American Roots

Lessons and Inspiration from the Designers Reimagining Our Home Gardens


By Nick McCullough

By Allison McCullough

By Teresa Woodard

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 25, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

“I love this book. Here are home gardens of designers from every part of our great country that are inspiring proof of a passionate vitality and freshness in American gardening today.” — Page Dickey, author of Uprooted
In recent years, bold designers have begun championing an American design aesthetic that embraces regional cultures, plants, and growing conditions. In American Roots, Nick McCullough, Allison McCullough, and Teresa Woodard highlight designers and creatives with exceptional home gardens, focused on those who push the boundaries, trial extraordinary plants, embrace a regional ethos, and express their talents in highly personal ways. Covering all the regions of the country, the profiles dive into design influences, share the back stories of the gardens and their creators, and include design tips and plant suggestions.

American Roots is a beautiful invitation to reconsider how we define the American garden, filled with guidance and encouragement for anyone looking to dig more deeply into their own home garden. 



Nick and Allison Mccullough

Columbus, Ohio

“Gardening is my sport,” says Nick, the plantsman of this husband-and-wife design duo. “It is what I love to do. It’s how I innovatively express myself.” Luckily, Allison is happy to join in the adventure, especially when it comes to styling spaces.

Most of the McCulloughs’ days are packed, between leading their landscape firm’s design and maintenance projects, and managing their kids’ activities. So, in their off time, the couple refuels by reimagining their own Ohio backyard with new plant combos, Midwest antiquing accents, and designs inspired from their family’s travel adventures.

When the couple built their modern farmhouse outside Columbus in 2015, they envisioned the black-and-white home would make a striking backdrop for their gardens. They began by creating a formal landscape framework around the house, with garden rooms to rotate new plants and design ideas. They created modular spaces, including a lawn, an adjoining gravel terrace, and rectangular perennial borders. They added structure with carefully pruned hornbeams, massive evergreen hedge walls, and oversized boxwood globes.

The exuberant play (or, as they call it, “organized chaos”) happens within these contained spaces.

“I like creating garden rooms, and within these rooms, I can play and change things up,” Nick says, explaining that the landscape’s bones are influenced by his English garden training, and the style’s impressive rigid forms and green walls.

Along a massive hedgerow of Spring Grove arborvitae, he’s loaded a perennial bed with swaths of salvia, bronze fennel, mountain mint, allium bulbs, blue switchgrass, and baptisia. He gave the space a Midwest flavor with three sculptural rings of rusted wagon wheels.

For the limestone terrace just outside the back door, Nick lined one side with four pleached hornbeams, and uplit them for a dramatic nighttime effect. On the opposite side, a perennial border overflows with repeated clusters of salvia and alliums, as well as calamint, geraniums, and feather reed grasses.

More garden play enters in a new all-silver border, veggie planters, bowls of succulents, containers of mature agave, and rotating seasonal designs in a faux bois planter outside the back door.

Design partners Nick and Allison McCullough and their two school-age kids welcome summertime on the terrace at their Ohio farmhouse. The terrace runs the length of the house, with mixed perennial plants of blues and purples.

Nick and Allison love telling the story of this planter they discovered on a backroads detour during a family trip from Minneapolis to Chicago.

“We were literally driving 60 miles an hour down this road, and Allison spotted this old airplane over in someone’s yard!” says Nick.

The McCulloughs stopped to check out the plane, and discovered the place was a “junkers’ paradise.” They ended up buying the large concrete planter, plus two galvanized drums, and squeezing the treasures into their already packed car. The trip home was spent dreaming of where to place their finds in the garden.

“Everywhere we look in our garden, there is a memory of a trip, an outing, or a friend we’ve met along the way,” says Nick. Their Midwestern finds include a rustic grain bin repurposed as a tool shed, an industrial metal cart turned into plant stand, and a collection of vintage watering cans. Most recently, they purchased historic cobblestones from a nearby home and set them along their front walkway. Rumor is they came from the family of former President Grover Cleveland and his farmhouse.

“We really love keeping the heritage of the space intact, and even though we have a new build, we love filling it with local artifacts,” says Nick. “You know, we’re the first generation creating this story.”

The element of surprise is another part of their garden play. Around a corner of the carport, Nick hung a hidden collection of staghorn ferns like antler trophies in hayracks.

“I also love creating mystery in the garden,” Nick says with a grin. “I like to go around corners, set aside back-of-house areas, and create secret garden rooms.”

Allison embraces her back-of-house cutting garden in a room all her own behind the arborvitae hedge. Here, she plants zinnias, sunflowers, and hyacinth bean vines that climb modular trellises built by her dad.

Even farther from the home, Nick creates less formal spaces, like a restored woodland and an allée of birch trees filled with native midwestern perennials like sedges, alum-root, and goatsbeard.

“As you radiate away from the house, the less design you get and more blending in with nature,” says Nick. “Beds right up against the house are more formal, and feature higher maintenance plants, but areas farther away are wilder and can be left alone for two to three weeks.”

And the kids only add to the garden play, as their son James joins in Nick’s projects and takes breaks to examine insects and frogs, while daughter Charlotte uses the lawn as a dance floor to entertain her parents. “Hanging in the garden is really second nature to them,” says Allison. “And we love that they choose to be there.”

A framework of evergreen hedging creates garden rooms that are linked by metal-edged gravel pathways.

‘Rosea’ mountain fleece stands out against the black portion of the home.

A color theme runs throughout the garden in early summer highlighted by ‘Summer Magic’ catmint and ‘Wesuwe’ salvia.

On a trip to Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia, Nick and Allison were inspired by the conservatory’s Silver Garden. Back home, they converted a hydrangea border outside the back door into this silver border, filled with silver shield, dusty miller, rosemary, and Bismarck palm.

Inspired by Parisian gardens, Nick pleached hornbeams to act as living umbrellas on the patio space.

In Nick’s “chaotic corner,” he lets grasses and perennials mix freely along the backdrop of the privacy hedging.

To add texture and evergreen form along the front of the house, Nick planted multiple boxwoods, alliums, and Japanese forest grasses.

Japanese forest grass and globe boxwoods anchor the border along the front of the house. A path of reclaimed cobblestones is edged in corten steel.

Agave americana in a vintage Kramer Brothers planter nestled among sweet autumn clematis.

1: James is a welcomed helper in the garden. 2: A no-mow fescue lawn grows beneath these red oaks. 3: Charlotte gathers a bouquet from the cutting garden. 4: A modular, reclaimed teak furniture set, originally from Smith & Hawken, is one of the McCulloughs’ many bargain finds. 5: Nick and Allison repot a faux bois planter–a road trip find–by the door each season. 6: Allison cuts zinnias in her cutting garden. 7: Nick’s style of organized chaos is on display with rigid boxwood and looser perennial plantings. 8: In a back border, birch trees are underplanted with ‘Autumn Bride’ alumroot.

Learn from Nick and Allison

Scouting for Garden Finds

The McCulloughs make a game of treasure hunting for garden ornaments. They’ve procured everything from a vintage horse watering trough to mesh minnow traps.

Shop smart online When shopping on the internet, know your key search words. Start with generic terms for a broad exploration, then narrow to more specifics. Try terms like trough, patio, teak, ipe, steel, galvanized, garden, outdoor, aluminum, and stainless steel. Also search for outdoor material terms. Think granite, soapstone, slate, stone, brick, reclaimed, steel, cast iron, and cedar. When shopping for outdoor furniture, search classic brand names, e.g., Smith & Hawken, Gloster, Brown Jordan, Frontgate, Sutherland and Tucci.

Do your research eBay and Etsy are good places to check prices so you can intelligently negotiate bargains.

Source local finds online too Scour Facebook and other online marketplaces for local finds. Also try expanding your search to nearby cities, and plan weekend getaways around pickup.

Get to know your bargain options Shop antique stores in small towns, estate sales, garage sales, and flea markets. At home sales, start in the garage for the best garden finds. A few favorite Midwest antiquing events are the Flea Market Extravaganza in Springfield, Ohio, regional Scott Antique Market sales, the Rural Society Antique & Garden Sale in Mt. Vernon, Ohio (see Resources), and the National Road Yard Sale across the country on the first weekend in June.

Be creative Challenge yourself to think of uses beyond the objects’ original intentions, or how they can become art in the garden. Clever garden sculpture can be made from all kinds of vintage things.

Keep travel in mind Before heading on a vacation, be sure to research antique stores and sales at your travel destination. Purchases make great mementos of your trip.

Favorite Plants

Nick loves textural plants that look great even out of bloom, and through the Midwest’s four seasons.

1: Buxus microphylla var. japonica ‘Winter Gem’—staple used to create evergreen globes throughout the garden, with fresh, glossy green foliage. 2: Panicum amarum ‘Dewey Blue’—one of the bluest blues in the garden. Thrives in summer heat, and looks best when backlit. 3: Thuja plicata Spring Grove (‘Grovepli’)—used to create garden rooms, this shrub maintains a beautiful green all winter and shapes well. In this photo, the hedge is trimmed to 11 ft. 4: Foeniculum vulgare subsp. vulgare ‘Rubrum’—fennel herb with clouds of fluffy, bronze-black foliage. Great food source for swallowtail butterfly. 5: Stachys byzantina ‘Helen von Stein’—non-blooming cultivar that directs all its energy into large foliage. 6: Calamintha nepeta var. nepeta ‘Montrose White’—sun-loving perennial, and one of the best white-blooming flowers. Attracts pollinators en masse. 7: Nepeta grandiflora ‘Summer Magic’—catmint with soft lavender blooms that repeat throughout the summer. 8: Allium ‘August Asteroids’—late-blooming allium that flowers in August. 9: Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’—boasts beautiful, nearly black stems with striking purple flowers. Reblooms multiple times a season if deadheaded.

Erin Schanen

Belgium, Wisconsin

Yes, the summers may be shorter in Wisconsin, but that doesn’t keep Erin Schanen from making the most of the gardening season at her cottage home just steps from Lake Michigan. After 20 years of gardening, she’s developed an exuberant flair for color and an impassioned quest to learn and share more about the plant world.

“When you live in a place with a short summer, you end up packing in and savoring every moment of season,” says Erin, explaining that the area’s biggest challenge is its cold, delayed spring. “You feel like you have three weeks of spring, then you have summer come so quickly.”

It’s no wonder she adopted “The Impatient Gardener” as the name of her popular garden blog and YouTube channel with tens of thousands of subscribers. Impatience—or perhaps eagerness—seems to be her hallmark. In March, she jumpstarts the gardening season by planting hundreds of annual seeds indoors under grow lights. By April, she’s potting up dozens of dahlia tubers in a popup greenhouse with hopes of earlier blooms. Come May, she’s weaving the sprouted dahlias and annual transplants among a tapestry of perennials.

“Wherever I can, I just shoehorn one more annual in,” says Erin.

Her energetic style results in a wonderland of personal garden projects she’s pursued since she and her husband Rich Reichelsdorfer moved to the 11/3-acre property in 2002. They were drawn to the 90-year-old home’s setting among mature maple, oak, and beech trees, seeing potential in the landscape. They divided the outdoor chores, with Rich taking on the lawn and Erin the existing gardens. Her first task was to rip out the tall, flopping ornamental grasses taking over the patio beds, and from there, she carved out beds in sun and shade areas. She also completed master gardener training at the nudging of her mother, a master gardener herself.

“The master gardener training started me down the path of learning about gardening,” says Erin. She used her own backyard to experiment. In 2009, she began journaling her daily gardening activities in blog form—a good fit with her professional background as a writer and third-generation editor of her family’s Sailing Magazine. A surprising number of followers soon fueled her efforts.

Erin’s flowering borders put on an annual spectacle at her Wisconsin cottage home just steps from Lake Michigan, and she’s candid in sharing her gardening wins and fails with thousands of YouTube followers around the world.

Along the way, she created an enclosed vegetable garden with raised beds to grow food while keeping the deer away. Another summer, she revealed a formal circle garden where she annually experiments with planting combos in four quadrants. More recently, she installed an informal woodland area inspired by visits to Chicago’s Lurie Garden and New York’s High Line, and their naturalistic planting style. All of this she shared with her blog followers.

Perhaps Erin’s most popular posts relate to her passion for growing annuals by seed. Her favorites, like chartreuse flowering tobacco and pink globe amaranth, spill along the sides of a walkway. Honey orange, blush, and fuchsia dahlias bring pops of color to a perennial border. And more annuals fill a patio bed packed with large dinnerplate dahlias, red begonias, yellow sedum, blue lobelia, and white euphorbia.

“I started using annuals as a temporary fix to fill holes in big new garden beds as I looked for plants to finish them,” says Erin. “What I ended up with is all these annuals!” Now, she’s developed a love of starting annuals from seed, and says it’s difficult for her to live without them.

Sweet pea is where it all began. In 2015, Erin was deep into a British gardening binge when she learned about these plants, their fragrant scent, and their cut flower appeal. But when she looked for sweet peas at local garden centers, she came up short. She ended up buying seed online from sources in the United States and England, and researching how to grow them herself. Now, each spring, Erin orders multiple sweet pea varieties, including scented heirlooms and showier Spencer varieties in pink, blue, and salmon. Some years, she’s planted so many, she’s had extras to give away.

The sweet pea experiment inspired Erin to try her hand at more seed-sown annuals, including flowering tobacco, globe amaranth, nasturtium, and signet marigold. Today, she grows more than 500 annuals from seed, and teaches YouTube followers along the way. The forever challenge remains to find more places to squeeze in one more annual.

“I’m not great at editing, but life is too short to limit yourself,” says Erin with a smile. The projects are endless for this impatient gardener, and her followers couldn’t be more grateful.

Erin varies her borders’ color palette from year to year. This year, the dark purple ‘Wild Magic’ basil contrasts beautifully with ‘Crichton Honey’ dahlias.

This deep window box is a centerpiece of Erin’s annual floral displays. Each year, she switches up her designs, and for this year, she chooses a purple, white, and orange color combo featuring a frilly sweet potato vine, white alyssum, peach verbena, silver spurflower, purple petunias, white scaevola, and angelonia. She repeats many of these annuals in her flower borders.

‘Coffee Cups’ elephant’s ear is clearly the thriller plant in this dramatic container display. Erin explains the cup-shaped leaves put on a show when they fill with rainwater and tip to empty.

In a more formal circle garden, Erin experiments annually with planting combos in four quadrants around a central trellis and its vining clematis.

An exposed aggregate drive, gabled garage, and neighboring red barn add charm to this cottage home.

Erin replaced the roses in this entry container with pagoda dogwood after years of frustration, and wondered why she hadn’t done it sooner. She loves their spring blooms, summer berries, and fall leaf color.

‘Wizard of Oz’ dahlia and ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas are in peak bloom in this sunny border.

Erin finished her enclosed vegetable garden with thoughtful touches like a curved gate, entry arbor, gravel paths, and stock tank pond filled with lotus.

1: Erin places dozens of potted plants throughout her garden—on steps, along paths, and even within flower-beds. Pictured here are containers of ‘Skyscraper’ senecio at right, and Corsican mint at left. 2: Yellow Adirondack chairs offer a pop of color in the side lawn. 3: Erin places this surprising floating floral display along a path in her shaded woodland garden. Pro tip: dye water black to show off flowers and capture reflections. 4: ‘Linda’s Baby’ dahlias and ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas shine in this entry border. 5: The cottage’s white clapboard siding provides an ideal backdrop for Erin’s dazzling floral displays, as well as her online video lessons. 6: Orange-flowering nasturtium and turmeric, with its canna-like leaves, thrive in the vegetable garden. In spring, Erin pots turmeric rhizomes to grow indoors until temperatures are warm enough to move the plants outside. 7: A large container planting at Erin’s entrance overflows with silver spur, licorice plant, purple heart, white gaura, and angelonia. 8: Erin gardens with help from her Newfoundlands, Odin and Dorothy. 9: Ipomea batatas ‘Sweet Caroline Medusa Green’—less of a water hog and more manageable in size than other sweet potato vines. Deeply lobed foliage, great for containers and as frilly border edging.

Learn from Erin

Designing with Annuals

Erin loves gardening with annuals because they give her flowerbeds and containers a new look each spring. She especially enjoys starting many of them from seed.

Flaunt novelty Growing annuals from seed opens up a whole new world of plants that you just won’t find sold as plants at garden centers. There are wonderful varieties of annuals that are much different from the standard garden center fare, and it makes the trouble of growing them from seed well worth it.

Stretch the budget Starting your own plants from seed, either indoors or by direct sowing, is a great way to fill up a garden on a budget. It’s also a great way to fill in an area while you decide what you’d like to grow there permanently.

Layer on the texture Mixing annuals, perennials, and shrubs creates texture and contrast in a garden and ensures there’s interest throughout the seasons.

Feed the pollinators Annuals are also a good way to make sure that something is seasonally in bloom for pollinators.

Save time It’s not necessarily more work to grow annuals in the garden. If you have good soil and apply an organic fertilizer before planting, you won’t need to fertilize frequently. If you choose varieties that age gracefully, you won’t have to worry much about deadheading.

Solve problems Nasturtiums are problem-solving plants. They grow easily via direct sowing, and in a broad range of conditions, so they can be the go-to solution when a plant dies or something doesn’t work as expected. Even if they don’t bloom, their foliage is interesting enough to stand on its own.

Dare to try Annuals are great plants for reluctant decision-makers. They’re a low-cost, short-term commitment. If you don’t care for a plant, you just do something else next year.

Plant en masse


  • “This transcontinental tour of modern home gardens showcases a healthy dose of gardener and garden diversity across the spectrum of the American landscape. It offers lessons and inspiration and ingeniously seasons them with playfulness, passion, and purpose.” —Jennifer Jewell, author of Under Western Skies and The Earth in Her Hands, host of Cultivating Place
    “As an editor of a national magazine, I know how difficult it is to find gardens beautiful enough to inspire people across the country. This book does just that—letting us have a peek over the fence to discover new plants, design ideas, and the gardeners themselves.” —Stephen Orr, editor in chief, Better Homes Gardens
    “Includes design tips and ideas to inspire home gardeners everywhere.” Library Journal

    “A garden is a personal thing, and it is about time we have a book that will inspire American gardeners to be personal about their design and plants. American Roots is well worth a place either on the coffee table or in the library of every gardener.” —Sidney Frazier, vice president of horticulture, Middleton Place
    “I love this book. Here are home gardens of designers from every part of our great country that are inspiring proof of a passionate vitality and freshness in American gardening today.” —Page Dickey, author of Uprooted, co-founder of The Garden Conservancy Open Days

    “American Roots serves as not just a celebration of US gardening styles but also of an overarching gardening community, of which its readers are a warmly welcomed part.” —Horticulture

    American Roots warms readers’ hearts by showing both the diversity and unity within the community of American gardeners.” —Su Casa Magazine

    “Featuring modern and classic gardens, coast-to-coast, there is green inspiration on every page.” —Good Grit

    “Focusing on regional native plants and on creating outdoor spaces that are a reflection of place, these innovative gardeners are helping to shift the way every element of a garden is chosen.” —Orange County Register

On Sale
Oct 25, 2022
Page Count
320 pages
Timber Press

Nick McCullough

About the Author

Nick McCullough is a certified designer by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and served on its board. He holds degrees in horticulture and art history from The Ohio State University and studied landscape design in Northwest England. A self- described “plant nerd,” Nick is passionate about perennials and has a masterful understanding of how plants thrive in regional climates. Allison McCullough is the head of marketing for McCullough’s Landscape & Nursery, Allison ensures the brand delivers thoughtful communications and special touches that only come from a family-owned business. Teresa Woodward brings a background in magazine writing and gardening experience. During her 14-year writing career, she has written and produced garden content for regional and national publications, including Better Homes & Gardens, Tribune Publishing, and Country Gardens and currently serves as Contributing Garden Editor at Midwest Living magazine. She has won Gold and Silver Awards by the Association of Garden Communicators.

Learn more about this author