Garden Photo of the Day

Transition to Summer

New succulent container, just planted

Kevin Kelly shares the transition of his garden from one season to the next.

"As you know, it has been a cool, wet spring in Harrisburg, PA (and most of the mid-Atlantic). This last week saw temperatures jump 30 degrees. Literally overnight. This marked the end of the spring bloomers, and the garden is beginning its transition to summer. Containers have been planted, along with my annual beds. Alliums are in bloom as well as our native Physocarpus (Ninebark). Much of the interest in my garden is based on leaf color, as well as the interplay of textures. I have finished most of my spring activities: new plants in place, existing beds edited, and a brand new rock garden. Hope you enjoy, Kevin."

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Allium christophii

Front yard, looking from driveway

Lamium maculatum 'Red Nancy'

New rock garden (2 week old)

Patio off the back of the house

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Little Devil'

View Comments


  1. grannieannie1 06/09/2016

    What a clever roof you made for succulents. Are some bluebirds loving their "green" house? And what a beautiful bed of Red Nancy Lamium. Thank you for labeling, Kevin.

    1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Thanks. The birdhouse is occupied by a nesting pair. The green roof was a fun project last year. I got the idea from Longwood gardens. They are doing a study to see if a green roof will keep the bird house cooler and thus increase the viability of the eggs. I thought it looked cool, so I copied their idea.

  2. frankgreenhalgh 06/09/2016

    Hi Kevin - Congratulations on your lovely garden with plenty of colour, texture and innovation. Nice rockery too. Might have to get the lawn mower out!

    1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Thanks, Frank. I am looking for a few more interesting stones to add. I like to keep my lawn cut at 4 inches for the summer. I never have to water it and it stays greener through the summer longer than any of my neighbors. Over the years, I have reduced most of it so it only takes 12 minutes to cut the grass.

      1. nenitafranck 06/09/2016

        That's a masterpiece garden. Looks like you must have a sprinkler system or not. How in the world do you maintain that green, lush lawn? Did you plant it with sod or seeds? It's a beautiful walking path??? or not??? Is anyone allowed to walk on it? Is there a pet in your family??

        1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

          Nenita: Thanks. No sprinkler system. I do not water the lawn. This year it has been so wet, the grass has been growing like crazy. My grass is mostly paths. My kids are grown and out of the house. No pets, except the goldfish and frogs in my small pond. No restrictions to walking on it, but it is mostly me.

      2. eddireid 06/10/2016

        I told my husband about this 12 minute mow, Kevin. His jaw dropped as he compared that with his five hours here! Hilarious.

        1. user-7007498 06/12/2016

          Eddi: Sorry to rub it in. The reality is my property is just under 1/2 acre, and over the years I have pulled up more and more grass, leaving just enough for paths and to rest the eye. But 5 hours for your husband, I feel sorry for him. Your property must be huge. I looked up your post last year on Gardeny Goodness. Your lake is unbelievable (is that all part of your property?). I am so jealous. You have an awesome landscape.

          1. eddireid 06/12/2016

            Thank you Kevin. John does a lot of the manly work around here - we have about eleven acres but only maintain/garden about six with the pond taking up about an acre. I fell in love with this place when there was just a house, small barn and a couple of scrubby trees. Since then, and especially since we retired, we have turned it into our oasis.
            However, as time passes it is more difficult to get everything done and I am pretty certain we will have to look at moving to somewhere which requires less work. As this is our piece of heaven it isn't an exciting project except that I can start planning another garden!!!!
            You are young, but as you plan, take future needs into consideration. You are talented enough to do all of that and stay in your own gorgeous home.
            I have enjoyed our conversation, Kevin. Good luck.

  3. diane_lasauce 06/09/2016

    Kevin, How lush and delightful. Are you going to share how you constructed your rock garden? Looks like you created a berm, yes? Kudos. Diane

    1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Diane, thanks. That section of the garden bed was very flat and boring. I made an 18 inch berm with 1/3 new soil, 1/3 perlite, and 1/3 sand to get good drainage. That section is about 5 by 10 feet, so it wasn't too bad, and I knocked it out in an afternoon.

      1. diane_lasauce 06/09/2016

        Thanks Kevin. Another project to consider here in central VA. Send photos when it matures...Diane

      2. User avater
        meander_michaele 06/09/2016

        Wow, do those plants have cushy new digs! That sounds like an amazing growing medium for them.

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 06/09/2016

    Include me as an admirer of your fun succulent filled birdhouse roof...hmm, if you could entice an insect population that was tasty to the bird inhabitants to infest your sedums, it'd be the ultimate B and B. I just bought a 'Little Devil' for the foliage color...I don't think I realized how heavy its bloom would be. Your front yard area is lush and gardeny. I don't feel right calling it a "yard". Are all the plants in your new rock garden going to be perennial for your growing zone? I feel like I am seeing some succulents that might be frost tender but I can't quite tell. Everything looks wonderful.

    1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Thanks, Michaele. Only 2 of the succulents in the rock garden will need to be put in a container for the winter. The rest are hardy.

      The 'Little Devil' nine bark takes a few years to get going. That one is 5 years in the ground, this was the best blooms. It has grown to be about 4 feet tall, but has great color. once blooming is done, I will be starting to thin it out a bit to keep good sunlight into the plant.

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 06/09/2016

        Do you bother to deadhead or does the foliage carry the show regardless?

        1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

          I do not deadhead any of my ninebarks. They look attractive. As the plants mature, they get pretty thick in the crown, and I think they look better if they get thinned out to the base

          1. User avater
            meander_michaele 06/09/2016

            Thanks for that info. I always need a little encouragement to prune a plant that is new to me.

  5. user-4691082 06/09/2016

    Kevin, it all looks beautiful! I agree with Diane, I've never seen that much lamium in bloom! Gorgeous! And I love the new rock garden... It's going to be a show stopper. The next time you are going to Longwood, call me and I will meet you there! 610-772-4397. Beautiful job!

    1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Rhonda, thanks for the comments. Will call you next time I go to Longwood. It would be fun to meet others who post regularly on this website.

    2. user-7007498 06/15/2016

      Rhonda: I am planning a trip to Chanticleer and Longwood Gardens this Saturday, June 18th. Would love to link up at Longwood, if you are available. Let me know.

      1. user-4691082 06/15/2016

        Kevin, come over to my house anytime that day. I'm at 13 Stratford Drive, West Grove, Pa . I'm having folks over for dinner so I can't go there but I WANT you to stop over!!!! Please! 610-772-4397.
        We are about 15 minutes south of Longwood right off of US 1 . Even if it's evening, come on by!!!!!

  6. user-7007498 06/09/2016

    Thanks, Diane. The lamium love the space. I never touch it, except when it tries to swallow the edging of Lirope, Heuchera, and Dryopteris. Then I just "yank away". The ground is very fertile there as that Pine tree has dropped needles into the area for almost 20 years.

    The "gazebo" is actually a wrap around porch surrounding our living room. Love the area. Cool all summer.

  7. NCYarden 06/09/2016

    Woooo, looks fantastic, Kevin. Yes the temperature swing was a bit dramatic wasn't it! I like your conifers mixed in everywhere. It's one of the things I enjoy when we travel up to Harrisburg - they grow so well up there. You have a great collection of plants, and I love that sweeping bed across the house. Congratulations on minimizing the grass to attractive and easily maintained swaths - my kind of "lawn". I'm really digging the green roof on the birdhouse - form, function and fashion. Nice job on the new rock bed, just in time to bask (and bake?) in the Summer sun. The garden looks amazing. Thanks for sharing.

    1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Thanks, David. We had a high of 65 yesterday and it dropped to 45 last night, so the crazy spring continues.

      I have conifers in all of my beds. Great winter interest.

      Thanks to your efforts with maples, I have been squeezing in dwarf Japanese maples into a number of beds. I just bought 6 more in the last few weeks. I have your great post to blame for this. Ha ha.

      The birdhouse was a fun project.

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/09/2016

        I'm afraid we're going to have to ticket you for a BUI, Kevin: Buying under the influence......

        1. NCYarden 06/09/2016

          That's clever, Tim. And a ticket worth receiving.

          1. User avater
            Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/09/2016

            Yeah. I think they are generally issued by spouses!

          2. user-7007498 06/09/2016

            That's so funny, Tim. I have been ticketed many times by the spouse. Good thing there is no mandatory jail time for repeat offenders.

          3. User avater
            Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/09/2016

            Let's lift our glasses with cheers to repeat offenders of the horticultural kind!

      2. NCYarden 06/09/2016

        Yeah, cool temps descended on us as well, but certainly welcomed, especially after our super tropical last weekend.
        So true too, thanks to evergreens to give a perpetual feel to the garden...I could not imagine gardening without them.
        Glad (and sorry?) about all your recent maple purchases. I love it!

  8. christianelena 06/09/2016

    Very pretty garden! Like

  9. greengenes 06/09/2016

    Thanks for sharing with us, Kevin. Looks like you have been having fun! All very nice! Your lamium mound is very pretty. Seems once you have this you always will. But yours is done nice. So glad you over there are getting more sun now.!

    1. nenitafranck 06/09/2016

      You have great control of the lamium and it looks great under the pine. They grow here too. They have irresistible folage and flowers.

    2. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Thanks, Jeanne. The Lamium seems easier to control when there is serious tree root competition. I also find that this cultivar doesn't seed elsewhere.

  10. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/09/2016

    You had me at Crassula falcata in the opening photo. Of course then I saw it was your garden and knew we were in for a treat. I don't think you've shared as many wide views before. So great. I'm so glad my wife has no interest in this blog because she would be nagging me to have our weed patch that passes as lawn look like your swaths of green perfection!
    Like many commenters, that Lamium really caught my eye. I've tried several different ones but they've never lasted. Is it under the pine that looks to be to the left of your porch in the front yard photo?
    Of course love the green roof on the bluebird house and great wrap-around porch. We eat dinner on ours almost every evening in the warm weather.
    That's a great little rock garden. What's the exclamation point plant in the middle? Sanseviera? Hesperaloe? The sempervivum look enormous.

    1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Thanks so much, Tim. That container really came together well. I was near Chanticleer gardens a few weeks ago, and came across a nursery that had extensive succulents and some really cool containers, as well as that stand you can see in the photo. It took me 2 hours of just going back and forth in the nursery until that combo came together. The Crassula falcata was the initial plant that caught my eye and drove the design.

      Happy to hear your wife doesn't like the blog. I would hate to think I would start up some marital stress over a lawn. :)

      My wife has no interest even in the garden. Rarely get her outside. She likes the fact that it looks good when she comes home from work and sees it from her car. She thinks I spend way too many hours, and money, outside. What can I say, I am addicted. When I was gradually expanding the garden beds, she would offer a little resistance. I remember sneaking in a 10 foot tall pin oak (Quercus palustris 'Pringreen'), which is a very narrow oak (about 8 feet wide). I had it off to the side of the house and planted it while she was food shopping. It took her about 3 months to notice it was there, and by then a new bed was born (the bed now runs 65 feet long). Fortunately, she doesn't read this blog either.

      The Lamium is under a pine which seems to constrain its growth. It took about 10 years for the Lamium to completely fill out to the width of the pine. It really brightens up the slope I have it on.

      Good eye again. That is Sansevieria Fernwood in the center of the new rock garden.

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/09/2016

        Aren't succulent containers the greatest? Sheila Schultz taught me that they really don't mind being crammed together and confined, which makes for a long-lasting container. I was thrilled when my C. falcata bloomed last year, but the scissored leaves are the best.
        I do try to sneak things into the garden, but Lorraine actually does enjoy taking a stroll now and again. I have to admit that she has some good ideas and opinions, but there is definitely not room for two gardeners in this household.
        I did a little research on Sansevieria last year and was shocked to see some of the different forms, especially the ones that look like agaves. I should have expected that, but it definitely caught me by surprise.
        Enjoy your evening. Assuming it is cool and beautiful there like it is here, before the heat comes back Saturday (in Ohio anyway).

        1. sheila_schultz 06/10/2016


          1. User avater
            Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/10/2016

            Really, what? Succulents *do* mind being crammed in together?

          2. sheila_schultz 06/10/2016

            No, they love being crammed and jammed! I was just surprise that it was me that taught you they liked being cozy! Speaking of C. falcata, we gave one of our clients a little gift... it was a mini face pot and we used one for a mohawk look ;)

          3. User avater
            Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/10/2016

            Yep. I think I sent you a photo of a succulent pot I saw at a nursery last year and commented that it was planted so full that it wouldn't last very long, but you set me straight! Love the C. falcata mohawk idea: genius!

          4. sheila_schultz 06/10/2016

            Thanks Tim!

    2. eddireid 06/09/2016

      I think I have some of the same Lamium - it spreads considerately. I like be the silver in the leaves and the pretty pink flowers - certainly brightens up a very shady spot under some hemlocks. If you want some, let me know.

  11. sheila_schultz 06/09/2016

    Great photos Kevin... especially the image of your front gardens and the lush grass that must bring comments of envy from friends and neighbors! You've certainly achieved the perfect balance of gorgeous foliage and the meandering stream of green grass!
    Like everyone else, I love the swath of Lamium. For a visually delicate plant, it makes a big statement! It grows really well in my gardens, too, and I'd miss it desperately if it was gone.

    Last, but certainly not least... your succulent pot is great fun and your new rock garden berm is already a wonderful addition to your garden-scape! You did it in an afternoon? I'm going to start calling you Mr. Macho!

    1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Thanks, Sheila. My wife gets on me because she is an indoor person, and I, after a long day at work, need to be outside. I could spend the whole weekend outdoors, if I can make it happen.

      1. sheila_schultz 06/09/2016

        I'm like you and Tim, I do this solo, except when I need muscle and my dearest Jim is happy to help... in this garden. (He is an engineering genius when the tarps need to go up during June for hail protection.)
        He never even looked at the gardens we had in IL, but he really loves the ones we now have in CO! Maybe he finally has time to look?
        Whatever... I enjoy the muscle when needed, just as long as he doesn't want to have a say in my designs. I've learned to use my words carefully when talking about possibilities ;)

  12. user-3565112 06/09/2016

    From the front gardens to the back your creativity shines. Creating the berm in an afternoon and transforming the topography in that area is a great idea & it looks great.
    Good luck, Joe

    1. nenitafranck 06/09/2016

      A berm in a afternoon comes from a great job in the planning. It shows that you've been dreaming about it for a much longer time......maybe all Winter?? I bet the plants are carefully chosen and planted so they'll be even more perfectly suited for the space once they fill out and even bloom. The succulents will love the soil and the drainage that they need. Looks like it a full, direct sun area which the plants will just love and all they'll want to do is grow.

      1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

        Nenita: It is true that I am usually planning my garden projects 1-2 years in advance. I never put anything down on paper. This has led to some funny goof-ups, but I never mind moving plants around ('editing' sounds more purposeful).

    2. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Thanks, Joe. When I bought this property 20 years ago, it was a mostly flat piece of land (the street has a gentle slope). There was not 1 plant on the property, so a true empty canvas. I have done all the work and design on my own (as well as all the goof-ups). Only in the last 5 years I have realized the value of creating berms and undulations with rocks to create interest and break up the flow of water. It has helped create great microclimates and has reduced my need to provide supplemental water (except to new transplants).

  13. GrannyCC 06/09/2016

    Beautiful garden. Love the curved bed along your porch.
    As to the bird house did you put plastic on the roof first or did you just plant directly on it?

    1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Thanks, Catherine. I built a normal bluebird house and then put down a piece of roof paper. I then sandwiched the roof paper with the "floor of the green roof" and went from there. It seems to work great.

  14. nenitafranck 06/09/2016

    You are a true's so perfect and just beautiful.

  15. schatzi 06/09/2016

    Beautiful, Kevin. Love the birdhouse - cool in every sense of the word. You are smart to cut your grass high so it shades itself and doesn't dry out. Everything looks so lush and well cared for. The ninebark is a beauty. Great job! Enjoy.

    1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Thanks, Shirley. I love interacting on this blog. And who doesn't enjoy sharing their photos and getting some love every now and then.

  16. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 06/09/2016

    Hi Kevin, I always look forward to your posts knowing that there will be something interesting and you didn't disappoint. Love that birdhouse. I recently added a berm bed to my yard for lavender and other drought tolerant plants but when I was mulching it I realized that it was such a heat sync area that it was better suited to succulents. Since it was already planted, I'll wait a year and then decide. I'd love to see how yours survive through the winter. That wrap around porch is enviable and I'm betting that you love to sit there and enjoy your beautiful garden.

    1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Thanks Linda. I think the real challenge in gardening is understanding the microclimates that are naturally present as well as the ones we create. Over the years I have observed how sometimes 6-12 inches can make a huge difference in whether a plant thrives or dies, even when a quick look seems like both locations are getting the same conditions

  17. VikkiVA 06/09/2016

    Thank you Kevin for sharing your lovely garden. The birdhouse roof is wonderful...brought a smile to my face. Your rock garden looks super. Are all of those succulents perennials in your zone? I have a succulent planter, much like yours in your first photo, and I bring it into the garage every winter even though I'm in a northern zone 8. Your Lamium 'Red Nancy' looks like it is enjoying the prolonged cool temps. Mine did also. The view of your front yard from the driveway is beautiful! Vikki in VA

    1. user-7007498 06/09/2016

      Thanks, Vikki. Both those projects were fun. I will certainly need to bring my succulent container in for the winter. Most of the plants, except 2, should survive in the rock garden.

      The cool weather has been good for the plants, and for me. Despite adding a number of plants , and performing my usual editing, I have not needed to perform any real watering.

  18. eddireid 06/09/2016

    Your garden is very pretty, Kevin, clearly the result of an imaginative and skilled gardener. I am so impressed that you have done so much work that you are now able to relax and enjoy it all. I think that is marvellous..

    1. user-7007498 06/10/2016

      Thanks Eddi. I learned through a lot of research and trial and error. My relaxation is puttering around in the garden. I am happy that the bed construction has been completed. I now enjoy taking 50-100 sq foot sections, removing most of the plants, and recreating a different look (usually doing this once per year). Believe it or not, that is relaxing to me.

      1. eddireid 06/10/2016

        I agree, gardening may be hard,physical work, but it is a real joy to me too. My garden is a retreat and I feel fortunate every day to have my own blessed place. It is a constant challenge, a fresh palette to create as I choose. A joy.

  19. perenniallycrazy 06/10/2016

    Seeing wide views of your garden is such a wonderful treat Kevin! I'm really enjoying the variety of garden rooms in your personal sanctuary. I would love to see more. Thankfully you are a regular GPODer now so I'll be looking forward for updates on these and your new creations through the season. Thanks - these brightened my day!

    1. user-7007498 06/10/2016

      Thanks, Cherry. I was so happy when I found this website about a year ago, and look forward to seeing all the great gardens, and following some really good discussions. I enjoy posting as well. You will see more updates over time (until Susan gets tired of me).

  20. Cenepk10 06/10/2016

    What fresh new garden is this ???? Been holding back, have you ? I need to see MORE MORE MORE MORE !!!!! Gorgeous. Love that view from the driveway. New garden promises to be a beauty from the looks of the older beds !!! Bravo !!!!

    1. user-7007498 06/10/2016

      Thanks so much for the kind remarks. That location from the driveway is my favorite in the garden. It's been such a dreary spring here, it is so nice that the weather has broken and the plants are taking off and looking great.

  21. cynthiamccain 06/12/2016

    Kevin, you inspire me! Thanks yet again for the photos of your beautiful garden.

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