Garden Tour: Syd’s powerful plant palette
Andrea Bellamy |

back garden

The basics

Name of gardener: Syd Carpenter
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Hardiness zone: 6
Size: Small city garden; 100 ft. long by 25 ft. wide; three garden rooms
Orientation: South facing front garden
Years gardened: 15 years

Heavy Petal says: Quite simply, wow. Syd has done an amazing job of creating a garden using a plant-driven design. So often, it’s hardscaping that holds a garden together. Not in this case. It takes experience, artistry, and guts to be able to put together plants in a way that can carry a space. Syd has done just that. And luckily, for those of us who struggle with combining plants (and I’ll admit, it certainly doesn’t come easily for me), she has shared some of her secrets below.

tinantia pringleii

A maple tree anchors a perennial bed featuring Tinantia pringlei.

The details

Style: Cottage garden with a little formality.
Inspiration: No particular inspiration other than a love of putting plants together.
Favourite element: Burnt orange Asiatic lilies growing through rodgersia.
Favourite plants: Geranium macrorrhizum, Persicaria amplexicaulis (Mountain fleece), Amsonia hubrichtii (Blue star), Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’.
Biggest challenge: Gardening under mature maple trees.
Biggest save: Variegated liriope divisions.
Biggest splurge: Constant splurging; I can always justify plant splurges. (HP – I hear you, Syd!)
Advice for others: Start with the soil. Spend time digging a good planting hole. Be patient. Most plants are out of bloom most of the time so consider the leaf texture, color and shape first. Consider the over all shape of of the plant in relationship to the shape of its neighbors. Contrast, contrast, contrast.

liriope hill

Variegated liriope echoes the vase-like shape of the potted Cordyline australis ‘Red Sensation’ and distant maple tree.


Who says you can’t combine mauve, green, blue, pink, and deep yellow? It works!

window box

I love the contrast between the rich teal of the shutters and the pumpkin-coloured coleus.

fuschia bed

Hostas, geraniums, and heucheras play a supporting role in this fuschia-focused bed.

Like this post? Check out some more amazing readers’ gardens. And please, consider sharing your garden with us, too.

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