Karen Hugg Back Garden, The Joyful Struggle of Creating a Beautiful Garden, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2022/06/24/Karen Hugg's garden, #KarenHugg #garden #gardening #plants #lawn
Plants & Gardening

The Joyful Struggle of Creating a Beautiful Garden

Last weekend, I opened my garden to the public. I’d agreed to share my large, albeit imperfect, sanctuary, because I’d wanted to help people be social again and get things back to “normal.” But that simple yes meant months of weeding, digging, transplanting, and all else. Lots of hauling. I also stressed every night about the garden looking tidy and cheery for visitors. All this while my back slowly tightened and my body created a fiery pain I’ve never experienced before.

In the end, the tour went well. Hundreds of visitors came through and I even sold a good number of my books, including my newest, Leaf Your Troubles Behind. I got to chat about gardening all day, helping people discover cool plants while meeting plant aficionados. It was lovely. I went to bed relieved and tired.

A couple friends who couldn’t make it asked me to post photos online. So here’s how the garden looked in June of 2022.

The 3B’s Island Bed

I have a flame-shaped island bed near the house that gets full sun. A long time ago, I planted a spine of shrubs down the middle for winter structure. Then I planted perennials and low shrubs along the spine.

Perennials in Island Bed, The Joyful Struggle of Creating a Beautiful Garden, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2022/06/24/Karen Hugg's garden, #KarenHugg #garden #gardening #plants #perennials
Shrubs and perennials in the island bed

Each plant I chose to attract bees, butterflies, or birds. These include butterfly bush (buddleia), blue-leaf rose (rosa glauca), smokebush (cotinus), escallonia, spiraea, weigela, false indigo (baptisia), coneflower (echinacea), sage (salvia), crocosmia, and more.

The 3B's island bed, The Joyful Struggle of Creating a Beautiful Garden, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2022/06/24/Karen Hugg's garden, #KarenHugg #garden #gardening #plants #islandbed
The 3B’s Island Bed

I also have a border that gets shade from an oak in the morning and a blast of hot afternoon sun. At first, this area plagued me as I tried plants that I thought would work but didn’t. It was either too sunny or too shady. So I tried hardy fuchsias. They thrived without much help from me at all.

Foxgloves in Oak Border, The Joyful Struggle of Creating a Beautiful Garden, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2022/06/24/Karen Hugg's garden, #KarenHugg #garden #gardening #plants #foxgloves #variegated dogwood
Volunteer foxgloves in the oak border

Then, to play off those deep purple and magenta tones, I planted blue star junipers (juniperus) and blue surprise false cypress (chamaecyparis). I contrasted these with a purple-leafed hyndrangea (Hydrangea ‘Plum Passion’), purple coral bells (heuchera), and fringe flowers (loropetalum). Finally, I filled in with crocosmia, Japanese forest grasses, and hostas. A gold variegated dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Summer Gold’), pictured above in background, anchors the whole thing.

The Oak Tree Border, The Joyful Struggle of Creating a Beautiful Garden, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2022/06/24/Karen Hugg's garden, #KarenHugg #garden #gardening #plants #purpleplants
Path through the oak tree border

My most prized plant is my Chilean fire tree (embothrium coccineum). It’s native to the mountains of Chile and blooms in bold orange flowers. Hummingbirds love them!

Chilean Fire Tree, The Oak Tree Border, The Joyful Struggle of Creating a Beautiful Garden, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2022/06/24/Karen Hugg's garden, #KarenHugg #garden #gardening #plants #chileanfirebush
Chilean Fire Tree

My front border is mostly shady and I’ve had decent success with it outside of when the deer find my one large hosta. It’s a mix of aucuba, hydrangea, fuchsia, heucheras, and rhododendrons.

My front woodland border

Oftentimes, when people visit my yard, they ask about my favorite hosta in the whole world. It’s not only blue, gold, and chartreuse, it’s also slug-resistant since it has corrugated leaves. It’s hosta ‘June,’ a low-maintenance hosta that needs shade, water, and not much else to look stunning.

Hosta 'June,' The Joyful Struggle of Creating a Beautiful Garden, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2022/06/24/Karen Hugg's garden, #KarenHugg #garden #gardening #plants #hosta #june
Hosta ‘June’

Now, that the tour is over, I’ve been relaxing on my patio and enjoying the tidy garden. I realized that sharing it inspired a lot of folks. Several people, with sparks in their eyes, told me they were ready to dig into a new design or seek out the unusual plants they’d seen. Their excitement makes my long hours of backbreaking work worth it.


Karen Hugg, author

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