Garden Photo of the Day

Survivors in Sharon’s Dallas Garden

Despite clay soil, intense heat, and an endless supply of wildlife and insects, beautiful plantings are beating the odds in this garden

Annabell hydrangea with casa blanca lilies

Hi GPODers! Today we’re in Sharon Holmes’ Dallas garden that faces its fair share of obstacles and challenging conditions. Despite punishing weather, clay soil, and a whole host of wildlife and insects that visit her garden, there are plenty of plants that have survived and even thrived.

I’ve been gardening at my home in east Dallas Texas for 29 years, although I’m not sure the first 5 really count as anything but hard lessons. I’m submitting views of my front garden in April, May, and now June. And a few vignettes of combos that came out nice this year.

Dallas has its own ideas of what will grow here as a Zone 8b, and my primary garden struggles are with clay soil, severe heat, and unlimited bugs. This year has been exceptionally wet, with several violent storms. The last one left us without power for 6 days, and downed trees all over the city.

My ambition is to have something interesting going on in my garden from spring to winter. We live on a parkway with a dry creek and lots of tall pecan and oaks. We get lots of critters—possums, raccoons, squirrels, coyotes, cottontails, and an occasional bobcat. The bird list is long. We’ve lost most of our backyard trees to storms over the years, but the front has a large eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana, Zones 2–9) and a ginormous southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora, Zones 2–9) that have survived it all.

front yard garden in early springEarly April under the cedar. The daffodils have finished, the grass starting to green. Flirt™ nandina (Nandina domestica ‘Murasaki’, Zones 6–10) has great red spring color, Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica, Zones 3–8) are scattered, as is ‘May Night’ salvia (Salvia x sylvestris ‘May Night’, Zones 4–8). The ‘Texas Gold’ columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha hinckleyana ‘Texas Gold’, Zones 3–8) has started blooming, and the ‘Pistachio’ heucheras (Heuchera ‘Pretty Pistachio’, Zones 4–9) are a bright spot under the cedar.

front yard garden in maySame area in May. ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’, Zones 3–9), ‘Casa Blanca’ lily (Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’, Zones 4–9), coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’, Zones 3–8), ‘Happy Days’ daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Happy Days’, Zones 3–9), 2 different coreopsis, and an ‘Edward Goucher’ abelia (Abelia ‘Edward Goucher’, Zones 6–9).

front yard garden in juneSame area in June. ‘Annabelle’ got whacked by the storm, broken tree limbs still on the parkway. ‘Midnight Marvel’ hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’, Zones 4–9), a rouge phlox descendant of ‘David’ (Phlox paniculata ‘David’, Zones 4–8).

garden under a tree with green and yellow plantsApril near the bench. ‘Annabell’ is leafing out, leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum, Zones 7–10), variegated Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum falcatum ‘Variegatum’, Zones 4–8), golden alexander (Zizia aurea, Zones 3–8), ‘Pistachio’ heuchera, and ‘Texas Gold’ columbine.

Annabell hydrangea with casa blanca lilies‘Annabell’, ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies, Henryi St John’s wort (Hypericum henryi ssp. uraloides, Zones 5–9), and ‘Midnight Marvel’ foliage. Red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora, Zones 5–10), coneflowers, and mealy sage (Salvia farinacea, Zones 8–10) on the hellstrip.

large southern magnolia treeThe magnolia, wood fern and inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium, Zones 5–9) battle it out underneath this guy.

small garden bed covered in magnolia leavesTwo years back I cleared out some sad burford hollies (Ilex cornuta, Zones 7–9) under the magnolia. dwarf oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia, Zones 5–9), St. John’s wort, ‘Sea Heart’ brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Sea Heart’, Zones 3–9), ‘Pistachio’ heuchera, Tuff Stuff Ah-Ha® hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata ‘SMNHSDD’ TUFF STUFF AH-HA, Zones 5–9), and an older ‘Carissa’ holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Carissa’, Zones 7–9), and magnolia leaves. So. Many. Magnolia. Leaves.

Thank you for sharing your garden with us, Sharon—I would never guess a garden looking this lush is dealing with the challenges you face!


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    cynthia2020 06/27/2024

    Sharon - I enjoyed reading your gardening story and looking at all the photos. Thanks for sharing!

  2. User avater
    simplesue 06/27/2024

    I love your Magnolia, is it one of the Southern Magnolias with evergreen leaves? Do you know it's name? So beautiful!
    What a pretty plant- Leopard Plant (Farfugium japonicum) it just shines in your garden!
    I really enjoy seeing the bench area in different seasons and how your pretty garden changes with the season!
    Your Purple Cone flowers seem to be thriving and gorgeous in your climate!

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