Garden Photo of the Day

Fran’s Island Garden

A dedicated GPOD reader creates garden magic on Martha's Vineyard, despite the challenge of hungry herbivores

woodland garden with flowering shrub and ferns

Happy Monday, GPODers!

Hope you all had some fabulous spring weather this weekend and got a chance to enjoy some time outside. If not, today’s garden will be a nice retreat from the hustle and bustle you’re dealing with. We’re starting the week off on a high note with a little taste of island life! Today’s submission comes from Fran on Martha’s Vineyard.

My name is Fran, and I can say I believe I have been gardening all of my life. I grew up on a fruit and vegetable farm in central PA. I have always had flower beds and sometimes vegetable beds. I have been gardening for the past 20-plus years on Martha’s Vineyard, an island of Massachusetts. I read GPOD first thing in the morning! I have submitted to GPOD in the past (check out Fran’s earlier submissions: Gardening on Martha’s Vineyard and Jewels of Fall in Fran’s Garden). I have three large flower bed areas and shrubs in other areas.

Turkeys and deer are frequent visitors to my gardens. My neighbor says the deer are a big presence when we are away from home. In a few days we will be traveling, and I am prepared to have no hostas when we return. I spray the azaleas year-round to control the deer browsing. I have happily found many plants to enjoy that deer do not like. My favorites are ferns, spireas, columbines, brunneras, and others. I also use lots of hydrangeas, which the deer do not bother too much. As you can see, I use the color chartreuse frequently, which gives the design brightness mostly year-round.

I’m sure this is too much information. (Never too much information, Fran! I think I can speak for everyone when I say it’s great to hear all the ins and outs and ups and downs of everyone’s gardens.) I enjoy so much the passion of other gardeners in the submissions and find inspiration every day from GPOD!

Ajuga reptansAjuga (commonly known as bugleweed [Ajuga reptans, Zones 4–8]) is a great ground cover. Although a bit invasive, it’s not hard to control. (Like Fran says, Ajuga is an invasive that if given the right care is so beautiful it could be worth the effort of keeping it in its place. If you’re looking for alternatives to problematic ground covers, check out this article: 27 Better Ground Covers for Shade to Replace Problematic Plants.)

purple ajuga with pink aquilegiaIt’s easy to see why Fran keeps Ajuga in her garden. Aside from it being beautiful on its own, the purple flowers make a perfect complement to this incredible ‘Winky Double Red-White’ columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Winky Double Red-White’, Zones 3–8).

Percy Wiseman RhododendronThe stunning multicolored flowers continue with a cluster of ‘Percy Wiseman’ rhododendron (Rhododendron yakushimanum ‘Percy Wiseman’, Zones 5–9).

purple aquilegiaThis gorgeous columbine is in a lovely shade of purple and has the more common bloom shape.

purple rhododendronWith a genus as diverse and colorful as rhododendron, it can be almost impossible to resist starting an extensive collection. To all my rhodie lovers out there—if you were only allowed to have one variety in your garden, which one would you choose?

Spiraea japonicaFran’s garden isn’t lacking for fantastic foliage either. Even when not in bloom, this Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica, Zones 4–8) is an absolute stunner.

turkeys in garden bed with hostas and fernsHere are some of Fran’s infamous garden visitors! Three turkeys stroll through the garden, enjoying Fran’s plantings of hostas, ferns, and little pops of glowing ‘Brigadoon’ St. John’s wort (Hypericum calycinum ‘Brigadoon’, Zones 5–9).

woodland garden with flowering shrub and fernsWow—with all the lush plant life, you’d never guess this garden has a deer problem. Fran really shows what is possible when you work with the challenges your climate and conditions give you, rather than struggle and fight against them.

Thank you for sharing your fabulous garden with us again, Fran. I’m sure we would all love to see an update when other plants are blooming later in the season!


Have a garden you’d like to share?

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To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.

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View Comments


  1. User avater
    treasuresmom 06/10/2024

    That Percy Wiseman rhododendron is beautiful.

    1. islandlover 06/10/2024

      Thanks, they are gorgeous for a short time especially if it rains.

  2. User avater
    cynthia2020 06/10/2024

    Fran - thank you for sharing! I don't think I have ever seen such a good looking patch of ajuga. I also clicked on the links to see other views of your garden.

    1. islandlover 06/10/2024

      I like that ajuga brings wonderful color in the early spring. I enjoy looking at previous years photos and seeing the progress!

  3. btucker9675 06/11/2024

    Percy Wiseman!!! Be still, my heart.... so stunning as is the rest of your garden! We had a large flock of wild turkeys when we lived in northern NJ (Franklin Lakes) - the only time they were a real problem was when the "boys" were feeling very macho and would challenge every car on the roads! Hard to explain you were late to work because you were held hostage by a gang of toms in full display! : ). Thank you for sharing your lovely property.

  4. User avater
    simplesue 06/11/2024

    So pretty and so successful even with hungry deer! What a dream to garden on Martha's Vineyard!

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