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The most inspiring moments from great gardens


I’ve said it here before, but it bears repeating: The very best thing you can do for your garden is get out of it and into someone else’s. I cannot think of a a single time I’ve gone into another garden and not taken something away from it that I either learned or wanted to incorporate into my own garden.

So it’s no surprise that I came home from a trip to some of the best public gardens in the country practically bursting with ideas. I’ll share some of my photos with you in future posts. First though, here are the inspiring garden moments that I can’t stop thinking about. These are the ideas that I feel compelled to incorporate into my own garden in some way.

I think Chanticleer might be my spirit garden (you know, like some people have a spirit animal). I found so many things there that appealed to me, but I think I truly fell in love with the place in the garden by the croquet lawn. A long, skinny border planted in white, blue, yellow and chartreuse cemented in me my love for this combination.

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blue yellow border garden


At the center of all this is a massive Japanese false hydrangea vine (Schizophragma integrifolium) that covers a wall. The trunk has been exposed, but of course the star is the large showy flowers. I told one of the people I was with that I might die if I don’t have this plant in my life. No worries there, friends, as I went out and found one two days later.

false hydrangea vine


In this bed was also a lovely ceramic jar-shaped pot with simple ivy trailing out if it. I thought it was such a nice moment. In fact all of the gardens we saw showed me that I really need to put more containers in my garden.

ivy covered pot


We made a brief visit to Stoneleigh, a newer public garden. The beds along the mansion were planted with a shockingly informal plant combination  including the beautiful butterfly weed (Ascelpias tuberosa). I saw this plant (which I’m very familiar with but haven’t paid much attention to in the past) again in the gravel garden at Chanticleer where it played so well with blue flowers.

butterfly weed at Stoneleigh

Butterfly weed at Chanticleer


It’s funny how you know of a plant but don’t pay it much attention until all of a sudden you seem to see it everywhere. It was there all along but I just never noticed it much before. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had this happen. Odd as it may sound, I take this as a sign that I’m meant to have this plant. One of those plants is ‘Kintzley’s Ghost’ honeysuckle (Lonicera reticulata x prolifera). It’s a vining honeysuckle but every time I saw this silvery foliage beauty growing, it was allowed to flop over a wall or on a short trellis so it took on the appearance of a shrub. It was such an eye catcher that we commented on it every time we saw it.

'Kintzley's Ghost' honeysuckle


Perhaps the simplest idea I saw was also one of the most lovely. A small pot (with the drainage hole obviously plugged) was filled with water. (I’m pretty sure the water was dyed black. This is the black dye I’m using in my container pond in the vegetable garden. A little goes a very long way.) Then fresh flowers and foliage were floated on its surface. This would be easy to do for a party but why not do it all the time just for yourself? Now this is an inspiring garden moment.

water container

13 Responses

  1. Thanks for giving us little snippets of your garden tour…I finally got a Kintzley’s Ghost this spring after a somewhat local nursery ordered it for me. It is a Plant Select selection, so if you find a nursery that handles those, they might have it. The problem is, I had hoped to have my black stained new fence done by now, but the builder keeps delaying. So my honeysuckle is waiting patiently in its pot for the completion of the fence to get planted! I’m so glad you found your Japanese false hydrangea vine so soon. We would really hate to lose you!

  2. Oh what fun. I would love to do a garden tour (or tours!) All in due time. You’ve shared some beautiful spaces. Makes me want to get home and dig in 🙂

  3. This is truly a lovely, peaceful place you’ve shared with us. Thank you! One question about the container pond: mosquitoes? Ok, another question? Dogs? My dogs would so be in this! They love a water feature of any kind!

  4. I love all of these inspirations. What a fun time you had. I can’t wait to see more. I wonder if that black water keeps mosquitoes at bay.

    1. I’ve seen a dropper of something at my local (Australian) nursery/hardware store, which creates a barrier on top of stagnant water, preventing mosquitos from using it to reproduce. The problem is, it has a big warning on it that it’s extremely hazardous to fish, bees, butterflies, and other natural wildlife. I hate mosquitoes with a passion, but I won’t stop them with such a harmful method. I’ve decided my only real options are to make sure water is drained regularly (eg pot saucers) or to install fish to eat the mosquito wrigglers. I don’t know whether fish are compatible with black dye, but I wish you luck- and much citronella!

  5. I’m with you for white, chartreuse, blue/purple, and yellow color schemes. I may also throw a little orange in there ( my favorite color). Makes me sing!

  6. We live in Delaware and are close to Longwood Gardens and Winterthur, but Chanticleer has stolen our hearts with it’s stunning beauty.

  7. Gorgeous photos. I really like the butterfly weed. Reading about the decimation of pollinators, I was determined to tear out useless grass and to plant to please the bees and butterflies. So far, so good, but the real summer heat and drought are about to start. I hope I’ve mulched enough, because I don’t want to water.
    I recently wrote about some gardens at a 1,000-year-old abbey nearby, the Abbey of Fontfroide. Gorgeous. Lots of roses, but also little terraced “rooms” where the monks could contemplate. I like the idea of garden rooms. Unfortunately, I am less enthusiastic about upkeep like weeding.

  8. I have admired Kintzley’s Ghost Honeysuckle…and have added it to my garden…since I saw it on a garden tour video on Garden Answer. I found it at Thanks you for taking the time to take us along with you on this garden tour.

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