Garden Tour

Click to enlarge.

Welcome to my gardens! I have drawn a simple map of the layout of our rural property to aid in visualizing the location of my garden areas (I think that garden books and articles should always have garden maps). Photos of most garden areas are shown below, some showing the changes I've made to our gardens over the 10+ years we've lived here (in the past few years, I've generally been reducing garden areas that are located farther from our house, and improving or adding to the garden areas nearer to our house).

Garden Information:
Location: southeast Iowa, Zone 5B
Age: We purchased our five-acre property in 2008 (there is a two-acre field to the west that is not depicted for reasons of scale) and we've been adding garden areas each year since then.
Soil: Heavy clay, with rich black topsoil in undisturbed areas. Alkaline soil.
Challenges: Located on a hilltop surrounded by farm fields, winds can be a problem (however, our small dog largely deters deer).

Thanks for visiting!

1. House:

Here's the front of our south-facing house, a four-square farmhouse built in 1924. The kitchen wing on the right is original to the house, but we built the addition on the left in 2011.

2. Front Porch/Sunroom:

This is what our front porch used to look like until we had it enclosed into a sunroom in 2016: very pretty, fronted by beds filled with roses, bee balm, lilies, phlox and mums. But we hardly ever sat on the porch, because it was always too hot/cold/windy/muggy/rainy/snowy... as Iowa weather often can be.

In 2016, I realized one of my longtime dreams to have a sunny room filled with plants in which to while away winters. We had our front porch enclosed into a sunroom, and it is now probably my favorite place to spend time (when I can't be outside in my gardens, that is).

What could be more enjoyable in wintertime for a gardener?

3. Paradise Garden:

In 2018, I replaced the grass lawn in front of the porch with a four-part Paradise Garden, inspired by Persian and Islamic gardens and filled with roses and other scented plants, exotic fruit trees and colorful flowers in four garden beds, centered around a flowing fountain. This is a magical place to sit in on warm summer nights, and on sunny spring and autumn days. (I replaced the leftover "stairway to nowhere" in front of the sunroom with a bench in 2019.)

The fountain and colorful flowers make this a wonderful place to spend time.

4. East Patio and Gardens:

In 2018, My handyman and I built this pergola over our east patio. Because this area was suddenly shady for the first time, I needed to redesign the plantings from full-sun flowers, so in 2020 I made a Tropical Garden -- something I had long wanted to do -- here instead. (Please forgive the "project" waiting on the sidewalk.)
Here's another view of the Tropical Garden, which by the end of the summer really looked pretty jungle-y.

5. Front Border:

The Front Border (in front of the white picket fence surrounding our house) in spring.

Near the Front Gate in June.

I grow delphiniums and oxeye daisies in the west part of the Front Border.

6. Mint Circle:

The Mint Circle (named because I planted mint there many years ago and cannot get rid of it -- it does smell good though!). Crocuses followed by Darwin Hybrid tulips in spring.

The Mint Circle later in summer, when zinnias or other annuals follow the tulips, which I allow to die back naturally so that they will return next spring. The zinnias I usually plant in this sunny bed are an absolute magnet for butterflies, which flutter around in the hundreds!

7. Front Addition Border:

We built a library onto our house in 2011, and extended the flower borders around all three side of the new addition. This is the front or south side.

The Addition Front Border is wonderful for spring bulbs, because it is south-facing with good drainage.

8. West Addition Border:

On either side of the steps leading into the west door to our addition, I planted mostly blue and white flowers.

9. White Garden and Pergola:

The White Garden is divided into two halves by the pergola, on which are growing white wisteria and clematis. This is the sunny, south half, and the other side is the shadier north half. 

10. West Island:

The West Island, started in spring 2014, was originally a large, crescent-shaped bed of evergreen and flowering shrubs and trees, as shown in this photo. But in 2019 I reduced the area to mostly the half that is in the distance. The area closer to forefront has been reseeded with grass, except right around the tall tree at front.

11. North Island:

The North Island was started at the same time as the West Island, and is also a work-in-progress. Planting includes evergreen and flowering trees and shrubs, including tree peonies, rhododendrons, azaleas and hardy hibiscus.

I hope to include more intersectional and tree peonies in coming years in the North Island, as they are so beautiful in late springtime!

12. Yellow Garden:

This was what the Yellow Garden, which we made in 2014, looked like a few years ago. We had created this garden when we removed a large ash tree that stood about where the birdbath does in this photo. This area is on the north side of the addition and was very dark before. I wanted to brighten up this area, so nearly everything in the garden is yellow-flowering or gold-foliaged. However, we reduced the area of the garden in 2019 so that only the oval bed to the right of the stepping stones remains, together with a narrow border against the house. The rest of the area has been seeded back to grass.

In 2019, I made the sunny part of the Yellow Garden into an island bed, separate from a foundation border next to the house. By October there was a new grass area between the two beds, and I'll install edging around the island bed. I think this will be much easier to take care of, and we'll still have the cheery yellow garden island to look out at.

13. North Windbreak with tunnel to Celtic Cross Statue:

This windbreak of cedar trees behind our house was planted in the 1960s, and gives us some protection from the cold north winds. It is an L-shaped belt of cedars planted to the north and west of our house.

14. North Border:

This is how the North Border used to look. I planted a large flower border (60 feet long by about 12 feet deep) behind my house in front of the windbreak, to view from my kitchen sink window. Alliums and iris were followed by lilies, Shasta daisies, dianthus, mums and hollyhocks. However, this border was a lot of work to maintain and didn't provide anything to look at during about half of the year, so I replaced it with mostly evergreen shrubs and trees in 2016.

In 2016, I replaced my North Border flower border with a mostly evergreen border that also includes a few pockets of alliums and other bulbs for seasonal interest. This is much easier to maintain and gives me something to look at across my yard from the kitchen window. The trees are continuing to grow in size and will eventually be more prominent in front of the windbreak behind.

15. Herb Garden:

The Herb Garden in spring, after the annual clipping of the boxwood hedges. Chives, French tarragon, mint, thyme and sage are planted in the two nearest beds, and the two far beds are for annual herbs such as cilantro, borage and multiple varieties of basil.

The back half of the Herb Garden in July, with different kinds of basil at left, dill and borage in the right bed, and rosemary in the pot at the center of the garden.

16. Rainbow Border:

The Rainbow Border was originally planted with flowers in a rainbow-order progression: ROYGBIV. That got hard to maintain, so I relaxed the order of the colors -- now it merely contains flowers in many colors of the rainbow.

By midsummer, the Rainbow Border is filled with lilies, phlox, coneflowers and daylilies in many shades of the rainbow.

17. Windmill:

Our Aeromotor A-702 windmill, probably built in the 1930s, with 'William Baffin' roses.

18. Pond and Four L-Shaped Garden beds:

This park-like area consists of a rectangular pond surrounded by four L-shaped flower beds planted with 'Prairie Breeze' Griffith Buck roses, boxwood shrubs, petunias and dahlias. It frames the vista to the south end of our property where the gazebo sits. 

20. Orchard:

We removed several fruit trees from the south end of the orchard in 2015. There is still a double row of apple and pear trees at the far end of the orchard, near the windbreak at left.

21. Flowering Grove:

The Flowering Grove, where we have planted eight or ten flowering crabapple, redbud and pear trees, in front of three existing maple trees on the south end of our property. We hope the trees will grow up to be a beautiful spring-flowering group.

22. Native Garden:

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), coneflowers, Russian sage, brown-eyed Susans and other native prairie flowers have been planted in this small garden bed on the southeast corner of our land by my husband.

23. Gazebo:

The gazebo on the south end of our property, with knee-high corn behind it. Achillea, clematis, nepeta (catmint) and daylilies are planted around the gazebo. (For more about my dream of owning a gazebo and finally getting one in 2013, see this post.)

24. South Maple:

The maple tree planted on the south edge of our property, near the gazebo, turns a wonderful color in autumn.

25. Old Apple Tree:

The Old Apple Tree was damaged in a windstorm the first year we lived here, in Jul 2008, which twisted and split the trunk. (Note that you can see through the trunk.) It has still miraculously borne apples nearly every year since then, although we've noticed that the trunk split seems to be widening, and we fully expect to see the tree shattered on the ground any day now. It bears absolutely delicious apples (probably related to the original strain of Delicious Apples), so it will be missed.

26. Garden Shed and Surrounding Borders: 

The Garden Shed was probably built before 1920, and may actually have served as a residence, incredibly enough. The pear tree alongside it bears delicious pears. 
I fixed up the inside of the garden shed in 2014 -- it had been filthy with bird poop and dark inside, so I cleaned it out, painted the walls white, the floor brown and the counters green, constructed shelving, organized my garden things and made little gingham curtains to make it cute. Much improved! (The before and after photos can be seen here.)

27. Tractor Shed Pavement and Mock Orange Hedge:

The 80-foot-long hedge of fragrant Mock Orange, planted in 2012. I hope that when it has filled
in, the hedge will screen the Tractor Shed pavement behind it, with its unsightly collection of
farm implements, junk and weeds. 

28. Tractor Shed, East Tractor Shed Border and Fern Border:
The back/north side of the Tractor Shed, with the long row of ferns that were already planted here when we moved here.
The east side of the Tractor Shed, with annuals and perennials planted here in 2015. 

29. Garage Borders (North, West and South):
The front (north) side of our garage, planted with clematis, ligularia, astilbe, hostas, a yew tree and impatiens.

30. Forsythia Bed:
This was the only photo I could find of the forsythia shrub, with the Upper Pasture (#32, which I cut into a maze in 2013 for my children's amusement) and Kitchen Garden at left. The two-acre Fenced Pasture (#33) can be seen behind the forsythia at right. 

31. Cutting Garden, Kitchen Garden and Chicken Compound:
The Grand Chicken Hotel (which we got in 2014) and the Chicken Run are next to the Kitchen Garden. which we laid out in 2012. I use the four beds in the closest right corner for growing cutting flowers. (More about the making the Kitchen Garden in this post.)
The four beds of my Cutting Garden. Perennial flowers are in the far left bed; annuals from seed in the middle back bed; tulips followed by dahlias in the closest bed; zinnias, cosmos and gladioli in the far right bed. Plus I grew glorious sweet peas against the side of my house in 2015. (More about my Cutting Garden in this post.)

32. Upper Pasture:
(See photo #30)

33. Fenced Pasture:
(See photo #30)

34. Lower Pasture and Wildflower Strip:
Between the Fenced Pasture and the drainage ditch next to the road, we planted a wildflower seed mix for butterflies and birds, about 150 feet long by 25 feet deep. We planted it in 2013, and the mix of perennials and annuals has continued flowering for three years, but enough weeds have crept in that we plan to replant it with new seeds in spring 2016.

Thanks so much for taking a tour of my gardens! I hope you will follow my posts as I write about my attempts to improve these areas. Best Regards, -Beth
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