Great Garden Spotlight: Chris (@joysofgardening)

What Would You like to Learn About Today?

We may supply the great plants, but it’s our customers that have the great gardens! Every day we find ourselves in awe of the amazing gardens you share with us on social media. We find so much joy in what you share that we couldn’t just keep them to ourselves, so we started our Great Garden Spotlight series! We hope this series helps you find inspiration, connect with fellow gardeners, and learn a few great gardening tips along the way.

Image of gardener Chris with text "Meet Chris! @joyofgardening"

Meet Chris, who goes by @joysofgardening on Instagram. He really does show how much joy gardening can bring to your life by sharing pictures of flowers in bloom and his overall garden transformation. He makes gardening look easy – even though he is working in some brutal clay soil. Follow his garden transformation for inspiration, tips and tricks, and our favorite part, his #ScienceSunday posts! Learn the biology behind common garden problems and other interesting garden phenomena. We think Chris and his garden are inspirational for millennial gardeners (or gardeners of any age), which is why he’s earned a spot in our spotlight series! See how he uses our plants (and more) to build the garden of his dreams.

Feeling inspired by his photos? Create a similar look by shopping the plants tagged in each picture!

Tell us about your garden! What's your zone, weather, soil, and light like?

My garden is in the north suburbs of Atlanta, which lies in hardiness zone 7b.

I’m still learning about the microclimate of my garden, as we live in a heavily wooded neighborhood and a creek passes through our garden! The trees provide a lot of afternoon shade, so I’d estimate that 80% of our garden is part-sun (4-6 hours sunlight). The remaining areas are shade beds at the bases of the trees. Luckily, the morning sun provides enough energy to get sufficient blooms on most plants, although I’m still experimenting with placement as the garden is only a year old. I love full-sun plants for their blooms so I have a lot of varieties in my garden, but most of them don’t produce to their max potential because they get less than 6 hours of direct sunlight. I personally don’t believe there are strict rules on this! Many full sun plants can do well in part sun, and I still enjoy them for their foliage and lesser blooms.

The soil where we live is just brutal. It’s hard clay with lots of rocks and takes a long time to amend. In a recent post, I time-lapsed digging holes for my new hydrangeas from Great Garden Plants (Gatsby Star and Tuff Stuff Mountain Hydrangeas). The video looks fast, but the reality is that it took me thirty minutes to dig four holes big enough to fit the hydrangeas (I dug double the depth and width of the nursery pot), yikes! The benefit is that gardening counts as my workout of the day most days.

Lush and colorful plants in Chris's garden
Bright and colorful plants in Chris' Garden

How did you start gardening? Do you think you were born with a green thumb or was it something you picked up along the way?

I started gardening in elementary school! I was taught and inspired to love plants by my nanny, Karen, who had an amazing vegetable and flower garden. She would let us pick vegetables, prune and plant flowers, and would share her experience along the way. I had my first pepper plant by my parents’ mailbox in elementary school, and I remember feeling so excited when it finally produced a fruit! I saw how attention and care could produce a reward, and it inspired me. I also enjoy being outdoors, so those concepts combined make gardening a great choice for a hobby.

It wasn’t until ten years later, when I purchased my own home, that I was able to pick up gardening again. The baseline knowledge I learned from Karen helped me create my current garden, but I use a lot of online resources and blogs like Great Garden Plants for continued learning. That’s what I love about the hobby… there is never a moment when a gardener “knows it all”.

What plant is a must-have in your garden?

It’s Hydrangea Week at @greatgardenplants, so I’m tentative to say “hydrangeas” as it could come across as a cheesy plug… but my honest truth is that it IS my favorite plant! Right now, I have twenty-eight hydrangea shrubs and eight varieties in my garden, and that number is ever-growing. I just LOVE their large elegant blooms and the diversity that the species offers. Our garden has a mix of foliage and bloom types in each bed and just like other perennial flowers, you can mix and match shapes and textures to create attractive scapes. They provide interest for nine months of the year in zone 7b, and their flowers can be cut and dried for year-round decor.

I’m still waiting on botanists to create an evergreen hydrangea…

Close up of hydrangea flowers in Chris' garden
Close up of a flower in Chris's garden

What is your favorite great garden tip?

I love how willing people are to share their gardening tips on social media. I’ve learned so much in the year I’ve been online! I’ll be forever thankful to the person who shared the tip to use college extension programs for gardening assistance! My alma mater, the University of Georgia, has an amazing cooperative extension program that provides tips and tricks for everything you can imagine. College extension programs also post botany research articles and that’s where I find a lot of interesting and relevant information for @joysofgardening! These programs provide information at no cost, and some even give away seeds FOR FREE if you ask! Go check out your local extension program!

Chris's instagram post with a close up of a coneflower pointing out the disk, florets, and floret with pollen

Where did you find inspiration for your science Sunday posts?

I love to learn the “why” and “how” about things in life. I like to know how things function and why things are the way they are.

I think that was the mentality that drove me into my current profession of physical therapy and athletic training. I spent eight years studying science to become a licensed healthcare provider, so that habit of inquiry has been ingrained. You can call me a self-identified nerd if I’m choosing to read about plant enzymes and root systems instead of watching Netflix on a Saturday night (LOL).

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Close up of shrubs in Proven Winners Color Choice plant pots
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Want your garden to be featured in our Great Garden Spotlight? Message us on Instagram or tag us in garden photos featuring our plants! We’d love to see (and share) them.

Written by: Miranda Niemic, click here to read bio.

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