Huge water feature & plenty of perennials highlight Open Garden

gardens and waterfall in Elma
Wide raised beds run along the back of the house. You can see only a portion of the large water feature– the top waterfall beneath the Japanese maple. To the left of the waterfall is a small deck outside the Dwiguns’ sunroom. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Everywhere you turn, there’s a great view in the backyard of Jerry and Karen Dwigun in Elma. And Karen Dwigun has lots of tips to help you make the most of your landscape.

The Dwiguns shared their landscape during Open Gardens in July.

gardens beneath deck
Garden beds at ground level step up to raised beds around the large deck, which is located to the right of the water feature. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Find the right spot for a perennial

  • Plants that are marked “shade” still need some sun, Dwigun said.
  • If you put a plant in a spot and it’s not doing well, move it.
  • Experiment with your plants. She has astilbe, which is usually regarded as a shade plant, and cone flowers, recommended for sun, in the same spot.
astilbe and coneflowers
Astilbe, at left, is recommended for shade, and coneflowers are considered a sun plant, but both are thriving together in this spot.

Have enough plants, but not too many

  • It’s often recommended that you buy three of a perennial, but there’s no need, Dwigun said. Perennials spread, so you’ll have three plants soon enough.
  • If a plant gets too big, split it. You can move a piece to another part of your yard and start a new garden. Or give a piece to another gardener– gardeners should trade plants.
  • If you have a patch of plants such as purple coneflower or black-eyed Susan, and the plant shows up in another spot in your yard, don’t leave it there, Dwigun said, or you’ll end up having nothing but purple coneflowers and black-eyed Susans. “You’ll waste all your time saving all these little plants,” she said. “Just throw it away.” (I agree. Relocating them in your own yard takes time, and if you pot up every stray black-eyed Susan to give away, you won’t have time for other gardening chores. It’s okay to throw some extra plants in the compost.)
  • When you do buy plants, “buy stuff from local garden centers– they’re the ones you go to for information, so support them,” she said.
top of waterfall in backyard
This is just the top of the water feature that includes a series of waterfalls, a stream and a pond. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Keep flowers blooming

Some plants need to be deadheaded in order to produce more blooms and some plants don’t. If you’re not sure whether a plant needs to be deadheaded, go ahead and try, Dwigun said. It may rebloom.

prickly pear cactus and waterfall
Prickly pear cactus is one of Karen Dwigun’s favorite plants. “I had just one stem a couple of years ago,” Dwigun said. It’s easy to propagate; just break off a piece and stick it in the ground. This part of the water features is where the falls turn into a stream that flows beneath a foot bridge to the pond. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

A favorite plant: cactus

Prickly pear cactus is one of Dwigun’s favorite outdoor plants.

“It will wilt down and look dead in winter,” she said. “Leave it alone. It will puff up in the spring, then get big yellow flowers for a short time.”

It’s easy to propagate. You can break off a piece and place it in the soil to get a new plant.

“I love the prickly pear,” she said.

large water feature by Stofko
The water feature is interesting from different angles. In this view, the topmost waterfall is shrouded by the Japanese maple, but you can see the series of lower falls. A footbridge over the stream allows you to walk from the yard to the large deck. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
net covering pond by Stofko
A net over your pond will not only prevent heron from eating your fish, it will protect your fish from racoons, too, Karen Dwigun said. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

9 Comments on “Huge water feature & plenty of perennials highlight Open Garden

  1. Lyn Chimera , ‘Lessons From Nature’
    Has had ‘Gold Star’ at her yearly plant sale in May.

  2. James, I have bough Michlers 4 pack starter perennial plants for years. They do well if u watch over then and only expect 2 or 3 to make it. Lots of my garden are from these packs of 4. A cheep way to increase garden virety but u need to wait a few years to see well established plants. You probably need to buy more established plants as you stated.
    Garden Clubs like the one I belong to (Country Side Garden Club of Elma) have perennial plant sales in May. Plants are usually dug from members gardens and very healthy. Sold much cheaper then stores. This site will probably list these sales in the spring. These sales have long time gardeners and some with master gardeners who could help you with your questions.
    I don’t know the plant you are looking for. Maybe the catalog suggestion will help.

  3. James, you can buy online. One place that has is BlueStone Perennials http://www.bluestoneperennials.com
    They’ll ship to you at the appropriate planting time. I’ve ordered from them and have been pleased with the plant quality and shipping packages.
    Lowe’s and Home Depot sometimes carry but their plants are shipped via truck from Canada and southern states and often go long times without watering which can impact their survival.

  4. Thank you for your response Karen.
    I bought a number of the 4 pack perennials at Mischlers spring sale. Of the 6 or 7 varieties only the Hucheras survived but grew only minimally in 4 or 5 months. I think I’ll spend the extra money next year and buy 5”, more established plants.
    Do you know anything about Golden Star?

    Your garden makes me envious on one hand and anxious to carry on next year on the other.

  5. James Porter …. If you have mostly shade try shade loving ground cover with some rocks for accents. Violets like shade and have a nice spring flower. Hosta’s love shade but I found some with variegations also take sun. so many kinds of hosts to choose from and so many sizes.
    Just remember they are “deer candy”.
    Ferns love shade and there are many kinds, just remember they like their water.
    don’t know what you mean by “take hold” but fertilize new plants and water often and use water soluble fertilizer often as the new roots aren’t established yet. mulching is a must especially this year with a dry hot summer. If your plants are dead in the spring take them back to where you bought them cause most garden centers give a guarantee of 1-2 years. remember to save your receipts and plant signage.
    Hope this helps and don’t give up, gardening is all about trial and error… Oh and fun.

  6. I understand that Golden Star is a good choice for a shade garden. Does anyone know if it’s available in this area. I haven’t found anyplace that was it.

  7. You can switch your focus to plants that are more shade loving. Try astilbes, coral bells, and hostas. Pop in some annual coleus for extra color.

  8. This year is the first year of my water feature. I’m having a hard time getting perennials to take hold. I’m fearful that I don’t have enough sun.

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