Garden Photo of the Day

Textural, Imaginative and More in NC

By Kim Charles

Panoramic view of my front garden, looking toward the street.

Jay Sifford from North Carolina reflects on what makes his garden special.

"Looking through my front garden photos from last spring, I realized that I’d forgotten how much color punctuates my major garden directives of texture and structure. I removed my turf probably 7 years ago and installed a very wide meandering terraced gravel pathway through the middle of the space, wide enough so that plants could soften its edges. The result is a stroll garden that seduces the imagination as the visitor makes his way down to the conifer amphitheater and finally to the Japanese fern garden by the creek. These photos gave this winter-weary Charlotte gardener a boost on a January day!"

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My front garden as seen from the street.

A plethora of color and texture: 'Louie' white pine, 'Twombley's Red Sentinal' Japanese maple, amsonia hubrectii.

Lacecap hydrangea overlooks large vessel.

Large foliage dominates this sunken seating area that was designed to elicit childhood feelings.

'Sun Power' hosta, burgundy coleus and 'Nikko Blue' hydrangeas add saturated color.

Baptisia frames a window into the front garden.

'Cascade Fall' taxodium creates an entryway into the conifer amphitheater. This is the tree that receives the most comments of any in  my garden.

View Comments


  1. frankgreenhalgh 01/30/2017

    Hi Jay - Absolutely magnificent, professional garden! The 'Cascade Fall' taxodium is also my favourite. Thanks for sharing. Cheers from Oz

  2. tennisluv 01/30/2017

    Jay, what wonderful combinations of textures, colors and shapes you have brought to bear on the tapestry of your landscape. You must hate to leave home to go to work. Every picture you have posted will require much study to completely soak in all the details. And I agree with Frank, the 'Cascade Fall' taxodium just begs to be my favorite what with it's shape and texture and the lovely vignette it frames (blue pots just make a garden complete).

  3. user-3565112 01/30/2017

    Good morning Jay, To me it's amazing that you have been able to make what appears to be a small area look so deep from every angle. I like it when a plan comes together & your planning certainly has. Good luck this spring, Joe

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Thanks Joe. There are a lot of tricks to making a smaller area look larger. I've experimented with that for years and think I've almost mastered it.

  4. user-7007498 01/30/2017

    Jay, what a gorgeous garden that delights the eye upon first glance, but then your use of textures grabs us for a slower and deeper inspection. The first photo shows what a great eye you have for design. The echo of the Japanese maples really pull together the composition. I, too, love the framed view using the taxodium and that wonderful container. The seating area couldn't be more inviting. Will have to check back later after work to study your photos more. Great start to the work week. Thanks.

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Hi Kevin. Glad I could start your week out right. My garden frequently does that for me.

  5. User avater
    user-7007816 01/30/2017

    What a masterful job you have done of combining shapes, colors, and textures. It's one thing to collect unusual plants, it's another to combine them into a setting that works. You clearly have that knack.

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Thanks Dale. I have done a lot of studying and soul searching to learn how to incorporate a collection of plants into a cohesive garden. There's definitely a learning curve when it comes to accomplishing this well.

  6. deeinde 01/30/2017

    Beautiful! Love how rich the colors are! It is just stunning!

  7. User avater
    meander_michaele 01/30/2017

    Your garden shimmers and shines, Jay, as it captures and plays with light and then seduces as it beckons one forward with hints of alluring shadows. The mastery of your plantings evokes a very emotional response and yes, Diane, I join you in being positively "smitten"with the beauty displayed in these pictures. It must be so very gratifying to experience brushing past the trailing branches of the 'Cascade Fall' taxodium and entering into that magical art gallery of conifers . Your garden is truly an inspiration.

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      That taxodium does definitely brush your shoulder as you walk through. I have it that way on purpose. It reminds me of those beads that people used to hang from their door frames in the 60s and 70s. I wanted to create an entryway to the conifer amphitheater that felt like you were walking into a time warp, and this tree kinda does that.

      1. tennisluv 01/31/2017

        You cannot possibly be old enough to remember the door beads of the 60's (not 70's) and 70's (not 80's).

        1. Jay_Sifford 01/31/2017

          Tis true....

  8. Maggieat11 01/30/2017

    Jay, your garden is truly fabulous. I love it all, it beckons to be studied and appreciated from all angles. A masterpiece!

  9. User avater
    treasuresmom 01/30/2017

    Jay, another wonderful garden that makes me just want to take my coffee and sit somewhere and drink in the beauty. What an amazing job you have done.

  10. pam_clemmons 01/30/2017

    Exquisitely placed and colors and textures are beautiful the way they compliment one another! Well done!

  11. galealdred 01/30/2017

    Outstanding!! I can say no more.

  12. Chris_N 01/30/2017

    Perfectly organized chaos. Your front yard is a masterpiece that in less capable hands would turn into a an unreadable mess. With that view from the street, yours is the type of garden that I would drive by, turn around, drive by again and then park and get out to see up close. I also love how this contrasts with your serene sculpture garden you shared a few weeks ago.

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Thanks Chris. Chaos it is!
      I have I think 6 distinct gardens here on my property. There is some continuity to avoid craziness, but each is pretty distinct. I do love my sculpture garden. It engages my mind and soul. The front garden is a metaphorical garden. I see all kinds of things in those crazy trees, kind of like the Rorshack ink blot test.

  13. user-4691082 01/30/2017

    What else could I add, that others haven't already said? Jay, are you a professional garden designer? Where do I find a big blue pot like that one? I wish I could grow fatsia! My favorite is also the taxodium. Looking at Diane's comment, I didn't know it could misbehave!!! Is coleus a perennial for you? Sorry for having more questions than comments!

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Hi Rhonda. Yes, I'm guilty as charged of being a professional garden designer. The big pots come from Vietnam and Malaysia. Check with a good quality local nursery and look for Campania International brand.
      The taxodium ... I've only seen one "misbehave" in all my years. There's another cultivar, Falling Waters, that is more upright. 'Cascade Falls' is pretty pendulous.

  14. thevioletfern 01/30/2017

    I am WOWed! I can see why you receive so many compliments on that taxodium. And the vessels are paired perfectly with your plantings. I found this "stroll" a little too short and would love to see more. I must also compliment you on color not just in your plantings but also that blue chimney!

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Thanks so much Kathy. That blue chimney was a gamble. It's pretty bright, but I wanted to create a conversation between the house and the blue-needled conifers below. I wasn't sure at first, but I like it now. Living in the forest, I need some bright color down here!

  15. perenniallycrazy 01/30/2017

    What an exciting and superb garden filled with texture, color & interest at every turn! I would love to visit one day.

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Cherry, come on down!

  16. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/30/2017

    From Midnight in Paris: Zelda Fitzgerald says to Gil, "You have a glazed look in your eye, stunned, stupefied, anesthetized, lobotomized..."
    That's me, too. Texture, color, glorious.

    1. User avater
      meander_michaele 01/30/2017

      What a fun comment, Tim... I think I will encourage my struggling brain cells to memorize it!

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/30/2017

        One of my favorite movies, too! :)

        1. User avater
          LindaonWhidbey 01/30/2017


          1. User avater
        2. tennisluv 01/31/2017

          Need to read the book; so much more to offer than the movie. But isn't that always true. Books like gardens have so much more depth and interest than movies and pictures. BUT I love all of it.

          1. User avater
            Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/31/2017

            Thanks for the recommendation, Sonya. Silly, it never occurred to me that the screenplay was based on a book......

    2. user-7007140 01/30/2017

      Me, too!

    3. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      I think I need to watch more movies! Thanks Tim!

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/31/2017

        I have comfort movies, like this one, which I have watched over and over. Not as soothing as the garden, but distracting.

    4. tennisluv 01/31/2017

      What a great quote for this landscape. Being a Southerner and an English major, I have always been smitten with F. Scott Fitzgerald and all his works. Here is to Southern novelist and to Southern gardens.

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/31/2017

        I'll drink to that! (OK, so I don't drink much, but it sounded appropriate!) When I read Gatsby, I was a bit depressed, but the language is so beautiful.

  17. NCYarden 01/30/2017

    Always a joy to see your garden, Jay. Your color combinations definitely complete the complement with texture and form. Such a well designed garden...certainly more than I ever could have injected into my own. Fantastic. I do plan to come to see it with my own eyes.

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Yes, please come on down. I have wine : )

  18. Doxnmomx2 01/30/2017

    Oh my! I love it all! Thank you for sharing and please share more!

  19. cynthiamccain 01/30/2017

    Absolutely gorgeous, Jay. I'm green with envy.

  20. sheila_schultz 01/30/2017

    It's all so inviting, Jay, down to the last detail. You have created a very thoughtful garden and it's beautiful.

  21. NWAgardener 01/30/2017

    Magnificent! I will be studying the pictures later for ideas and plants I can incorporate in my gardens. Is the variegated plant behind the seating area wall a mayapple? If yes, what variety is it? Thank you for the inspiration Jay.

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Thank you. The mayapple is 'Kaleidoscope'. I'm in love with the Chinese podophyllums.

      1. NWAgardener 01/30/2017

        Jay - the only source for it in the US that I could find was Plants Delight Nursery. Is that where you got yours? They sell it in a 3 1/2 " pot, so my question to you is "how long does it take to reach mature size?" Thanks for your help.

        1. Jay_Sifford 01/31/2017

          They are expensive and slow-growing for us here, although in the PNW they grow much more quickly. Look for 'Galaxy' and 'Spotty Dotty'. They are quite similar. Spotty Dotty is now propagated by Terra Nova Nurseries, so you may be able to find it easier and/or have a good local nursery order it for you. Good luck! These Chinese podophyllums are definitely worth seeking out and worth the $$$.

          1. NWAgardener 01/31/2017

            Thanks Jay. Between your suggestions and TIm's I have a good number of sources.

        2. User avater
          Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/31/2017

          There are now quite a few sources for the Chinese Podophyllums. Lazy S's Farms and Soule's Gardens are two mail order nurseries with whom I've had great experiences. Some of the species struggle with heat. The hybrids Jay mentions, Spotty Dotty and Galaxy, have performed great for me and have not minded Ohio heat and cold, and they don't go summer dormant like our native Podophyllum peltatum. As Jay said, worth the $$$.

          1. NWAgardener 01/31/2017

            Tim - thanks for the additional sources!

  22. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 01/30/2017

    Hi Jay, it's always exciting to see that it's your garden that we're opening up and you never disappoint. You certainly have a way of combining plants that pleases the eye and invites one to stroll through for more. How big an area do you garden? Like everyone else here, I love the taxodium framing the path. What is the purple plant in the beautiful blue pot? I couldn't enlarge it quite enough to figure it out. Thanks for starting our week out with a bang.

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Hi Linda. It's only 1/2 acre, but I have lots of borrowed views of the forest, so it feels larger than it is.
      That pot is actually not planted. There's a huge rhododendron behind it, and that is what you are seeing.

      1. Chris_N 01/30/2017

        1/2 an acre!?! With this and your other posts, you've shown us 5 acres worth of gardens so far!

        1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

          Design tricks.... just design tricks. I believe that, in good garden design, you have to show the eye where to look and where not to look, and tell the brain what to process and what to ignore. Good design out thinks the garden visitor. That's the magic of it all.

  23. GrannyCC 01/30/2017

    What a lovely way to start the day. I love how your house is so coordinated with the colours in your plants. I would like to wander through your path and stop in the seating area to enjoy all the textures around me.

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Thanks Catherine. I really thought the blue chimney was a bit much, but now I like it. I need to go more with my instincts, I think.

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/31/2017

        Your instinct was spot on with that chimney.

  24. foxglove12 01/30/2017

    Absolutely beautiful! Loving that louie white pine!

  25. Sunshine111 01/30/2017

    Your garden is stunning Jay. So much structure, color, form and texture. It is magnificent. I wish I lived nearby, I would come to visit you often!

  26. schatzi 01/30/2017

    Absolutely gorgeous, Jay. You ARE the master of texture and plant combinations! I love the interplay of light and shadow, and the blue pot, and the stone wall and all the fabulous color! Super terrific garden! Wish I could visit. Heck, wish I could have you do my garden.

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Thanks Shirley. Come on by anytime you're in the area.

  27. susan749 01/30/2017

    Truly beautiful!

  28. Meelianthus 01/30/2017

    Jay, such a most stunning garden! I love the composition of the first photo and the setting and colors for your home are just beautiful. The seasonal variances truly are what makes a garden glow.

  29. bsavage 01/30/2017

    Wow! I echo everyone else's sentiments... your gardens are stunning! Thanks for sharing!

  30. user-2438129 01/30/2017

    Jay, Just magnificent. Phenomenal effort on your part and the color arrangement of different plant is outstanding

  31. Cenepk10 01/30/2017

    Glorious..... Encore !!!!! Encore!!!!!!

  32. greengenes 01/30/2017

    Oh Jay! What a gem of a place! I so enjoyed seeing your home and gardens. I have only seen what you have shared from the canyon areas. Your house color is so awesome and fits so well with the plantings. It would be a pleasure to be your neighbor! I can see why the last photo is peoples favorite place amongst your family of greens and things! I have always wanted to find a weeping arizona cyress and do just as you have in the entry. Just such color, texture and pure enjoyment you have shared! Thank you!

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Thanks Jeanne! It's such a privilege for me to create and to be a custodian of this house and the magical land upon which it sits. There's not much land in this city with this much character.

  33. user-7008353 01/30/2017

    I'm usually a lurker but this is one I can't let pass by without commenting. This the property of my dreams. It is a privilege to see pictures of it even though it belongs to someone else.

  34. user-7007140 01/30/2017

    Some pictures are pretty and admired - your photographs Jay, intrigue and beckon. You struck a chord which reminded me of the late Ryan Gaines principle whereby he created openings from the street to welcome people right into his garden of magical beauty and imagination.
    You have such skill and appreciation of trees and plant combinations that I am awestruck.
    I simply love the whole place. Thank you for making my day even brighter.

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Thank you Eddi. That is the nicest compliment. I'm glad I could make your day even brighter.

  35. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

    Hi Diane. I've only seen one 'Cascade Falls' act inappropriately. THere's another cultivar called 'Falling Waters' that has a much more upright growth habit. My CF acts just as it's suppose to act.
    Yes, I love blue atlas cedars and have a few different cultivars . I would give my proverbial eye teeth for a weeping larch. They live about 3 weeks here before dying. So sad.

  36. annek 01/30/2017

    In a word magnificently magical.....okay, in two words

    1. Jay_Sifford 01/30/2017

      Thanks! I'm happy that you understand my garden.

  37. user-7008214 01/31/2017

    Simply marvelous!!!!!

    I also commend you for listing plant names in you pics. Many do not bother.

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