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As you can see, Sikorski started with a big challenge. Her long side yard lacked color and interest, and she wanted to break up the space.
The addition of a 150-foot-long border running the length of her property line was a perfect solution. To keep the border from feeling too massive, Sikorski, who loves salvaged objects, punctuated the space with an old bench she found at a yard sale. An antique newel, which she painted purple, adds additional structure. Because the rebar-reinforced sidewalk would have been difficult to remove and expensive to haul away, Sikorski covered it in a windy, narrow, pea-gravel path leading to her garden gates.
Before she started gardening, Sikorski's sister convinced her to add a small perennial border. One of the first plants Sikorski installed was purple coneflower, which she quickly learned is a top performer for her conditions. It provides beautiful blooms, long flowering season, and outstanding hardiness.
Most people think of their garden as a whole, but make magic like Sikorski did by creating vignettes. Here, for example, her gates frame a view of the lushly planted backyard, inviting a closer look.
Sikorski built a beautiful arbor that provides an entry to her garden room. She designed it based off a photo she saw in an issue of Better Homes and Garden's Country Gardens magazine.
After four years of work, Sikorski's garden room was well underway. She filled the area with her favorite perennials, including purple coneflower, coreopsis, phlox, and lamb's ears. For more charm and character, Sikorski installed garden accents, such as an old chandelier, which she hung from the arbor.
Initially, Sikorski planned to fill the area behind her retaining wall with long-flowering perennials but decided on low-care 'Limelight' hydrangeas. Unlike the sometimes-finicky mophead types, 'Limelight' is a hardy sun-loving variety with showy blooms in summer. They fade to beige in fall and add interest to the cold season when they catch snow.
Now full of a wide array of perennials, Sikorski's garden room is connected to her side yard by a winding gravel pathway. Tall fences offer privacy from neighbors, and profusely blooming flowers attract butterflies. It has become her favorite spot to curl up with a book or magazine and plan her next garden project.
With a beautiful garden underway, Sikorski got into photography and spent time shooting her yard. Her images helped her realize something was missing -- the far back corner felt empty. So she found an old door and installed it on her fence, calling it a "door to nowhere" because it doesn't open. An old bus bench sits beneath her spruce, which shelters her from rain, giving Sikorski a place to sit and enjoy her garden even on rainy days.
One of Sikorski's best garden design tricks is repetition. By using the same plant or plants with a similar feel, you can draw the eye through your borders. Here, for example, she's combined upright, light-color plants, including pink astilbe, lamb's ears, white veronica, and white delphiniums, to lead the way to her cozy bench.
A Zone 3 climate can be challenging. Sikorski desperately wanted foxgloves in her garden, but for three years in a row was disappointed that these biennials would not overwinter and bloom. She discovered from the gardening community on BHG.com that there are varieties (such as the 'Foxy' and 'Camelot' series) that act more like annuals and flower the first year from seed. She's now able to grow these beautiful plants.
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