A Garden Thing

We’ve discussed before the importance of having a “thing.” Call it a hobby, passion, or interest, most of us benefit from having something that serves as a creative outlet. Some of us have gardening as that outlet, and today I want to give you a tour of my friend Diane’s garden, a particular favorite of mine.

Gardeners love nothing more than to amble through somebody else’s garden drawing inspiration, examining new plants, and leaving with a clipping or two. Our gardens are as individual as we are; take the same combination of plants and we would all create something completely different and that’s the fun of it all.

It’s no small feat to create a botanical wonder on the small lots in Richmond’s planned communities. Houses are close together and builders do not exactly provide inspired plantings in their “landscape packages.” But this can all be overcome as you shall see. So let’s put on our virtual garden clogs and take a stroll through Diane’s garden:


Eschewing the front door wreath, Diane likes unusual and dramatic basket arrangements.

Nobody puts garden ornaments to use better than Diane. This can be tricky. We have all seen the garden so overloaded with tchotchkes that it induces sensory overload. Diane manages to have a variety of interesting objects in her garden while dodging the dreaded tacky bullet. She has a real knack for placing objects here and there which enhance the garden and give it a sort of timeless feel. Here we see that even her mailbox gets a little touch of garden bling:


In addition to being skilled at garden decor, Diane has done a masterful job at laying down a good workable hardscape. She has also avoided the pitfall of planting flowers too soon. Yes, I said too soon. Before you plant all those flowers, the architecture of the garden must be established with walkways, trees, shrubs, and beds. This she has done brilliantly:


Standing in the front yard to the left of the house. How can you resist being drawn into her garden?

How lovely is this? Your eye is drawn toward the backyard by the brick walkway and the plantings create a sense of enclosure – a garden design essential. I don’t even notice a close neighbor. Now here is what I love about Diane’s style of gardening. See that beautiful red Japanese maple on the left?


Yoohoo. There’s something lovely here.

She has discreetly tucked a wire orb under the tree, something which would be easy to walk right past without noticing. Nothing shouts out “look at me!” Nothing looks like it was just placed there. These little touches are what makes her garden special and what prompts anybody touring her garden to slow down and enjoy. There’s so much to see and admire.

Diane’s garden has generous plantings of trees and shrubs including star magnolia, flowering almond, weeping plum, and crabapple. Not to mention lots of gorgeous azaleas:





Her rear property line backs up to a golf course. Trees and shrubbery offer privacy and a buffer to those pesky golf balls occasionally bulleting her way. And this little copper-roofed birdhouse is just the right touch, isn’t it?:


What I can’t convey is the sound of the birds!! We’re still in the backyard here with the golf course just on the other side of these plantings. And while this garden bed is lovely, it’s the piece of antique iron fencing that launches it into something noteworthy. And another unique bird house.


Now let’s look at some of Diane’s garden accessories:


Right in the front corner of the long brick walkway leading to the rear.

There are bunnies tucked into corners everywhere. Which does nothing, by the way, to deter the actual bunnies which plague the gardeners in her neighborhood. You’ll notice that most of the annual flowers in this garden are in containers.


Annuals tend to be contained in Diane’s garden.




Diane, if this container suddenly goes missing, I had nothing to do with it.


I have this container done in a very different way.


Lovely raised stone bed in the front of the house as you walk to front door.

As you approach the front door, you see this gorgeousness:


Basketry and shiny metal. How lovely.

Birds are treated very well in this garden. A most regal bird bath, n’est-ce pas?


But if that bird bath is crowded, never fear:



And ending up, it was a blustery day when I was snapping pictures so this isn’t the greatest but here is  our Virginia state flag waving from the back deck:


And that concludes our little tour through an inspired suburban garden.  Oh yes, one other very important thing.  Nobody is at risk of being thrown into the dungeon. Here is an example of a perfectly pruned crape myrtle. Would we expect any less?


What I’ve learned from Diane’s garden is to clamp down a bit on my own tendency to overplant flowers and to consider whether a shrub or tree would work better. And, of course, the importance of good garden ornamentation to enhance rather than detract from the plantings.

How about you? What things have you learned from the gardens of your friends and neighbors? I hope to show you more gardens of my inspired friends in the future….if I can twist their arms.

And finally, a word on garden decor from my dear Mr. Beverley Nichols:

They were delicately carved in lead, and on the sides of each urn four heads were embossed…Whatever they cost they had to be mine. Repairing the roof could wait; mending the cracks in the ceiling could wait; the peculiar smell in the woodshed could, and almost certainly would, wait. I had to have those urns.

As always, thanks for reading,




About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. And the odd thought or two.
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24 Responses to A Garden Thing

  1. dorothy says:

    What an awesome tour this a.m. Just what this soul needed to start my week. Needsto be on a garden tour with her lecturing on compatibility of plant materials in containers. Love the door wreath but birds adore my doorways and had to remove all adornments..what to do? Diane..you and Barbara need a garden shop..you’d make an awesome team. Thanks for making my day….


    • Yes, Dorothy, I have had that same experience of opening my front door only to have the angry fluttering of a bird startle me as it flew out of the wreath. I didn’t even put a wreath up this year until the day before the garden luncheon for that very reason. Glad you enjoyed the tour.


  2. Jeanie T says:

    Barbara, you did a wonderful job of capturing the glory of D. & W.’s yard. I am fortunate to have the pleasure of looking at it daily. I always enjoy the changes made throughout the year. Each season is full of surprises.


    • Good morning, Jeanie. You know, it was harder than I thought to capture this garden so I’m grateful you feel I did a good job. While I was photographing, I noticed that your own garden is quite lovely as well. Not surprising! Hope you enjoy this wonderful spring day.


  3. Margie says:

    What a delightful garden! It really is a work of art.


    • Thank you, Margie. I’ve always admired it so and thought my fellow gardeners would appreciate as well. Has spring arrived in Canada yet?


      • Margie says:

        Let’s just say the grass is getting green, the daffodils have just begun to flower, the robins have returned and are building nests… and it snowed yesterday.


      • Oh no! I am laughing but feeling very sympathetic at the same time. Mother Nature is giving you tantalizing glimpses but doesn’t want to overwhelm you with too much spring at once.


  4. Sue Mayo says:

    I have such an appreciation for these beautiful gardens and all of the hard work that goes into creating and maintaining them. You and Diane got it going on girls! Beautiful!!!!!


  5. Betsy says:

    Just beautiful!!! I want to get my hands in some dirt now!! I loved it, thanks so much for sharing Diane and Barbara!!


  6. Diane Ahlberg says:

    How nice you picked my garden to be one on your blog- you are a tough act to follow for sure! I was amazed how much the garden has already changed since you were here thanks to the cool and very wet Spring we have had. The azeleas are blooming one by one and the lilacs have been gorgeous as have the dogwoods -things are sprouting that I forgot were there, which is always fun – it was a hard lesson for me to learn – if there is a space fill it- After having 35 bushes removed last fall I can see each flower and bush as they bloom this year. Trying and succeeding somewhat not to fill up those spaces again! Thanks Barb


    • I love that “things are sprouting that I forgot were there,” That happened to me this spring. I was circling a particular shrub that emerged….thinking what the heck is that? Is it some sort of volunteer? Eventually I remembered planting it late last fall. Anyway, thanks so much for letting me profile your beautiful garden. I think lots of people have enjoyed it – I’ve heard from some via email how beautiful they thing it is too!


  7. What a stunning garden! She has an amazing eye! I love that she stuck to concrete with her ornaments. I like a garden that doesn’t mix concrete/terracotta/wood etc. It always seems sleeker. And did she make her concrete globe? I have bags of cement sitting in my garage with that express purpose!

    Thanks for a great garden tour!



    • Ha! I do not even have to call Diane to tell you she did not make her concrete globe! Yes, I agree completely about sticking to a “primary” medium for garden ornaments. OK, I can’t wait to see your future post on making a concrete globe. Thanks for reading, Caroline.


  8. That is a truly unique and inspiring garden. I love the way Diane enhanced her plantings with different sculptures and ornaments. I suspect Diane has lived in this house for quite a while and developed this gorgeous garden over time. She is a garden magician! Thanks for introducing us to D’s garden.


  9. I sure could use Diane’s help. She’s got some great tips, as well as inspiration, and your photos are beautiful!


  10. dorannrule says:

    I missed our local garden tour, but this made up for it! What an enchanting garden your friend has. Thanks so much for sharing. As for anything I am doing differently, I have made use of the “Hypertufa” pots my friends and I made some years ago. They look like natural rock formed pots or troughs but are of cement, feathers, and other odd things. We had such fun making them and they are quite beautiful. I will do a post with pics soon.


  11. cindy knoke says:

    she makes seriously attractive use of accessories!!


  12. Reblogged this on Where Soul Meets Body and commented:
    Ahhhhh…..Spring. Even the word by itself has such a gentle tone. It’s hard to believe to actually see grass; not the lush, soft green just yet, but ground without snow! I’ve bee walking the neighborhood in search of my first crocus sighting. I inadvertently scared a flock of robins during a brisk walk earlier in the week, but they’ll be back; and so will our gardens. After a few chores to get out of the way, I will seek refuge in an oxygen-saturated greenhouse to awaken my dormant senses. This blog repost is a perfect place to begin…


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