My Proudest DIY Moment: 20 years in the making

February 21, 2013

Earlier this month I was delightfully surprised to see my front flower border in Flea Market Gardens magazine. I had entered a contest last spring for an opportunity to share your flea market garden ideas in a future magazine. 

My front flower border is, by far, my proudest DIY achievement. It started almost 20 years ago as a garden hose laid out in a kidney shape on my front yard. I laid out that hose, and my husband removed sod (a difficult job) and roto-tilled the new bed with sand, peat moss, top soil, and black dirt. We have a heavy clay soil here in northern Minnesota, and the soil needed the additions.

The very first year, I planted all annuals. The garden was nice but was a mere shadow of what was to come.

I needed some tall perennials to fill out the back of the border.  I read books on borders, and I looked at magazines.   I sketched out a planting plan.  I knew I was going to plant in drifts instead of rows, keeping taller plants to the back, but I wasn't going to follow all the advise in the book.  I didn't plan for a slow progression of bloom times, I added annuals to my perennial garden, and I mixed bloom colors at will.  This was contrary to the perennial border purists.

I planned for an end of June and all of July riot of color, and that is what I got.

My favorite back of the border perennials for a northern midwest climate are:

The Maltese Cross.  A perennial sometimes shunned from formal borders due to it's bright orange red hue.  I originally started these from seed.  They are hardy and extremely long lived, with a long bloom time.

Shasta Daisies.  Perfect plant for the back of border.  Needs occasional re-planting for vigorous plants.  Long bloom time.  Perfect for a cottage garden.

The Globe Thistle.  Bee loving, long blooming, periwinkle round blooms.  Not invasive, very dependable. 

Purple Coneflowers.  Easy to start from seed and available in many shapes and colors.  Hardy, long lived and I love the pink petals contrasting a rusty brown center.

I have had other shorter lived perennials in back, including delphiniums and baby's breath.  The delphiniums were aphid magnets in my garden and too much work.  The baby's breath died out during a cold winter and my new one has not thrived.

My favorite mid-border perennials are:

Asiatic Lilies.  I have them in several colors, types and sizes. I have never regretted planting summer lilies.  They are a highlight of my summer garden.  They are trouble free for me except for an occasional deer chomping them off or squirrels digging up freshly planted bulbs.

The Gardenview Scarlet Monarda.  Monarda get a bad rap for being invasive, but by taking control of the new growth in early spring, I have had very little trouble keeping it contained.  The blossoms go on forever and are truly gorgeous.

My favorite front of the border perennials include:

Creeping Baby's Breath.  Gradual spread and a gadzillion blooms.  Bloom time is a bit early for the late summer perennials.

Blue Chip Campanula.  I have these little bell flowers in blue and white.  Hardy and never invasive.

Astilbe.  I have them in a sunny border and they do very well.  Never invasive.

Once all the key perennials are in place, I add annuals in the ground and in containers, and some rustic garden art or junk.  I vary the junk and the annuals to give the garden a slightly different look each year and to try some new annual varieties.

My favorite annuals to tuck in my border are:

Marguerite Daisies. This yellow variety blooms all summer and spreads very nicely.  I under plant them with purple or blue trailing verbena.

Pink Marguerites planted in a pail and tucked in a bare garden spot.

Nasturiums.  I love them.  A real riot of color.  They grow rapidly enough that you could start them from seed.   

Nicotiana.  Super, star shaped annuals, tucked here in a galvanized laundry tub.

Now for the junk:

A stepladder.

A funnel, a chicken feeder, a wooden daisy.


I also have a tall blue birdhouse and a rusty milk can in the border.

What will I put in my garden this year?  You will just have to come back and see!

Joining Debra for at Common Ground for Be Inspired.


Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special

Joining a Southern Daydreamer.

Thanks for reading my blog, Carlene

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  1. Just specacular - ( we downsized and I lost my beloved garden so everytime I see something like this my heart feels a little heavy )
    I love love love the ladder in the garden!

  2. As a gardener I know how big a deal this is. It is really so beautiful. You are for sure a master gardener. You are making me want to head to the nursery today. Yeah for you!!!! I am going to share on my FB page later with a link to you if that is ok.

  3. For sure one of my favorite posts! I'm yearning to get outside and plant. :)

  4. PS ~ I'd love to post this on my Facebook page for my friends to see, also!

  5. It is just fabulous, it makes me want to garden again. Great job and I love all the variety!!

  6. Gorgeous! A much deserved honor..,congratulations! I can't wait to see what you do this year.

  7. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Oh Carlene, it's so wonderful. You should be proud!

  8. You really have the touch, is stunning...makes me long for summer days! Congrats on the magazine, too!!

  9. This is such a great post Carlene! Especially for me, living in Western Wisconsin we would have similar zones..we are zone 4.
    I love that you named everything too, what a gorgeous, gorgeous garden and congrats on the magazine feature as well.
    This brightened my very cold and snowy and not so happy day.

  10. one little question? Where do you buy most of your Plants? I am wondering if you use any mail order nurseries.

  11. This is so pretty and you can really see all th hard work that went into it. I'd love my garden to look like this xxx

  12. Congratulations, Carlene! I'm not surprised. This is definitely magazine worthy. Loved all of your tips. Would you just come plant all those things in my garden? laurie

  13. If you ever quit your job, you could design gardens for Minnesotans! Your gardens are stunning, Carlene, and I can't wait to see what you've got planned for this year's blooms.

  14. Oh Carlene, I am so happy for your recognition in the magazine. I remember how gorgeous your garden was last year and the wonderful playful additions of what you call junk. How rewarding to see all your hard work recognized in this way.
    Mary Alice

  15. Oh my word, your garden is totally amazing. I am so impressed, so beautiful. Congrats on the magazine layout also, you definitely deserve it. Hugs, Marty

  16. Simply beautiful. I love the old 'junk' in the garden. Congratulations on being published!
    Debbie :)

  17. Hurry up Spring ... your flowers are beautiful. Anxious to see how it looks this year. I would love pretty flowers, but the deer eat them.
    Audrey Z. @ Timeless Treasures

  18. Good Morning Carlene, How wonderful to have your beautiful garden featured in a magazine.
    I love the plants you have featured and although we live in different countries, the vast majority of the plants you have used, are what I grow in my garden. I love Shasta Daisies, but as you say, they can get a little out of hand, but I adore plants like that as I can replant them or share the plants with family and friends.
    I loved looking at your garden on this dull, grey day. Thank you.
    Have a wonderful weekend.
    Best Wishes

  19. You should be proud!!! As a serious gardener myself, I have a huge appreciation for the beauty of this bed. I love every bit of it! Hope you can stop by the enchanted oven to say hi.

  20. Lovely pictures and what a beautiful flowerbed!
    Have a nice Wekeend!

  21. Beautiful garden ! Can't wait for summer :)

  22. congratulations on being published. You certainly deserve it! Beautiful gardens!!!

  23. Congratulations!! My gosh your garden is breath taking. Im jealous , in a good way though :) simply beautiful!
    I wonder if you could help me? If you have time, could you pop on over to my blog and give an opinion on my post about blog etiquette? I had a question and I'd love some answers from seasoned bloggers. Thanks so much :)

  24. Your flower bed is beautiful. I love how you mix in the annuals for extra color. Congratulations for making it in the magazine!!!

  25. Congrats to you. I wish I could look out and see this color in my gardens instead of the dreadful white stuff I see now! Can you tell I am not a winter gal?

  26. Wonderful diy on your garden! And thank you so much for sharing the flowers you've included. Also living in Northern Minnesota, I know that I can plant them in mine! Beautiful, beautiful job...and I love your additions! You've given me some more ideas...I do a few "extras" in my garden too...including an old faucet still on a pipe!

  27. I just love your garden and all your quirky delights hidden about for us to find! It's like a beautiful treasure hunt. I can't wait!

  28. Your garden has always amazed me!! Congrats to you!!


  29. How exciting to have your garden
    featured in a magazine.. simply
    beautiful to say the least.

  30. Well done girl! You are so awesome! You so deserve this! Now I'm dreaming of spring!

  31. Love all the colors. Great job.

  32. What a gorgeous flower garden! It is a sight for sore eyes after watching snow fall all day. I moved west this year and now I have daily visits from bunnies and deer in my backyard every day. I'm not sure I will be able to grow anything at all!

  33. How exciting to have your garden featured in a magazine. Congratulations! I love all the color in your garden, Carlene. Fun to see you garden additions. '-)

  34. What a nice organized garden and I adore all the colors they just pop. Grand job!
    JM Illinois

  35. This is just lovely! I love all of the different flowers, containers and structural elements you've added! Can't wait to see this year's!

  36. What a terrific surprise for you! Your garden certainly is worth of praise! Wow!

  37. Just popped by from Share Your Cup Thursday, and really glad I did. Such wonderful colour! I can't wait to get going in my garden, just waiting for the soil to warm up! Take care. Chel

  38. I AM DROOLING! OUTSTANDING!!! huge change! I Love it!

    Thank you for linking into my little party this week. I hope you will again very soon...I have enjoyed my visit today and I hope to be back again and again! Hugs from Alberta Canada...
    ¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.

  39. Oh you know I will be back to see. You did such a fabulous job. Love all of these plants too. Although I have never heard of the first one. The old junk is what takes this garden bed form fun to Wow! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  40. Girl, I know it no big 'wow' because I feature you quite often. But I am doing it again this week. You're just too darn creative!

  41. Can you come down to Ohio and get me started on my garden? I love what you have done, Carlene! I have no gardening vision... You definitely got it figured out, girlfriend! :-)

  42. What a stunning garden! I can see why they picked you for their magazine. Love all ladder and things you put into to garden.
    I am your newest follower. Stop by and see my garden.
    Have a great week.

  43. Wow! What a fabulous accomplishment and thanks for listing all the flowers and their habits,...I'll be bookmarking this. My favorite tip for flower beds is to set the sprinkler, soaker hose or drip system, first, then water for a bit and plant where it's wet. In dry CA summers you depend on water for flower beds!


  44. Thanks for the Great tips and your garden is absolutely stunning and inspiring. Love the use of junk to add character. I recently started doing that.

    Thanks for sharing and I will be Be Back Next Year to see the change

  45. Hi! I absolutely love your garden! I'd love to add a garden to my front yard like yours! I just added a side perennial garden this summer, and I will follow some of your tips! I do have an old ladder that is serving no purpose right now, so I might add it to my garden! Lauren @Mom Home Guide

  46. Ooooh I know the work that you put into all of this!! I, too garden and it's a real source of therapy that I enjoy as time permits. I love the inclusion of antiques and "junk" it gives it personality.

  47. Love your garden...spectacular! I also love and want that tall blue birdhouse. Did you make it or is it for sale?


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