Thursday, March 24, 2022

Saturday's Private Gardens: Impressive Urban Retreats

[Note: Dates have been changed for the 2022 Fling. Gardens may vary slightly.]

Tours of private gardens are huge highlights of any Fling. Earlier, we previewed the Friday gardens; now let’s take a quick look at the private gardens we’ll visit on Saturday, June 25. These are on the West and near-West side of Madison.

Sue Niesen “started playing in the dirt in 1975" and continues to "love finding worms.” Her gardens include perennials and annuals that she grows in her sunroom from harvested seed from the previous year. “Of course seed catalogs contribute with new species, as I’m curious how they’ll look and grow in my setting,” she describes. “Some not so successful…but I’m always looking for new varieties to add to the gardens.”

Because of the early indoor start, even large plants like Brugmansias bloom in early summer in her garden. Each year, she features a particular annual throughout the garden—something to watch for when we visit. Sue and her husband, Dick, created all the large concrete stepping stones in their garden, themselves, over the course of a year. Whimsical garden gnomes and decorations are found throughout, and you'll find surprises around every corner.

Tom and Cheryl Kuster moved to their home in 1990. The yard had been professionally landscaped in 1968 when the house was built, including a small pond and waterfall. Tom says he didn’t get serious about gardening until 2004 when he asked a local landscape designer to create a plan. “As I started working on the plan and studying various plants, I was amazed at the vast array of plants available for landscaping.

“During the past 16 years of gardening, my focus has been on diversity,” he adds. “You might call me a collector of plants, with more than 600 different varieties. I’ve divided our yard into 20 sections—each with its own genera of species.” Areas include miniature and dwarf conifers; a Tufa rock garden with various alpines, hens and chicks, and woodies; and a Japanese garden.

Linda Brazill (also a garden blogger at Each Little World) and Mark Golbach moved to their half-acre lot 25 years ago. Linda describes it as “a perfect canvas on which to create a garden: a sloping site with trees and shrubs mostly at its edges.

“Our goal was to walk out our back door and be in a tranquil retreat that married the rocks, water, moss, and contemplative qualities of Eastern gardens, with the pines and perennials of Wisconsin,” she adds. To do that, the couple planted some 200 trees and shrubs, and used more than 200 tons of stone in walls, paths, and boulder groupings. Their garden has multiple water features, unusual trees and conifers, a birch glade, woodland peonies, a traffic island bed, and a Japanese teahouse. “As we’ve worked to create our retreat,” says Linda, “we’ve also created a gardening partnership that has been a mutual source of heated debates and delight.”

Cindy Fillingame acknowledges that all gardens are shaped by the terrain, exposure to sun, and drainage concerns, and hers is no exception. A desire to improve drainage led to her first raised bed in 2004. “I chose concrete retaining wall blocks as an inexpensive ‘do-it-myself’ solution,” she says. “They proved to be very versatile, allowing me to create fluid lines, and to adjust the height and enrich the soil. This initial success has led to other raised beds designed to solve other issues—namely gardening on a severe slope and defining the property line more clearly.”

As Cindy’s gardening knowledge has grown, she’s tried to create diverse garden beds with something to offer in each season of the year. The garden features many newly planted trees and shrubs, including ginkgo, oak leaf hydrangea, pagoda dogwood, beech, and stewartia. Older established trees and shrubs include river birch, Montgomery spruce, and a sprawling juniper pruned to follow the terrain. Lilies, including Martagon, Asiatic, and Orienpets, join garden sculptures to provide vertical accents among a wide variety of perennials.

Stay tuned for more overviews of the other private and public gardens to be featured as part of the 2022 Fling. This schedule may change; we will keep you updated here and on the Fling Facebook page.)

Visit this link to register for the Madison Fling!