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Before and After in Shelley’s Garden

Today we’re in Old Chatham, New York, visiting with Shelley Haefner.

I have been gardening for a little over 12 years now. At the beginning of my journey, I just purchased what I loved and planted it wherever I wanted to plant it without giving much thought to the shape of the garden, the soil, the sun, proper location, or the mature size of what I was planting. So it was no surprise when I found myself constantly moving things around, consistently feeling like something was off. There was something I just didn’t love about the shape of the garden either. Today, 12 years later, my yard has evolved into my dream space; it’s organically grown and is a habitat to birds, insects, and all things living. I experience so much joy (after years of frustration, trials, and failures) that I share my experiences, photos, and videos on a Facebook page called Guiding Green Thumbs. Not only am I able to connect with other gardeners, but I can share my knowledge and experiences with others who are just starting (or they may be well into their gardening journey and offering their advice to me). Garden transformations take time, and nothing is more worth the wait.

landscape before garden transformationThe garden 10 years ago: I kept expanding this area around the rock, adding plants I fell in love with or plants that were given to me. It started out as two shrubs around a giant rock. After 10 years, it’s finally found an amazing shape, purpose, and a colorful palette that I enjoy every moment during the growing season.

landscape after transformation, full of flowersTwo years into my transformation

the garden today, full of flowers and colorThe garden today is filled with many varieties of Echinacea (Zones 4–8), daylilies (Hemerocallis hybrids, Zones 3–9), Euphorbia, and Sedum. There are shrubs used as the backbone of the garden: ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius, Zones 2–8), Viburnum (Zones 5–9), Hydrangea (Zones 3–8), and St. John’s wort (Hypericum, Zones 3–8), to name a few. The garden has evolved from a rectangular plot to a kidney bean–shape that cradles into the landscape and sloping terrain nicely.

butterfly on purple coneflowersThis garden is now home to many gorgeous visitors. Echinacea purpurea (Zones 3–8) is a favorite for sure!

hedge of flowering shrubs in the gardenA hedge of ‘Little Quick Fire’ hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata ‘SMHPLQF’, Zones 3–8) lines a stone-step path at the end of the garden.

bright colored flowers and foliage in the gardenBright colors are repeated in this garden to make the biggest visual impact and attract pollinators. Echinacea ‘Baja Burgundy’ is a repeated standout in this garden. ‘Blue Fortune’ hyssop (Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, Zones 5–9) provides a nice contrast of purple under the birdhouse. Lobelia cardinalis (Zones 3–9) is in the background, a favorite of hummingbirds.

garden in spring with some lighter colored flowersSummer is not the only time the garden looks colorful; there are plenty of Allium, tree peonies, and herbaceous peonies (Paeonia hybrids, Zones 3–8) to rev up the spring color!

bumblebees on small, bright purple flowersAnother huge pollinator favorite is Liatris (Zones 3–8).

bluebird on top of a small birdhouseWe are lucky enough to have Eastern bluebirds nest in our white birdhouse every year. They bring such a sweet melody when scouting the boxes in early March.


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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