Garden Photo of the Day

The Summer That Was at the 45th Parallel, Part 2

The year in Susan’s back garden

We’re back with Susan Warde in St. Paul, Minnesota! Yesterday we looked back at the year in her front garden, and today we’re taking the same tour through the seasons but in her back garden, where things are a bit shadier but no less beautiful.

May 17: The back garden is shadier than the front, and the colors are subtler, but the unfurling fronds of maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum, Zones 3–8) in the foreground and royal fern (Osmunda regalis, Zones 3–9) in the top right give a pop of color to the spring garden. White trillium (Trillium grandiflorum, Zones 3–8) and white-edged hostas light up the background.

May 23: Though this tall Northern Lights azalea’s cultivar name is ‘White Lights’ (Rhododendron ‘White Lights’, Zones 4–8), it is actually pink unless grown in full sun. Bare ground is exposed where I dug out quantities of gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides, Zones 3–8). Tiny shoots kept coming back all summer. I don’t recommend it!

May 27: This area is surrounded by a flagstone path. The small maple (upper left) is Acer × pseudoseiboldianum ‘Ice Dragon’ (Zones 4–8). Hostas (the white-edged ones are ‘Blue Ivory’, Zones 3–8), ferns, bugleweed (Ajuga reptens, Zones 3–10), and astilbes (Astilbe sp., Zones 4–8) crowd around it.

June 5: The back garden is mostly about foliage. Here Japanese painted ferns (Athyrium japonicum, Zones 5–9) maidenhair fern, sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis, Zones 4–8), meadow rue (Thalictrum dioicum, Zones 4–7), and three different hostas contrast nicely in a narrow garden along the garage.

June 7: Purple Siberian iris (Iris siberica, Zones 3–8) are in bloom by early June. Behind them is a large clump of narrow-leaved spleenwort (Diplasium pycnocarpon, Zones 3–8).

June 19: At this point I’d begun replanting the space (photo 2) by now more or less free of gooseneck loosestrife. This area of the back garden includes Japanese painted fern and beech fern (Phegopteris connectilis, Zones 2–5) on either side of the ‘El Niño’ hostas. The ground cover on the left is Sedum ‘John Creech’ (Zones 3–8), and there are a couple of patches of wild ginger (Asarum canadense, Zones 4–6). The azalea has leafed out; it will turn orange in September.

July 11: The back garden features pinks and purples in spring. By midsummer most of the blooms are white or lavender. These white spikes, very attractive to pollinators, belong to Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum, Zones 4–8).

August 8: A lot of hostas and many species of ferns fill in the late summer garden.

October 25: It’s all over except for the cleaning up, but a new-this-season clematis is putting out a few last blossoms. On the left is a Korean maple (Acer pseudosieboldianum, Zones 4–8), also reflected in the mirror.

October 28: The back of the garden is lit up by the flame leaves of the ‘Ice Dragon’ maple shown in the third photo. It’s a hardy hybrid between a Japanese maple and a Korean maple.


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  1. MohawkValley 11/17/2023

    Absolutely beautiful ! Talk about an expansive and lush shade garden . You can be very , very proud . Keep up with your vision and your execution of creating that piece of heaven on Earth . PS . That loosestrife is one of the most invasive plants I know . I believe it came in from China and it thrives in this country . See it , dig it out ! Peace from the Mohawk Valley in NYS .

  2. bottlegreen 11/17/2023

    Thank you! That gooseneck loostrife came with a "grows vigorously" label. I was a novice gardener when I bought it and didn't recognize the red flag.

  3. sohappygardening 11/17/2023

    So beautiful. How do you manage leaf clean up in the fall? I have shade gardens and I know what a challenge it is.

  4. User avater
    user-7007816 11/17/2023

    Fun to see your garden throughout the growing season. I'm going to see if I can find an "Ice Dragon" maple. I love the Japanese maples, abut they have not been hardy enough for me in central Michigan (43 degrees latitude).

  5. gardendevas 11/17/2023

    Thanks for the tour through your lovely garden, Susan. Absolutely beautiful! Kudos on eliminating the loosestrife. My current banes are Japanese knotweed, and bishop’s weed, neither of which I planted — they just invaded.

  6. User avater
    simplesue 11/17/2023

    Oh Wow! I'm just in love with your woodland garden- its so natural and so inviting!
    I would like to say that mirrors in gardens are so pretty but can be deadly if a bird flies into them.
    Your plant choices and arrangements are just perfect!!!!

  7. Oxdriftgardener 11/17/2023

    Gorgeous garden front and back. Maybe I'll get brave enough one day to ditch the annuals and go all perennials. You have done a masterful job of it

  8. Tingshu99 11/17/2023

    Love your plants and arrangements, absolutely beautiful! Will copy some of them to my 5b garden.

  9. BrendaGardens 11/17/2023

    You have a gorgeous selection of colors and textures. Nice combinations and so well cared for. Give yourself a pat on the back!

  10. shegardens 11/17/2023

    Susan, I love everything about everything in your gardens! Thanks for sharing (and inspiring).

  11. btucker9675 11/17/2023

    I love the look of the mirror but wonder if birds "fight" with their reflections, or fly into it? It does look so lovely reflecting the gorgeous maple though. Your garden is superb!

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