Garden Photo of the Day

The Best Spring Ever

A gardener celebrates a very happy gardening season

Today we get to look at Sandy Ruyack’s garden.

This year my garden took off in leaps and bounds. I’ve been in my home in Brewster, New York, for over 30 years and have never had such an incredible blooming season. All the spring rain perhaps, as well as a good dose of fertilizer and, I suspect, the giant tree removed from the front yard have a lot to do with my success.

I have a variety of small flowering gardens around the house, with most of the colorful plants thriving on the northeast and west sides. Because the plants in one garden area are never flowering all at the same time, and truthfully never look as amazing as I’d like, I generally only photograph individual blooms or a single plant.

The imposing deer population on my property has always prevented me from having great success with tulips. Years ago, I planted over 200 bulbs. The first day they bloomed, I danced for joy; they looked incredible. The next morning, I cried; there were 200 little green stems and no flowers. As the years went on, the bulbs were dug up by the squirrels. These are the only three I have left, and I managed to pick them this year before the deer or the squirrels got to them.

This year my iris plants spread and the blooms are plentiful. I believe it has to do with the removal of the giant tree from my front yard. As a result, the irises are responding to the increased amount of sun. Did you know that the purple variety of the iris is symbolic of wisdom and is the Greek word for rainbow?

I love peonies but have a terrible time keeping them upright. Often I use a trellis and three or four garden poles to keep the flowers from hanging down, but then they look as if they’re in jail with their heads stuck between the bars.

A tapestry of color, these clematis are in the front of my home along the side the garage. This year I’m training them to follow a piece of twine so they will cover the whole trellis rather than just one side.

The clematis have been blooming since mid-May and should continue to bloom profusely into early fall, providing I remember to deadhead them. Their velvety leaves make me appreciate the complexity and beauty of one single flower.

These trumpet lilies grow very tall, about 4 feet, and produce clusters of up to 20 blooms per stem. Their intoxicating fragrance lasts all summer long.

Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) have to be one of my favorites and the easiest to grow and maintain. The orange daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) peeks its head in the back left, and I like the pink/orange color combo. I’m considering adding more orange-colored plants to this flower bed. Perhaps some black-eyed Susans would make a good addition.

In July, swallowtail butterflies swarm about the coneflowers. They stay only a few weeks and then they’re gone—until the following year.

My astilbe give me great joy. Their showy, fluffy flowers, like cotton candy on a stick, make a big, bold statement near the front door of my home. The entire flower bed pops. The area gets shade part of the day, so I believe that’s why they do so well.

I’m a vegetable gardener too. I credit my grandmother for introducing me to gardening at the age of three. She always had the biggest, reddest, juiciest tomatoes. In my preteens, I joined the local 4H Club in my hometown of Yonkers, New York, and through the generosity of the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, I partook in a community vegetable garden on land they donated to the club. After moving to Brewster in the 1980s, my garden was enclosed with a 6-foot fence made of chicken wire, but the pesky deer jumped it and ate my tomatoes. Soon after, my husband built me this amazing garden enclosure, and my precious garden has stayed safe from critters ever since.

It needs a good weeding, and I’ve tried everything to keep the weeds at bay: newspaper; mulch; a combination of newspaper, straw, and mulch. The only thing that works, though, is weeding by hand. I guess I have to get my exercise somehow. Soon tomatoes, green peppers, ghost peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes, zucchini, beets, and radishes will appear. I’m also giving watermelon a try this year. Wish me luck!


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    meander_michaele 06/28/2019

    Your photos are particularly beautiful and, coincidently, I especially enjoyed the one of the trumpet lily because I have a bouquet of pale yellow oriental lilies sitting only a few feet away. Hence, I got to breathe in that special authentic sweet fragrance as I gazed at your picture.
    The enclosure protecting your vegetable is very impressive...kudos to your husband for building that.

  2. User avater
    treasuresmom 06/28/2019

    Love those lilies & coneflowers.

  3. cheryl_c 06/28/2019

    Thanks so much for sharing both the beauty and the frustrations of gardening in your beautiful yard. You give a lot of credit to sun and shade, but we all know how much energy and planning it takes to have plants as healthy and happy as yours!

  4. User avater
    simplesue 06/28/2019

    That purple Clematis is super nice! What's it's name? Your tulip story was interesting. I could imagine all of the headless tulips being a shock. But I think if I had deer I would plant tulips for the poor little things to eat. LOL! My heart always goes out to the wild creatures. That is one of the most stylish/attractive enclosed vegetable gardens I've ever seen. Love the lattice around the top with the honeysuckle vine adorning it.

  5. btucker9675 06/28/2019

    You've created a lovely garden! Your story of the tulips reminded me of the year I had invested hundreds of dollars into many varieties of daylilies... they were doing beautifully and were covered in large buds, just ready to start bursting into bloom. The deer came through and nipped almost every single bud off - even leaving some on the ground. So, Simple Sue, I do NOT call them 'poor little things' - they were marauding pirates and I used to chase them off with a large push broom. Even the large bucks would run from me! Then I discovered my secret deer formula of 3 parts water to 1 part any kind of milk, plus some drops of peppermint oil sprayed on the plants and around the property. They do not like it and it almost completely solved my problem! You do have to refresh it after a heavy rain - I just keep it in a spray bottle, ready to go.

    1. [email protected] 07/20/2019

      Thank you BTucker9675 ! Am adding your recipe to my arsenal for deer battling! And it looks like the price is right, too!

  6. NNCastle 06/28/2019

    The clematis is amazing. Great job and wonderful pics!

  7. angelaobrienruff 06/28/2019

    I too struggled to rescue my peonie blossoms from falling over face first after spring rains. I now purchase 18 inch high green wire fencing from the hardware store and cut the length I need to surround what will be the eventual size of the peonie. I make a circle of the fencing by wiring the ends together, place it around the plant and stake it with a section of bamboo to keep it in place. When the plant leafs out the green wire fencing becomes invisible and holds the blooms upright. Problem solved. Thank you for sharing photos of your garden.

  8. [email protected] 07/20/2019

    Sandy, thanks for sharing your photos. You have some beautiful plants- I really love your clematis, and am quite envious of your fenced garden. I think I have the same scarecrows!

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