you tell I'm a flower fanatic? I start hundreds of plants from seed each spring.

“I’m Melissa Will, aka The Empress of Dirt, and my garden is in Middlesex County, Ontario, Canada. My previous garden had dense clay soil and it took several years to get it established.

When it was finally looking like the vision I had for it, we had to move.

Here’s the new one.”

This is what it looked like when we first arrived. The new garden was a blank slate with very sandy soil, providing a whole new challenge. Coming from a small urban lot, I was overwhelmed both the size of the yard and the very sandy soil. With large trees and tree roots dominating the back, I opted to create flower beds near the house.
I do all the physical work and projects myself. I found a bunch of old windows at the side of the road and turned them into this mini greenhouse. I built it on a tall stand so it would not sit in the winter snow. The flower roof is planted in hanging shoe bags.
I needed privacy at the side of the garden so I built this raised bed and wall. I’m training a tiny apple tree that produces a lot of fruit along the wall.
I use the blue paint color on the ladder as a theme throughout the garden.
Here’s a view from the house. I have two little ponds in the flower beds, making my garden the local
social hub for wildlife, which I love.
This is the garden in winter. I love how blue garden art looks in the snow.

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View Comments


  1. User avater
    treasuresmom 02/15/2018

    Gorgeous! You have really transformed it.

  2. user-7017435 02/15/2018

    Good morning Ms. Will ,Thank you for this beautiful post this morning. Your terrific gardens are loaded with originality and are a great example of what a single motivated gardener can accomplish.
    Good luck this spring, Joe

  3. garden1953 02/15/2018

    I love everything about it!

  4. User avater
    Kevin_PaGardener 02/15/2018

    Great photos, Melissa. Thanks for sharing your project with us. You created a garden from a landscape desert. I love the blue elements that you incorporated into the design, including painting the shed door. The winter photo confirms your success, as you have a garden that maintains nice texture and interest.

  5. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/15/2018

    Quite the impressive transformation, Melissa. Although you generously admit to having been a bit daunted by the size of your new outdoor space, you obviously rose to the challenge and have made it colorful and fun. I know from your Empress of Dirt newsletter emails that you are a veritable idea factory and always have something new to share. Your ground might not be as fertile as you'd like but your imagination is a treasure trove.

  6. User avater
    forloveofflowers 02/15/2018

    I especially love the greenhouse you created out of windows and shoe bags! What a great new garden!

  7. Maggieat11 02/15/2018

    Fabulous transformation! Congratulations. Your garden is lush with wonderful plantings and interesting gardening décor. You are just bubbling with imaginative touches! I'd love to visit your garden in person!

  8. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 02/15/2018

    This deserves a 'wow' and a 'kudos'! Your skills are so varied and I love how you've risen to the challenge, and so quickly at that. Nice work and a great all-seasons garden.

  9. grannieannie1 02/15/2018

    Love your enthusiastic acceptance of starting over, itself an achievement in life, and your resulting exuberant, floriferous and creative gardens!

  10. wittyone 02/15/2018

    My goodness----all this in only four years?! You are a veritable whiz! Your "before" pic certainly shows a blank slate to work with which I'm sure called for a fairly detailed plan. Did you map it all out to start with or take it in stages designing and implementing one area and then figuring out what the next expansion would involve? Being an embroidering kind of gardener ("Oh I'll just add a little of this over here in front of this shrub and maybe something over there under that tree.....") I stand in awe of someone with a definite plan in mind before the start and who then carries it out to perfection.

  11. edithdouglas 02/15/2018

    Excellent! I'm always looking for inspiration to do better, and you've provided lots. Love it all, and especially the layout!

  12. JoannaAtGinghamGardens 02/15/2018

    Beautiful! Hey folks, Melissa blogs about her garden ventures at
    Check it out! I really enjoy it.

  13. btucker9675 02/15/2018

    Simply delightful!

  14. Catasetumkid 02/15/2018

    Melissa, you are, indeed the Empress! What a transformation. It is indeed very impressive, and you are a very impressive gardener! Thanks for the photos, you are inspiring!

  15. bsavage 02/15/2018

    Love it! I also use a lot of periwinkle blue in my gardens... and I also have an old ladder painted that color! Your mini raised greenhouse is fantastic, and I love that you covered the roof in plants using shoe storage... I'm probably going to borrow that idea for something!

  16. foxglove12 02/15/2018

    ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ your garden. The before and after photos truly show all your hard work. And there is nothing wrong with having lots of flowers ?. I want to be in your garden. Great job.

  17. schatzi 02/15/2018

    Gorgeous, creative, lush - I love it all! Especially the blue accents and the flower-roofed mini-greenhouse and the decorated protective wall. It even looks great in the snow.

  18. User avater
    PKKing 02/15/2018

    Whoever moves into your old house is the luckiest person on the planet! I wish it were me. Your garden is such an inspiration. Thank you for sharing!

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