Garden Photo of the Day

Using Photos as a Garden Journal

Assessing the garden through images

Today’s photos come from Barbara Owen.

I’ve been gardening this same quarter-acre since 1969, though everything about the yard has changed in that time. I love the beautiful photos that appear in GOPD. This time I thought I’d submit something more practical than beautiful.

I love wandering through my garden with a camera, capturing photos of beautiful flowers. Some of my photos serve a more practical purpose, though, such as garden views that maybe managed to achieve my vision for that particular space. They are a useful addition to the notes in my garden notebook of what I want to remember from one season to the next, and they are wonderful to look through as we enjoy a “wintery mix” outside. Here are some photos and notes from last summer.

HelleboreHellebore (Helleborus hybrid, Zones 5–9) has lush leaves for most of the year, but these early flowers greet spring. It would be nice to divide this one, to transplant any seedlings, to give it all more space, and to buy a companion with lighter flowers that would show up better in the shade.

Bearded irisI have many beds of different varieties of bearded iris, most of them handed down from my parents’ gardens many years ago. Although beautiful when they are blooming, they would be happier if I remembered to feed them a drink of beneficial nematodes to discourage the borers.

White bleeding heartWhite bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’, Zones 3–9) is such a spectacular centerpiece in a mostly white (with blue and yellow) garden. It would be nice to reward its beauty by dividing it and letting it have more of the stage.

petuniaThis was a great use for the base of a birdbath after the top broke. The verbena was high enough that the rabbits didn’t feast on this one, but the petunia would have lasted longer with more consistent water during the 100-degree days in July. I’m still searching for the secret to keeping petunias and calibraochoa happy through the whole summer.

ZinniaZinnias (Zinnia elegans, annual) are a favorite of mine and of the butterflies and bees. My zinnia plants (and marigolds) are grown from seeds I’ve been collecting for almost fifty years. I choose my favorite colors and the biggest, brightest, sturdiest to save for the next year. I try to remember to plant enough so that there will still be flowers to enjoy when the goldfinches are tearing out the petals to feast on the seeds.

Salvia (Salvia splendens, annual) is a garden workhorse. So far the rabbits ignore the seedlings that pop up all over the garden. My salvias are happy to be transplanted into the areas where I want their cheery bright red. The hummingbirds also appreciate the blossoms.

ColeusColeus has so many color combinations to choose from. When it’s happy, I snip off some leading stems and root them in water. In a few days, there are more of them to plant.

BrowalliaBrowallia (annual) is another workhorse. A small four-pack can fill all the spaces where I want that light blue. Again, I snip off a few stems, root them in water, and get more plants! Plus, the rabbits seem to leave this one alone.

Fall asters (Aster novae-angliae, Zones 3–8) were a gift from a friend many years ago, and they remind me of how wonderful garden friendships and sharing can be. The magenta flowers are a bright contrast to my fall-colored September garden if I’ve remembered to wrap the plants with chicken wire so the rabbits can’t eat them down to the ground. The bumblebees and honeybees enjoy the flowers in the fall.

ninebarkI love the view across the front yard from the bench in my “woods garden,” but sometimes plants outgrow my initial plan. The ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’, Zones 3–8) will be happier if I can transplant it to a space where it has room to grow into its preferred graceful vase shape. The small rhododendron has a branch desperately searching for more sunlight as the red maple continues to block more of it. Maybe the rhodie would prefer a different site as well. A garden is always a work in progress.

ZinniaA final view of the area I can see from my kitchen and dining room windows. Thank you, Mother Nature, for planting salvia everywhere. Zinnia bring monarchs, painted ladies, black and yellow swallowtails, and goldfinches to feast. Red dahlias were a gift from another friend many years ago. They are the most long-lasting of any that I’ve grown and are consistently covered with beautiful deep red flowers. They provide more tubers than I have room to plant, so again, I can share the gift with others.


Have a garden you’d like to share?

Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!

To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.

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View Comments


  1. dceddowning 02/12/2020

    This is both practical and beautiful - very beautiful! It seems far larger than a quarter acre, but it shows the extraordinary amount of beauty one can fit into a limited space with some planning and a healthy dose of inspiration. Wonderful! And I'm pleased to see that I'm not alone in that when I look at someone else garden. I see how beautiful it is, but when I look at my own garden, I see how much more beautiful it could be if I only split one plant, transplanted another, cut back a third, enhanced a fourth with another color and so on to the end of the day! Thank you for sharing all of this!

    1. User avater
      bdowen 02/12/2020

      Thank you, Doug! It's a family trait, right? Always one more task and the joy in the work.

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/12/2020

    Delightful sharing, Barbara, I not only enjoyed the beauty of your photos but the information in your commentary. You introduced me to the name (Browallia ) of a very appealing annual I wasn't familiar with...who doesn't love a light blue flowered workhorse!

    1. User avater
      bdowen 02/12/2020

      I used to be able to find white browallia, but now only blue, but such a pretty blue.

    2. Luvfall 02/12/2020

      Browallia is my all time favorite for nonstop color in the shade.

  3. btucker9675 02/12/2020

    So much color in your lovely garden. I, too, take photos but your idea of also making notes to go with them is excellent. The beautiful coleus just pops in that photo - will make sure to have a few in large pots by the pool this year. Thank you for sharing!

  4. User avater
    simplesue 02/12/2020

    Love your "Woods Garden" in the front!
    So much better for you and nature to enjoy than a blank grassy lawn!
    Such an excellent close up photo of the butterfly!
    I too keep garden notes with photos and notes on Pinterest in private files (I havetoo many mistakes and ugly before photos at this stage of starting another garden LOL).
    Thanks for the tour of your pretty garden!

    1. User avater
      bdowen 02/12/2020

      Not much grass here. The front yard of our pie shaped lot is about 1/3 vegetable garden, 1/3 grass and 1/3 woods garden (inspired by The Garden in the Woods in Framingham MA).

  5. Musette1 02/12/2020

    as mentioned above, this is both beautiful and practical! I take photos in much the same way - but my goal is to remember where I put things! LOL! I get a bit 'diggy' at the start of the season and if I've not checked I'm liable to dig up some mid-to-late season Something!

    Thanks for sharing your lovely space with us!

  6. user-7072819 02/12/2020

    Thank you for the stroll through your beautiful garden. It brought me such happiness on a grey day when I am under the weather with a cold. I can hardly wait to get outside and dig. I will make a note to be sure and plant the browalia and some bleeding hearts this year. Thank you for the comments under each photo, so helpful. I’ll look into the beneficial nematodes for my iris. Yours are gorgeous!

  7. User avater
    bdowen 02/12/2020

    Thank you all for your comments!

  8. User avater
    treasuresmom 02/12/2020

    I take pics & not necessarily the best ones so I have the date things are blooming. Also helps as you said to know where things are. I knew we moved N. Rapture last summer but forgot to write down where. I just spotted it in bloom so I made sure to snap a pic showing not just the daff but some of the surrounding area so I know where it is next year.

  9. Hilltopgothic 02/13/2020

    Love your garden! So pretty. How wonderful to have been in a place for so long. I'm sure it's fun to look back to all the changes.

  10. User avater
    bdowen 02/18/2020

    When we moved in, there were hedges of hemlocks, 4 Norway maples and several white pines- wooly adelgid, winter snowstorms and wind damage changed that. For flowers- one iris and one small peony. I've had a wonderful time with the changes we've made.

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