Garden Photo of the Day

The garden in Tennessee that Vicki left behind

Photo/Illustration: All photos courtesy of Vicki Reeve

Today’s photos are from Vicki Reeve. She says, “GPOD featured my Olympia, Washington, garden last month (refresh your memory HERE), but I thought everyone might be interested in a few photos I took of the garden I created at my previous home in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“We moved there in March of 2005 to a muddy lot with no plants or lawn. Luckily we drove a small rental truck loaded with 300 plants to get ourselves started on our new adventure. And we would need all those plants and more because every time it rained, a river of red clay would wash down the driveway. As an aside, people would always ask how many of the 300 plants survived the transition to the hot, humid south I only lost the daphnes, so 298 survived.

“The first 5 pictures are of the back yard. The third picture is of the evergreen dogwood Empress of China, a favorite of mine. The weeping willow picture was of the area by the entrance to the storm shelter basement. This was where we would sit in a warm early summer evening and watch the cats try to catch the fireflies. The last picture is the view from the back patio door looking up our hill at the Atlas statue we had brought with us from Washinton state.

“The last 5 pictures are of the driveway garden and the front walkway. The first two pictures are of early spring with the bridal wreath spirea and redbud in bloom. The walkway pictures are late summer with red salvia, blue asters, and lots of ground covers. The final picture is of a favorite plant combination of mine with the ‘Little Honey’ hydrangea, the obedient plant, and a rainbow leucothea in the background. This was a hard garden to leave behind!”

What a beautiful garden, Vicki! By my calculations, you made this garden look this good in less that 8 years. That’s nothing short of a miracle. You are a powerhouse! Gorgeous. Thanks so much for sharing.

It’s almost SPRING, people! I know you’re going through your photos from last year, planning what you’ll do differently this year. Send some of those photos in to me! [email protected]

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View Comments


  1. perenniallycrazy 02/26/2014

    You are an inspiration to us all Vicki! I love your story especially where you mentioned that 298 of your babies survived the move. Thanks for sharing.

  2. greengenes 02/26/2014

    Here, here! I second that statement from perenniallycrazy that you are an inspiration to us all! Very nice decisions on the plantings. I love the hardscapes you use. I didn't know that the hydrangea, "little honey" comes in that color! I love it for sure! That tops my plant list for this year! Is that an oakleaf hydrangea? So how do you like Olympia? We live about an hour from there. Your gardens there are quite lovely as well! It looks as though we will be having a warmer day today with some sunshine! So happy gardening! If you are ever up this way, Gig harbor area you are welcome to stop by. We show our garden to some clubs and the "Master gardeners" will be coming for a tour this july. Always love to meet other gardeners and share plants, tips and wine! You can email me at.. [email protected]. Thanks for sharing Vicki!

  3. flowerladydi 02/26/2014

    Vicki,,,, it is absolutely stunning!,,,,, I can not imagine how difficult it must have been to leave that garden,,,,as it truly was YOU that created all that beauty!!! It is just gorgeous!!!, and how fortunate that you lost only 2 plants in that move!
    I just LOVE the walkway gardens, and your planter is also so lovely,,,, the dogwood is fabulous and love the spring blooms of the redbud ( nothing like them! ) and the spirea!,,,spirea can be such a ' dud ' type plant so much of the year,,, but it has such redeeming qualities!! Did you move by choice?,,, and hopefully you also took some of these plants with you as well!
    Just stunning!!!

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/26/2014

    Hi, Vicki, well, as a fellow east Tennessean, I certainly know the challenges of this part of the country's red clay. You obviously conquered it and made it your humble servant since all your plant material looks like it was thriving.
    You must be blessed with the gift of decisiveness since you had so much to get into the ground with that trailer full of cross country travelers. Did you end up doing a lot of digging up and relocating as your house and hardscape evolved? I think I would have had to take a few crying breaks along the way as a release valve for a sense of urgency of "must get plants in the ground". But it all ended up looking fabulous and the next owner certainly benefited from your vision and hard work.

    Did you take your Atlas statue back with you to Washington?

  5. wGardens 02/26/2014

    You did an amazing job with your garden, given the short time span and what you had to start with. Congratulations on you fabulous success with your plantings... only losing 2 plants of 300 is quite an accomplishment! I am sure leaving this garden was tough with so many lovely plants staying behind but am sure, with all your experience, your new gardens will even surpass these lovely plantings. As we saw, you have an impressive start on it... another great garden!

    We miss you, Jeff. Hope you are doing okay.

  6. PattyLouise 02/26/2014


  7. PAdesigner 02/26/2014

    It's fun to look at your old garden and new garden. Both are lovely. I have been gardening in the same spot for almost 30 years and feel lucky to have done so, but fantasize what it would be like to start again. A gardener is always learning and improving ones garden. Are there changes in your approach to this new-for-you garden? I imagine the climate/location makes a huge difference - with new plants to learn. You are in an area that is considered 'garden heaven'!!

  8. tractor1 02/26/2014

    Kudos for surviving your moves and starting a new garden again.... I've done that several times and finally with retirement I plan to stay put. It's difficult to leave ones gardening labors behind but a great gift to begin again on a new slate. I like the photo with your weeping willow... looks like late afternoon... a perfect time to relax on that bench and gather ones thoughts of the day. Thank you, Vicki.

  9. WAgardener48 02/26/2014

    Many great comments on my TN garden! The Atlas statue stayed to guard the garden. I just didn't think it could take another move. As for selling the TN house, it was not listed for sale but one afternoon I received a phone call asking if I was interested in showing and perhaps selling it. The potential buyers had seen the garden from an neighbor's open house. They actually bought the house because of the garden. So with new garden custodians arranged, we moved back to Olympia. We only brought back about five plants with us. It was time to build a whole new future paradise.

    As for working in the TN soil, we had chert so it was all pick axe gardening. That alone discourages much plant relocation. As a Master Gardener in TN, I learned to appreciate the pluses of the red clay soil but it was a challenge for sure.

    Greengenes, I appreciate your invitation! Do not be surprised if I take up on it.

  10. WAgardener48 02/26/2014

    Changes to gardening? Oh, great question! Absolutely. I, too, am nearing retirement so I recently read Sydney Eddison's book on how to garden into your senior years and decided to make a lower maintenance garden. We carefully selected a house with a level, fenced lot that is half as large as the TN garden. Then began to create a garden consisting of mainly small trees and shrubs. Perennials would be limited to old favorites and fewer in number. Unfortunately, it is once again a pick axe garden because of the massive number of rocks in the soil so it is truckloads of mushroom compost in built up beds. One day it will be easy to dig, I swear!

  11. pattyspencer 02/26/2014

    It would be so hard to leave a home and garden that beautiful - that's for sure!! My favorite picture is the sidewalk that curves around the house - it lends an air of mystery to what's beyone. I hope the new owners have changed NOTHING and appreciate what you so lovingly created.

  12. sheila_schultz 02/26/2014

    It's obvious that gardening is a labor of love for you, Vicki. I'm not at all surprised this home was sold because of the beautiful gardens. Lucky 'new' caretakers of your previous home.

  13. quinquek 02/26/2014

    Amazing to have created this garden in such a short time! It is beautiful, and I'm glad you were able to hand it over to other gardeners, something everyone hopes for. I'll be interested in seeing how you transition to a lower maintenance garden as I'm near retirement also. Will check out the author you mentioned.

  14. user-7006902 02/26/2014

    Wow, I cannot believe you accomplished this in 8 years! Oh, so sad to leave behind but I am certain you are excited about your new garden. I left behind a house and garden in ME that I absolutely loved. I still miss the house, but I now love my garden here more which surprises me considering we now live in a village/urban setting vs. backcountry woods. That Dogwood is absolutely beautiful! I love all your plantings and combinations. Did you take anything with you again - the tiniest bit?

  15. WAgardener48 02/26/2014

    I admit it. I am a compulsive gardener. Yesterday was a dry day so I put on my coat and planted the last ten blueberries in my new blueberry hedge. If the weather cooperates, I will be outside tweaking new plantings, adding compost, designing the next garden feature. TN has a lot of sunshine so much opportunity exists to create a retreat.

    I think there are many compulsive gardener's. And many of them are readers of Fine Gardening and this website.

  16. GrannyMay 02/26/2014

    Your TN garden was stunning, Vicki! No wonder it sold your house - who wouldn't want to live in such a beautiful setting! I especially love the curving driveway borders, and your "Little Honey" hydrangea. What is the similarly coloured plant in the second last photo?

    Compulsive gardeners? Oh yes! I was out pruning and planting in January during a stretch of warmer weather.

  17. WAgardener48 02/26/2014

    The lemon green plant in the walkway way garden? It is hard to see but that is a low planter and by the end of summer the potato vine had swallowed up everything around it. There is a moment in the south when you have to trust the garden to thrive without you until the moment the cooler fall air comes.

  18. celiahoneysuckle 02/26/2014

    Too nice to leave, but things happen in life don't they? Seeing the obedience plant, made me decide to hang on to mine. I was going to toss it, but I think I will relocate it instead to a spot where it can take over a BIT! Thanks.

  19. annek 02/26/2014

    Loverly. I, like pattyspencer, really enjoyed the side garden photo, but they're all yummy. When I first read your last post, Vicki, I thought you said you were going to 'paint' your blueberries...I thought "now, I could do that. They'll be so pretty in the snow".

    Is that the definition of a compulsive gardener? Or just an easily suggestive one? :-)

  20. WAgardener48 02/26/2014

    Anneck, you are too funny. I will admit I was up early to see the postings and hadn't had my coffee yet. I think a compulsive gardener gets her husband out in the garden in February to start the next garden feature. Why wait until the sun is predictable and the mornings no longer have that chill in the air?

  21. annek 02/26/2014

    Oh Vicki, I'm so with you on getting the hubbies started early! Although my husband refuses to dig down in two feet if snow to start the process. What kind of kill-joy is that??

  22. GrannyMay 02/26/2014

    Oh, of course! Vicki, I was thinking this was a shrub, but once you said Potato Vine in a planter, I recognized it immediately! Thanks!

  23. WAgardener48 02/26/2014

    To thevioletfern, yes, I tucked in a rose cutting, a tree hydrangea, a couple pieces of my favorite daylily and a couple anenomies that were sentimental. Stuffed them in the back of the Explorer with the cat carriers and suitcases. The rest I left behind including one of my favorite Canadian roses, David Thompson. Finally located one this winter at a nursery in Canada. Can't wait for its arrival.

  24. GrannyCC 02/26/2014

    It is sad to leave such a beautiful garden behind but you certainly are creating a lovely new one. Always fun to have a new adventure. How nice that the new owners loved the garden and house and didn't want to bulldoze the whole thing down. Send more pictures as things progress.

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