Garden Photo of the Day

When You Have to Downsize a Garden

It can be hard to let a beloved garden go when it becomes too much work

Today’s photos come from Tess H.

I am a Southerner transplanted to the Midwest. I have probably an acre total in mixed shrubs and perennials. I just told my husband I was going to start transitioning out of perennials and only have shrub gardens. I have a few areas already dedicated to different panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata, Zones 3–8) that are lovely, but it is a big step to break away from my high-maintenance gardens. I’m in my later 60s, want to travel, and can’t keep up. In the fall, when I’m spending about 80 hours cleaning up the gardens, I want to be done with it all. I have a particularly wonderful area dedicated to sedums surrounded by alyssum intermixed with phlox and fairy roses. Another area is heavily planted with another type of sedum backdropped by barberry, spirea, lilies, and daylilies. I designed a lot of my garden to be seen from the upstairs window, so it’s pretty unique that way.

It is so hard to admit you can’t keep up a garden. Getting rid of the plants is heartbreaking, but I’m hoping to give a call to my local garden club to find a new home for the plants, so that should help lessen the blow.

pink liliesHigh maintenance but very beautiful, these pink lilies (Lilium, Asiatic group, Zones 4–9) make quite a display.

pink rosesMasses of pink roses echo the color of the lilies.

This garden is designed to be beautiful from the ground and, as seen here, from an upstairs window. We all spend a lot of time looking at our gardens from indoors, so it is well worth considering the view from your windows when designing your garden.

The same beds as seen from ground level.

Pink garden phloxPink garden phlox (Phlox paniculata, Zones 4–8)

Huge masses of Sedum backed by daylilies (Hemerocallis) make for a simple yet dramatic entrance.

Panicle hydrangeasPanicle hydrangeas in bloom. It can be hard to admit that it is time to simplify a garden, but choosing shrubs over perennials is a great way to keep a beautiful space while making it less of a burden to maintain.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    simplesue 10/22/2019

    I know what you mean about simplifying and downsizing your garden- you are not alone. The photos of your garden are just gorgeous. I'm so impressed that this is your simple version of the garden, because it's still spectacular and large. It's also very unique looking and I've never seen a garden quit like it. It's a nice strong statement; formal yet casual. Really a beauty!

  2. User avater
    user-7007816 10/22/2019

    I too mentally understand the need to reduce our gardens, but my heart does not. At 79, I just opened up a new area for masses of wildflowers.

  3. nwphillygardener 10/22/2019

    Looking at the restrained planting of shrubs and perennials you've shown, I imagine the transition to all shrubs will be equally well crafted. I hope you will continue to photograph now that you've shared these "BEFORE" shots. And the decision to "re-home" your perennials to other gardeners should make many people happy….. remember it will please not only those making these gardens but their family, friends and neighbors.

  4. User avater
    treasuresmom 10/22/2019

    I totally understand about the need to downsize. I am having an inner conversation with myself as to what I can do to make it all easier as I am getting to a certain age as well. There are a few things I have to keep because they came from lovely elderly ladies. Please share again as you make changes.

  5. Quiltingmamma 10/22/2019

    I am in a similar situation, even though the garden isn't quite that size. I am also thinking of downsizing and given the comments from a non gardening neighbour, my 'no lawn' front yard is going to be a deal breaker for a lot of folks. I also have garden clubs to receive any of my potential removals, but am hoping they will be minimal. I would be happy to hire some help, but steady help is hard to find. I think I need a consultant for an impartial eye.....Please do keep us up to date on how your transition is going. I suspect many of we daily readers would benefit from your experience.

  6. davlinkun 10/22/2019

    So agreed, thank you for your honesty and great great gardening .
    Iin in the same situation and use lots of ground cover but still do have a few “favs” here and there.

  7. Musette1 10/22/2019

    I see no diminution of beauty in a less-intensive garden, certainly not this one! Your garden is stunning! I am in my mid-60s and, without really thinking about it, have found myself transitioning to an easier maintenance garden as well. I'm going to be moving from my 1/3 acre to a much smaller space and I see a lot of hydrangeas (backing my lilies) in my future!

  8. User avater
    bdowen 10/22/2019

    I agree- please do keep taking and sharing photos of your beautiful garden as you redesign it to a less intensive maintenance plan. And share with us your choices and decisions. I love the color scheme you have worked through all your garden areas, as well as the window view. Good luck with your plans.

  9. user-7540831 10/22/2019

    Your gardens are beautiful! I love how you landscaped your yard - the flowers, color and texture look amazing! We go through many seasons and styles of life. Gardening and what we enjoy is no exception. I think it's great to change things up! I can't wait to see what you do!

  10. carolineyoungwilliams 10/22/2019

    Tess, your garden is absolutely gorgeous. Your mass planting makes a powerful impact. Even though I am extending beds, I understand what you mean; I am in my 60's and having a desire to travel too so I'm in the process of changing from so many annuals to more perennials and shrubs. Thank you for sharing your beautiful work. Enjoy your life.

  11. btucker9675 10/22/2019

    You'll have folks lined up to take some of your gorgeous perennials! I hope your downsizing will go smoothly and that you'll be just a pleased with the "new" garden. Maybe just a small space for some of those gorgeous lilies and phlox? : )

  12. User avater
    AshlieDPerron 10/25/2019

    Thanks for sharing the beauty of nature!

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