We learned several lessons from our open garden. Sit down with a cup of coffee or an iced tea because this post is a long one.
Visitors see gardens differently which is cool.
Does this garden tour make my garden look big?
Several visitors to our open garden told me they couldn’t believe how large our garden is. I was surprised. Because I’m here all the time working in it, I just assumed everyone knew it’s large. Visitors said the garden doesn’t look as large in photos as it is in person. Perhaps, it’s because much of the back garden is broken up into small rooms. If you only saw it in photos, it might look small.
Small rooms make the back garden more manageable.
I use these small rooms to organize how I work in the back garden. I take each triangle, diamond, and long bed as a separate entity when I plant, mulch, deadhead, etc. Otherwise, I would get overwhelmed. Sometimes, I still do.
Our Little Cedar Garden is approximately an acre and a half if you include my wildflower meadow in the upper pasture. If you haven’t already, take a seat, and I’ll try to give you an idea of how much space is here. [Click on the gallery photos to make them larger.]
The back garden
In the back garden, there are two halves that are mirrors of each other. On the right, there is a diamond surrounded by four triangles. I got the original design from Kitchen Gardener magazine. That was my first formal potager (kitchen garden.) Originally, I had a rectangle where my current potager sits. Then, Bill and I added two long beds at the end of the original potager (those triangles and diamonds.) Eventually, we doubled the back garden’s size to reflect its mirror image.
So, on the north side, there is another diamond surrounded by triangles and then two long beds at the east end. We estimate that it’s about 12,000 square feet or 1/4 acre.
The shade garden with she shed
On the north side of the back garden is a shade garden surrounding my little green she shed. It’s probably 1,000 square feet or so. It is one of my favorite spaces because I understood gardening much better when I planned it. I love all of the different shades of green.
The tiered borders on the north side of the deck and the east side of the house.
If you face the back of the house (west) and take in the tiered borders and the borders on the other side of the deck, they’re approximately 2,000 square feet.
Pots on the deck
On the deck, I have twelve containers or so that surround anyone sitting outside. One visitor said she’d never realized how cozy it was. She said it feels like you’re in the center of a garden. That made me happy. It’s hard to show how sitting on the deck feels in pictures. Bill and I like to go out there each evening in summer just as dusk closes in and watch the fireflies as they dart about our lower pasture and throughout the back garden. It is one of our favorite things.
The pond and the wild part of the garden
If you go past the deck and start down the backside of the house, you’ll first see the borders below the deck and then the walled garden and the one above the wall. This border is pretty long, but I’ve never measured it. Down the brick path and around the area beneath our bedroom, you’ll see a wild area that Bill wants to turn into a bubbling stream.
As you come up the hill, there’s a shady pond. Although we now know you should put ponds in the sun, we wanted ours next to our bedroom so we can sit outside on the deck in spring, fall, and even winter. We love listening to the frogs and the rain as it falls. The day after the tour, we finally finished rehabbing the pond. I wish people could’ve seen it all finished, but there wasn’t time beforehand.
The front borders
As you walk past the pond and in front of the house, there are two, pretty standard borders. They look okay, but I added some coleus this week to punch up the volume. This area is always hard because it faces west, but it’s in the shade. I just keep adding things to make it look better. The border on the other side of the door had three hollies that died last winter. I’m making a ribbon of Taxus x media ‘Densiformis’, spreading yews, and one T. × media ‘Hicksii’, Hicks yew, to take their place. It will take a while for them to fill in the space.
The potager and beds facing the street
Then, we can walk over to the potager which is full of lavender blooms and other herbs and veggies. It is on one side of the greenhouse. During the open garden, several visitors asked why I used lavender. I said, “For the bees, and because it’s a classic choice.” You can grow lavender in Oklahoma. You just need the right conditions.
On the other side of the greenhouse are two rather wild beds that face the street. That’s where the muhly grass puts on a show in September. Down from these beds are the six cut flower beds we rebuilt this year.
Next to the beds facing the street are the cutting gardens which have a lot of annual and perennial flowers in them, and I rarely cut any flowers from my cutting garden. I can’t make myself.
Then, there’s the upper pasture meadow which is about 20,000 square feet or 1/2 an acre. It’s in its third year, and there are plenty of wildflower delights to behold.
That’s pretty much all of the plots shown during the open garden tour excluding the tomatoes growing in the center of the old driveway, and the garage border, and a new sidewalk border. The gardens are full-time jobs, but I still write about gardening, garden coach, help host a podcast, and do speaking engagements like this one at Bustani Plant Farm’s fall festival. I’m also a beekeeper. A common question during the open garden was how do I do it all. I don’t know.
So many tomatoes?
Another thing that surprised me during our open garden was how many people thought I was growing a lot of tomatoes. I do grow a lot of tomato plants, but many of them are indeterminate heirlooms and don’t produce a lot of fruit all at once. I’ll start getting tomatoes in July and will get them until late August usually. Since my grown children don’t have vegetable gardens, and three out of four of them love tomatoes, I give them a lot. My mom is a tomato fanatic so she gets a bunch too. My veggie garden supports a large extended family of tomato eaters. That’s my excuse.
One visitor during the open garden asked me if I make lavender wands with all the lavender in the potager. I do not. I’m not very crafty, and honestly, when would I find the time?
I do love to cook. Does that count?
Truthfully, I just like to grow things. I love listening to the birds like the bluebird singing outside my window this morning. I like watching the frogs and lizards, and big, fat Carpenter bees. Don’t forget my honey bees either.
Now, I have a couple of questions for you. What is your garden like? What do you like to grow?
Thank you so much for this post! I would love to see your garden in person (I follow your blog and podcast); how do I sign up for a tour in the future? Also; you’ve probably answered this on the podcast, but do you use drip irrigation in your containers? I have 2 raised vegetable beds which I love and a jumbled flower bed put in in 2019; and am in the process of re-doing an iris/sunflower bed. Thanks again for this post!
Hi Rochelle, we usually open the garden once a year. I’ll do a post soon on how we do the drip irrigation in our containers. It’s pretty easy really if you start with a drip irrigation kit you can usually buy online like this one: https://amzn.to/3hSA1sv. You also need a timer to make things easier. I’ll do a post soon. As for signing up for a tour, I don’t really take signups, and I don’t charge people to visit, and I share the opening dates on my Instagram feed and Facebook page and here. I hope that helps.~~Dee
Dee, thank your for sharing your beautiful gardens. I look forward to seeing in person very soon!
I hope to learn a great deal from you. See you soon!
I loved this virtual tour of your amazing gardens!!!
It’s just beautiful, Dee! Thank you for sharing.
Dee! I got bees! They are temporarily in an area that isn’t ideal and I’m planning to design a little bee yard over the winter and move them. How do you handle mowing and weeding and general garden type maintenance around your hives?
Hey Kristy, congrats! As for weeding and mowing, I simply put on my bee suit and do it. We mow with a John Deere tractor, and I weedeat with my battery-operated DeWalt String Trimmer. My bees hardly notice, but I’m in and out quite quickly. I also planted clover down by the bee hives so I didn’t mow until recently. In other news, we have a lot of erosion down in the bee yard, and we’re going to have to bring in a couple of dump truck loads of dirt to fix the erosion in several places in the lower pasture and our yard. What a crazy year it’s been!~~Dee
Glorious garden. Thanks for sharing your hardworking.
Thank you, SB. I appreciate it!~~Dee
Loved seeing your garden in person and all the gorgeous plants you have collected! Such a treat!
Hi Sonia, I loved getting to meet you after all these years. Thank you for coming! I hope we can have lunch one day.~~Dee
Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening
We own 10 acres but I have no clue how much area my garden beds are. I know I am at my limit and don’t dare create any more beds. I can barely take care of what I have and can’t afford to hire anyone–and that’s with other family members taking care of the lawn. I loved the garden tour and appreciated that you showed problem areas and “projects for the future”. Weatherwise, you’ve had a hell of a year, but the garden still looks great!
Hi Kathy, I only know because I asked Bill for measurements. Being a paving contractor, he can do it in his head. I won’t be adding any gardens. He’ll make that stream though. I’ll probably just keep the leaves out of it for him like I do the pond. The rain kept falling this week, and it’s caused more damage. I’m ready for the rain to move on. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Hugs!~~Dee
So funny that many visitors find your garden larger than anticipated, because visitors to mind are shocked at how small it really is! What a wonderful tour you’ve given your readers too. “I just like to grow things” — so true! That right there is the secret behind visitors wondering how you do it all. To some it must look exhausting, to others (me!) it all looks like so much fun. That acre and a half is lucky to have you!
Hi Denise, yes, I was really surprised, and several people said it. I think I don’t give a good representation of its entirety. Maybe I should buy a drone. Thank you! Although I sometimes find it exhausting, making all the plant combinations is a dream come true. Seeing it at its best is pure happiness too.~~Dee
Don’t buy a drone, you know someone who knows LOTS of drone photographers…unless you just think it sounds like fun. Maybe Brennan needs a new hobby??
What is my garden like? Not like yours! But with time maybe it will be. It’s always inspiring to see your garden. Thanks for the photo tour, I’m not sweating through this one. : )
Debbie, in many ways, it is a lot like my garden. I’m just more obsessed, and you have other hobbies. ~~Dee
Really enjoyed all of the detailed explanations and pictures. Wonder if you have any erosion problems around your pond? Thanks, jan
Hi Jan, we really don’t. They packed that dirt down really hard. We did try to grow Bermuda on the hill, but it was in too much shade. This summer will really tell though won’t it?~~Dee
My garden is also about a 1/3 of an acre – and it is full! But even when we lived on 60 acres up on the hill, I could never have created your stunner. Just gorgeous.
Oh Pat, you could have. You’re a wonderful gardener. All it took was time, backbreaking work and money. LOL!~~Dee
I so enjoyed the tour. Your garden is one of the few I have continued to follow through the years. You inspire me. My gardens are on 2 acres and about 1/4 of that is woods. Mine feels so overwhelming most of the time except my potager or fenced in raised bed garden.. and it’s pretty big.. lol
oh well, no more time for writing.
Have a fun day..
Hi Mona, about half of our 7.5 acres is wooded. I’m grateful for those trees for many reasons, not the least of which is I don’t have to garden there. Ha! I’d love to see your garden.~~Dee
I have a suburban measured in square feet. It’s less than a third of an acre! Thanks for the grand tour! Impressive!
Carol, you’re funny! It’s pouring again here.
I was so sorry not to come to your garden tour. I will make every effort to come the next time you open it. Still enjoyed the online tour. Very inspiring! What a magical place it must be and a joy to all!