Helping Out A Fellow Gardener

 Porch in August (1)

“Believe it is possible to solve your problem. Tremendous things happen to the believer. So believe the answer will come. It will.”   ~Norman Vincent Peale


No this is not my house, but aren’t those blue hydrangeas gorgeous.  I only wish I could grow these blue flowers.  These beautiful blooms belong to my blogger friend, Susie Troccolo.  Many of you may know Susie’s wonderfully written blog, Life.Change.Compost.

Close up of Front garden in summer (1)Susie contacted me recently asking for help with her Portland, Oregon garden.  Her front garden conditions have been changing over the years.  The shade has increased, and after the most recent period of nasty weather, where her garden was plunged into unseasonable freezing temps, she is looking to redo a section of her garden.

Susie asked for my help in collaborating on a post, and I immediately said yes.  She thought it would be fun to ask fellow gardeners for their help and suggestions.  Nothing terribly complicated just your expertise and thoughts if you so choose. After all, gardeners are such helpful folks.  When someone asks us for our advice we generally give it especially to other gardeners.

So Susie sent me a couple of photos of the area she wants to make over, and here are her words about the project to me:front garden bed after freeze (2)

The bed I want redone is the long (20 x 10 foot), irregular shaped rectangular bed directly in front of the porch. It does have a large hydrangea bush on one side (the east or left side), and that will remain. As you see (right)–I attached another recent photo after our freeze–I may have to replace plants in the rest of the bed. The wild ginger groundcover will remain because it is very attractive year round and good for our zone.

I like the deep green shiny leaves. You can tell folks that I like certain plants, like the heuchera, the native columbine, the brunnera, etc., but at this point I really need some fresh ideas. Oh, and I do think the hostas will come back–but I’m not sure. It was a bad freeze.


I am quite sure her hosta, brunnera and heuchera will survive and continue to grow as mine do her in this frigid winter weather we have.  But as Susie says she is looking for fresh ideas.  This particular garden is North facing, in pretty deep shade for most of the day and stays wet for a good long while.  Quite a challenge.  You can include Northwest natives or exotics for her Zone 7 garden.  And don’t forget the gorgeous railing in the backdrop.

best shot of giveaways (1)Now Susie is a generous soul, and would never think of asking folks for their help without compensating them in some way.  You may remember last year how she gave away seeds for the bees and asked me to help her.  This time she is giving away some seed growing equipment.  You can see included are a heat mat and seed starter tray.

It is important to visit Susie’s blog to read the full text of her garden conditions and this project.

Then to enter all you have to do is leave a comment on her blog.  And you can help even if you are not interested in the giveaway.  Just let her know, in your comment, that you don’t want to be entered in the giveaway.

I have some of my own ideas, but I am not entering this giveaway since she has asked me to pick the winner.  I appreciate her trust in me.  No pictures are necessary just your suggestions for ideas about plant placement, plants to include, structures etc.  Remember leave your ideas in a comment on Susie’s blog.

Do you have garden ideas churning during this winter?



I must do something’ always solves more problems than ‘Something must be done.  ~Anon



43 Replies to “Helping Out A Fellow Gardener”

  1. Wow, the first photo was gorgeous to me. I love the hydrangeas and the lovely porch! Interesting post, good luck to your friend. I would like to see the new garden when it is done. Have a happy day!

  2. Beautiful hydrangeas! I hope her new garden is filled with plants that make her happy! You know me, I would recommend more natives!

  3. I have the same hydrangea — during bloom time, the plant gets covered with those big blue (a bit lighter) blooms :-)…yaay..something to show off to all of you more experienced gardeners :-P.

    I don’t want to enter in her competition but I will first ask her — does she want a garden based on some special design like bee garden, butterfly garden, bird garden, traditional garden, cottage garden, etc? Or just any random style will do?

  4. What a great idea – I must remember this when I finally get round to sorting out my front garden. I lack the inspiration to do anything with it.
    I’m off now to have a good read.
    Best of luck in picking the winner Donna – I’ll bet it won’t be easy!

  5. I love the first photo as well. It all just fits together so nicely in front of the porch. So I am assuming that because of all the shade she now has that she’s lost some of those shrubs? I am curious to know the results and what’s decided as well because I have the same conditions in several areas of my yard as well. Thanks for an interesting subject.

  6. How great to collaborate – in person or virtually – on a project like this. The first thing I plan to do this spring is cut back and dig out my black raspberries. I cannot give them the 2 inches of water they require everyweek so they have to go. Maybe i’ll plant more squash.

    1. I love collaborating Pat and I am glad folks have reacted so wonderfully to the idea. I know what you mean about having to give too much care to plants. I am also looking for what may have to go this year.

  7. There is a tremendous amount of goodwill in the gardening community. Would you mind if I wrote about this project on my goodwill blog? I’ll ask Susie too.
    It is a good example of how small things can spread. The exchange of ideas will be interesting and useful for many of us with similar conditions. I’ve already picked up something new regarding the wild ginger.

    1. Absolutely go right ahead Susan. I love your new blog and would be honored to be included there. Glad this was already helpful to you.

  8. Zone 7, that in itself is a challenge for me in Canadian zone 5a. However, I do have some favourite shade plants that would like the north side. Astilbe, astrantia, chelone, thalictrum and maybe a Japanese painted fern. Not hard to tell I like pinkish flowering plants but they could tie in with the flowering hydrangea. I’m just not sure if they’re all hardy to Susie’s gardening climate but easy enough for her to find out.
    My two cents worth.

  9. I think I would go with natives, too, including maybe adding some dwarf Red Twig Dogwood shrubs for winter interest. I look forward to seeing the finished project!

  10. Great way to get planning juices flowing! I’ll have to think about it a bit, brings back memories of my north-facing garden when I lived in Portland!

  11. my attention turns, in the winter, to the pots I am painting
    ….re-doing some older ones and creating lots of bright new ones
    for the Spring. I think my attention also goes to the wild places;
    I particularly like to hike this time of year.
    Hope you’re enjoying your Spring dreaming:)

  12. what an unusual post, and a nice example of sharing and cooperating and being friendly. Just wanted to say that, and hello to you Donna and I like your new look blog. Now I’m off to visit Susie!

  13. What a great idea, and I happen to have an area with almost identical conditions so it will be doubly interesting to read what people come up with – Susie has already named a lot of the plants I am aiming to use myself.

  14. Astrantia should do very well in the site. I like to plant them behind Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense). Interplanted with epimediums to prolong the blooming season. The combined foliage of these two is lovely.
    A chelone (turtle head) planted behind will give structure. Chelone slowly get large and don’t like to be moved so make sure you plant it where you want it. A swarth of astilbes running through is always nice. Beautiful blooms, lovely long lasting foliage. If several different types of astilbe are chosen, you can have early middle late bloomers for a long running show.

  15. Hi Donna, Thank you for trying to display my button. I think the code I picked up for it might be blogger related. Can you copy the image and attach a link to it? I will take a look at it next week and see if there is anything else I can do. On the gardening front the crocus and bluebells I planted last year are coming up. Spring is on its way. Sue

  16. A gardener is a plant whisperer whose most awesome recommendation is giving a garden a life of is own. Okay. There is, perhaps, one more awesome testimonial: giving a friend’s garden a life of its own. Thank you for your kind example. – The Healing Garden gardener

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