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My Five Favorite Garden Plants, Tools & Tips

Today I’m back with My Five Favorites along with Jennifer at Dimples & Tangles, Kris at Driven By Decor and Pam at Simple Details and today we’re so happy to welcome our guest host Kelly Elko!

Recently Kelly shared her dining room that was transformed with hand painted wallpaper – I love this unique design and especially a tiny detail the artist added that is special to Kelly’s family. And those floors are gorgeous too, aren’t they?

Hand painted design via Kelly Elko.

Kelly shares home and garden projects and inspirations, including a whole series on hydrangeas and how to maintain them. See Kelly’s dining room here and find the hydrangea posts here!

Thanks for joining us Kelly!

Are you loving summertime? We are too and thought it would be fun to chat about all things garden related because we can’t get enough of being outside this time of year….even if it means weeding the garden!

A few of my favorite plants, tool and tips for maintaining and enjoying your outdoor space…

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What is better than low maintenance plants and shrubs that come back year after year despite a harsh winter?

I planted Neon Flash Spirea around our patio and it’s starting to mature and fill in. It blooms all summer into the fall in shades of light and hot pink and then fades to a rust. These shrubs have weathered two New England winters and have come back hardier than ever.

Neon Flash Spirea

There are a lot of different varieties of spirea and many of them are suitable across many planting zones. If you don’t know it yet you can find your zone here!

I also love willowy and wild ornamental grasses. I find they can take a while to get going every year…..

but they fill out over the summer and by fall they are lush and full of soft plumes. The breeze blowing through them is so lovely!

A garden border around a pea stone patio includes ornamental grasses, hosta and tiger lilies.

There are tons of varieties of ornamental grasses – most thrive on full sun. We currently have maidengrass, ravennagrass, and zebragrass and they all grow really well here in Massachusetts.


Mandevilla climbs, grows and produces tons of blossoms all the way into the fall. You can also bring this perennial inside before the first frost and keep it going until next year. I love to grow one on our deck steps…..

Mandevilla is a beautiful flowering, climbing plant that is lovely for deck stairs.

and this year I used them in the urns at our front door and they have continuously blossomed. Read here about how to winterize a mandevilla.

Summer urns with mandevilla and petunias

In related news we are in the midst of planning the makeover of these crumbling stairs and the overgrown beds on either side of them! Can’t wait to share that project with you as it unfolds!


Landscape fabric is very controversial in the world of gardening and landscaping, but I think there is a place for them.

I don’t use landscape fabric in garden beds because there you want hearty, rich soil, and for that to happen you need a healthy ecosystem of earthworms and other organisms doing their thing, which the landscape fabric inhibits. Read more about why landscape fabric is not a good idea for gardens in this post.

Landscape fabric is perfect under a loose stone path or patio. When we installed our pea stone patio, my cute little helper here and I laid out landscape fabric over the cleared area before the stone arrived, and in the two years since we’ve had just a handful of weeds pop through. As far as I’m concerned it’s so worth the time and effort!!

How to lay landscape fabric for a pea stone patio.

To install it you just roll the fabric across your cleared space, secure it with rust resistant galvanized metal pins (also called garden staples) that are hammered into the ground, and then trim the excess fabric. We also added the pins where the sheets overlapped so it would stay in place when it was time to install the pea stone.

Garden tools are obviously a must for any gardener. Be sure to clean them after each use so you don’t pass any threatening fungus onto the next plant you cut.

These little rakes are great for dislodging weed roots, and believe me, I’m a weed pro – I neglected my gardens for a few weeks of summertime fun, and have spent the past three days weeding my heart out!

This is a great set that is perfect for planters and garden upkeep. Don’t forget gloves – I like these cheap, breathable fabric ones that have latex on the palm.


I wasn’t sure I loved the look of the powder coated metal edging I installed to separate the pea stone from the garden border, but now that we have added more pea stone and mulched the gardens, the metal almost disappears – but keeps the materials separated.

Metal edging keeps landscaping materials neat.

You can barely see it now and it keeps everything neat and tidy.

Metal garden edging keeps landscape materials from spilling over.

For garden beds that abut grass I skip the metal edging and just use a good old fashioned border edger – it’s not hard at all and it makes such a difference!

I hope you found a couple morsels in this post that are helpful for your summer gardening! Now let’s go check out the rest of today’s garden faves!

Kelly Elko

Dimples & Tangles

Driven By Decor 

Simple Details 


Thanks for coming by today!

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Sunday 1st of August 2021

Wow! You have a really beautiful garden! The tips about cleaning are now living in my mind rent-free. Thank you so much!

classic casual home

Sunday 15th of July 2018

Great tip about cleaning the garden tools. Your garden is just lovely!!! Mary Ann


Wednesday 25th of July 2018

Thanks so much Mary Ann! Our garden is definitely a work in progress but it's coming along!

Ellen from Ask Away Blog

Thursday 12th of July 2018

HMMMM mandevila? Ive never heard of it but I think I'm gonna add it to my yard next year!


Wednesday 25th of July 2018

Ellen I saw that around here the mandevilla plants are already on summer clearance so it's a great time to pick one in MA they bloom into the fall with tons and tons of blossoms!

Kelly Elko

Wednesday 11th of July 2018

Lisa - I love your pea gravel fire pit area. I'm suddenly craving s'mores! Great tips - I love mandevilla too and thanks for the tip on how to winterize them.


Wednesday 25th of July 2018

Thanks so much Kelly! Mandevilla is so hearty, it flowers outside into the fall and then transitions inside really well!