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by Amanda

garden tour - moon gate and gardens
Steve and his Wife Lynn have created a variety of different gardens on their property in Winooski, Vermont, helping to create peace just steps from a busy road.

Steve and Lynn moved into Steve’s great-grandfather’s home (where his mother grew up) 12 years ago. The house sits on about ¼ acre and had minimal landscaping except for some Irises, a few shrubs, and a 50-year-old patch of Rhubarb. In the decade since they’ve re-populated the family home, they’ve managed to create a peaceful landscape with several garden rooms that all tie together, all while creating a nostalgic feel for a home that has been in their family for generations.

Garden Tour: Outside The Kitchen Window (The Pond Garden)

Steve says that when they first moved into the home, they remodeled the inside first and put a large window in the kitchen, which sparked their outdoor landscaping journey. “When my wife looked out the window there was really nothing to look at,” Steve explains. “So we initially tried to create a habitat to attract birds. We put in one of those prefab little ponds and our idea was instead of trying to do the whole property at once, we focused on small areas to develop those and over the years it’s transformed the garden.” Besides this small pond, they placed a bench and a birdfeeder in the area.

garden tour - pond garden
The pond garden features different pools, a bridge, and running water to help drown out the sound of cars. Steve and Lynn (and even their UPS driver) like to sit on the bench to enjoy this bird-friendly garden.

That small prefab pond to help attract birds has since become a multi-pool water feature with flowing water, a dock, a bridge, and a natural planting of perennials throughout. Steve says at first they were garden novices, but loved the experimentation. “We’ve learned to just try things and at first I was worried about investing so much money in plants, but if they don’t work you can move them to another area or give them to someone else,” says Steve.

They try to have something blooming all the time in this garden room outside their kitchen window, and the pond houses a variety of goldfish which the neighborhood cats are curious about. Besides the expanded pond, they’ve added Irises, Butterfly Weed, Echinacea, shrubs, and a miniature succulent garden to help add fun and whimsy to the area. They also have water lilies in the pond that survive the Vermont winters as long as they aren’t too harsh (Steve says they lost them a few years back).

Garden Tour: Outside The Living Room Window (Creating Privacy)

Steve says a lot of the direction they took with creating their garden rooms had to do with what they saw from their windows inside. “A lot of people think about [what they see] when they’re outside, which is really important,” says Steve, “but a lot of the time in Vermont you’re spending inside looking out.”

garden tour - pond garden
Calla Lilies are one of Steve's favorite annuals and he adds them throughout his landscape each season.

So after they worked on the pond garden outside the kitchen window, they got started on a garden outside their living room window, with the end goal being to create something aesthetically pleasing while also hiding the neighbor’s windows. They planted a Blue Spruce tree 10 years ago which has since grown tremendously, along with Tulips, Daylilies, Phlox, and other perennials.

Garden Tour: Creating Nostalgia on a Family Property

garden tour - water feature

Besides creating new garden beds to enjoy and add privacy to their home, Steve and Lynn also wanted to add a bit of nostalgia to their landscape. One area where they did this was with their vegetable gardens. “In the back area of our yard, far away from our house, is where my grandfather had a vegetable garden,” says Steve. “I remember squishing bugs with him out there.” So the couple decided to create their own vegetable gardens in the exact same place Steve remembers helping his grandfather harvest decades ago.

Steve's Garden Tip: Steve scatters Alyssum Seed throughout his garden beds each spring to fill in any bare spots and create a carpet of flowers that help prevent weeds from growing.

Another area by the back door to the home is also a throwback to his mother’s time growing up there. He’s created a water feature with a watering can that empties into an old-fashioned tub. “When my mom was growing up they used to take a bath outside this window in a tub like this, so this water feature is an homage to them,” he says. “I also like to use recycled things so the shutters I used here I found at a [thrift shop].

Garden Tour: Wildflower Patches

One new aspect of Steve’s garden last season were two 10’x20’ wildflower patches. He planted a mix of Zinnias in one bed and a Pollinator Mixture in the other. “We are trying to plant as much for pollinators as we can,” explains Steve. “The Zinnias were just amazing. Instead of tilling the area, I put down black plastic and solarized it and that killed all the grass. I did a little digging and spread the seed and it was amazing.” This past fall Steve spread wildflower seed in these patches, hoping they’ll bloom a few weeks earlier this year.

garden tour - zinnia patch
Steve and Lynn planted Zinnia for the first time last season and were amazed with the results.

Garden Tour: Creativity and Thriftiness

As I looked through photos of Steve’s garden, I couldn’t help but notice the amazing non-living features throughout the landscape. He has bird baths, gazebos, a moongate, and many other items in his gardens that add a definite charm and whimsy to the landscape. Steve told me he’s created all of these decorations himself. “I try to be as economical as possible in creating feature items in my garden,” says Steve. He used cedar posts from his local hardware store to create a beautiful gazebo for just $70. To tie all of the wood pieces in the garden together, he uses the same color stain on them all to help carry the eye throughout. Steve and Lynn have also planted Daylilies, Alyssum, and Cedar bushes in each garden to help create a cohesive look throughout his different garden rooms.

garden tour - moongate
A moongate Steve crafted himself.
garden tour - stepping stones
The rhubarb leave stepping stones in action!

Another feature of the gardens that caught my eye were unique stepping stones and benches that all matched. Steve gleefully told me that he crafted all of these himself from their Rhubarb leaves and quick-dry cement.

Steve’s Easy Steps To Creating Stepping Stones From Foliage:

  • Mound sand.
  • Lay the leaf over it.
  • Cover it with quick-dry cement.
  • Within a day or two it sets and you can take the cemented form out of the sand.

Garden Tour: Inviting The Neighbors In

Even though Steve and Lynn planted strategically to help give their backyard more privacy, they’ve also spent a lot of time trying to draw passer-bys and neighbors into their landscape. “We like to place little items throughout the garden so as people are walking through they notice different things,” he says. “One day I came home and I caught the UPS guy sitting on the bench and enjoying the pond. So that was fun.”

garden tour - Daylilies
Steve and Lynn invite people into their garden often to enjoy the beauty.

Steve says one of his favorite things about their gardens is creating a peaceful oasis off of their main road that both they and their neighbors are able to enjoy all season long. “We all stay on our porches or we stay inside these days,” says Steve,” So it’s kind of a gift we’re giving to the neighborhood to stop by and enjoy. Our neighbors have begun adding flowers too, so we’ve given them plants, but as people move in they’re inspired by us so that’s really neat too.”

Garden Tour: Plans For The Future

Although Steve jokes that they are running out of space to plant, he says this season they’ll be revamping an area they aren’t quite happy with by adding a variety of low maintenance Agastaches. He’ll also start building raised beds where his vegetable gardens are to help make weeding and harvesting easier for him and Lynn.

garden tour - night
Steve and Lynn have installed solar panel lights throughout the garden so they can enjoy it at night. How peaceful!

Garden Tour: Plant List

If you love Steve and Lynn’s gardens and want to try to recreate some of his looks, we’ve put together a plant list below. Steve says in general they try to plant varieties that they know will thrive in his full sun garden and not require fuss or high maintenance.

Steve and Lynn’s Plant List:

When Steve’s not busy in his own garden, he talks gardening on the phone at American Meadows and Gardeners’ Supply, while also volunteering as head gardener at the Vermont Respite House.