Thank you, Rant commenter, for designing my garden


When I posted photos of my new back yard and asked for suggestions I sure got ’em – some so thoughtful I just have to share them.  (Remember these?) A commenter in Vermont previously unknown to me had LOTS to say and she’s already changed my garden.

For example, she wrote this about my shed: “You planted one too many vines, if you research the size of each and contemplate their competitive visual “busy-ness” when mature. = 1 vine to relocate.”  She’s right, and that fix is already done.

Her ideas for the “nook garden by neighbor’s privacy fence” were really intriguing:

1. Consider this a contemplative/zen garden viewed from porch and bluestone terrace.
2. FEATURE the fence. It has great texture. Don’t hide it behind (unhappy) hollies.
3. FEATURE the “floor”, too, to enhance the “floor to ceiling” view off your porch (and terrace). Consider a symmetric or Escher-esque (i.e. starts symmetric then “loses” its pattern) checkerboard of bluestone 1′ squares starting off your new bluestone terrace into the space. You played with lawn alternatives at your former home. Play here, too. Really low moss-like Sedums work well in mine. Any ground cover that matches the conditions should be considered. I got this idea from a Kyoto teahouse garden, done in moss.
4. I suggested clearing out much of the large shrub “clutter”, but you still need some vertical interest for “contemplation”. Statue/sculpture/found art are hardscape ideas. Also Spodiopogon sibiricus is a spectacular vertical grass for partial shade with great fall color in addition to grass’s usual selling points.
5. Create an “end” to the privacy fence to suggest that YOU installed it in your design. Extend it another “section” (with a more trellis-look?) and “host” the “extra vine” from your shed. OR plant a shrub feature (maybe one of the extra Blue Billows, though maybe not tall enough) that “says end”.

Feel free to email me if you want some checkerboard garden photos. . . Kate

So email Kate I did and got these great photos, starting with her inspirations shown above – a Kyoto meditation teahouse with a “moss checkerboard on one side which morphed to a larger highly pruned azalea checkerboard.”

And the next photo shows her interpretation of that checkerboard effect, and it wow’ed me:

Here’s what’s in this charming space:

Prunus pumila v. depressa ‘Catskill’, which I planted on a lark 4-5 years ago. It grew lanky/long, finally lusher and I limited its “limbs” to the slope. I’m starting to prune it this summer to try to visually achieve the angular pruned “azalea” contrast.  And you can see I’m playing with a “river” of Sedum album chloroticum edged by thin clusters of Sedum sexangulare (in bloom here which detracts) and some Sedum middendorfianum  because it has such great color.

So we email back and forth about her ideas for my privacy screen (warning me about the long-term maintenance needs of paint, for one thing), vine options, and the shrubs I’d chosen (she wasn’t a fan.)

Two weeks later, here’s my nook garden before and after Kate’s intervention.  I removed some of the “unhappy” hollies, making room for a crossvine that’ll grow quickly over the fence.  Then I added 14 more flagstone pavers, some close enough together to fit a chair over them and some in the checkerboard pattern she used so effectively.   The colorful metal fish on the screen won’t last long; I hope to replace them with some cool metal artwork that I’ll look for when I’m in Mexico next month.

To Commenters
This just goes to show that amazing things can happen when you ask readers for feedback.  Sure, there may be some brutally honest truths coming your way and thick skin may be required, but honesty is just what I needed in this case.  A commenter I’d never heard from before stepped up to the keyboard to become my long-distance design coach.  A few clicks at the Google machine yielded the small-world discovery that we even went to same tiny Ohio college, though not quite at the same time.

So thanks to Kate Kruesi and to generous commenters everywhere.


  1. Well done you and well done Kate.
    I was intrigued as the blog progressed.

    I wasnt keen on the top two photos. Geometry isnt something I aspire to in my garden. but I love that photo of the moss/ sedums that Kate sent you.

    I also love the work you have completed with your flagstones. That corner is now much improved and has tremendous potential.

    How long has it taken you? You seem quite keen. For me translating ‘keen’ into ‘finished project’ takes such a long time. I worry, I second guess and end up psyching myself out of making any decisions at all!

    Im currently trying to re-design a back corner of my own garden and Im struggling! Its a complete disaster and my progress is slow because Im not completely decided what I want to achieve.

    I hope you corner turns out beautifully.
    And Kate, you are a wonder for giving your time!

  2. Susan, can you please identify the plantings between the flagstones in your garden as well as in Kate’s garden? I can’t tell from the emails/descriptions what those plants are. Thank you!

  3. I really like it! Kate has a great eye for design! I am going to keep this in mind for my yard as I get to it. I noticed the other night that some kind of sedum that grows out of my rock retaining wall (it was there when I bought my house) has started to move into my yard and fill in a dirt area. I’m thrilled! I’m going to keep an eye on it and see how it does. Hopefully I will be able to start using it to take over instead of the grass. I have horrid, red clay soil and it has not been easy to find things that grow well in it (besides weeds of course).

  4. Thanks for the compliments!

    Terri, in the circa 2010-11 photo of my checkerboard garden that Susan posted, I used Sedum middendorfianum which requires periodic cutting back to keep the checkerboard stones visible. It also has flaming red fall color, a bonus.

    Currently (2012 version) I’ve replaced a river-like swathe of it with a slower spreading, dwarfer, chartreuse green Sedum album choloroticum. Like I advised Susan: you have to keep playing with it until you find “your look”! Although this is a case of a type of garden that can invite periodic reincarnations (like Bunny Williams’ veggie garden fence changeovers!)

    And Anne, good luck with your pondering how best to “redo” your garden corner. I was confused whether any of the photos were of your garden, or just “pinterest” type ideas.

    Susan, I look forward to seeing your Mexican metal wall artwork selection and photos of the cross vine at greater maturity!

    Kate Kruesi

    • But I used the word “commenter,” not “commentator.” To me, a commentator is someone who provides commentary on something, not someone who leaves a comment online. That’s how I distinguish the two words, anyway.

  5. Great article, and it’s great that you can ask for feedback, get lots of responses and take there ideas into account, give it a go and see what happens. I love the checker-board pattern, I’ve never seen it until now but it’s such a nice effect.

    Thanks for sharing,
    James @ Capital Gardens


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here