gate welcomes visitors into the flower-filled yard.
Not everyone hates change. In fact,
Wauwatosa gardener Gail Morgan actually thrives on it.
Unlike the gardeners who like the
predictability of perennials, the gardens on Morgan’s half-acre lot
contain many varieties of annuals. "Some people shy away from
annuals because of their cost and upkeep," she says. "But I
like to change."
Pots of plants make that change
intentional. Each year Morgan puts new combinations together and
places the results in various spots around her yard and on her deck.
Larger pots are placed next to smaller ones or trimmed with rocks or
shells. And the pots are stuffed full with various vines and blossoms
— no single geraniums for her, thank you very much.
"The beauty of pots is that you
can move them around," says Morgan. "When stuff is in the
ground you’re kind of sunk." This year, she’s also in a
change mode with plans to convert the annuals alongside the driveway
in her front yard into mounded areas filled with grasses and
Pots of plants are only the beginning
of the experience in the Morgan gardens. If you were to describe her
landscape in two words, it would have to be eclectic and funky. As an
artist, she likes to think of her gardens as an extension of her paint
palette, hence the bright colors and recycled garden art.
The art often competes for attention
with the flowers. There are the handpainted table and chairs outside
of her screened-in glass porch. Another painted half-table and chair
is clamped to a lattice trellis. Her collection of concrete faces is
scattered about, startling visitors when they’re noticed.
Morgan has hung a wreath of brightly
painted pots on the trellis although she doesn’t recommend someone
making a similar one out of clay pots like she did. "I’d
suggest using different size plastic pots," she says. "They’re
lighter and easier to work with."
A $5 flea-market bicycle is painted
white, its basket filled with fuchsia and pink impatiens. Painted
garden chairs, minus parts of their seats, hold pots of blooms. Her
husband, Jim, acquired a concrete planter with a tiny nick from the
local dump. A birdbath was assembled from a variety of sizes of clay
pots, painted and then topped with a saucer from the largest pot.
There’s a contemporary gray water fountain ringed with impatiens and
Morgan is proud to announce that
between acquiring things from the local dump and gifts of unwanted
furniture from friends, she’s never purchased a garden chair. But
she’s had great fun converting someone’s trash into her treasures.
A funky painted table and chairs fits
right in with the eclectic look of the Morgan yard.
Old storm windows and birdhouses haven’t
escaped without a coat of paint. "I’m not that great of a
painter, but for a garden it doesn’t have to be a Picasso,"
says Morgan of her artistic endeavors.
Inspiration for both her art and her
gardens comes in many forms. "I have that type of mind that’s
just a little off-kilter," she chuckles. On a tour of homes,
noticing what appeared to be pewter roses, she discovered they were
actually red cabbages. "If you let them grow and feed them as if
they were flowers, they turn into great ‘roses,’" says
Morgan. "And they’re cheaper than the flowering kale
plants." She also borrows ideas from magazines and trips to
Impatiens, zinnias and marigolds
welcome visitors with their brightly colored blooms. There are also
hostas and coral bells in her shade garden, which encircles a huge
arbor vitae like a sculpture at the base of the tree. Yarrow and
daylilies fill in the sunny portion of that shade garden.
The key for Morgan is to have lots of
choices. "If you have a lot of plants, people don’t notice what
isn’t good because you have so much," she explains.
A stone wall and basin provide a
natural touch for a water spigot where the Morgans can fill
their watering can while tending to their gardens.
Coleus is one of her favorites and you’ll
find varieties in rainbow colors from yellow to deep purple. "No
bugs seem to eat it and it doesn’t get powdery mildew," Morgan
explains of her choice. "The only thing is you have to water it a
For this Master Gardener, gardening is
obviously a passion. After she retired as a clinical instructor in
radiology at Froedtert Hospital, she’s had more time to enjoy the
fruits of her labor. "It keeps me physically fit and it helps
with the osteoporosis and the waist line," she says. "I’m
not the kind who touches her toes 80 times."
Besides converting the front yard
gardens, this year’s project is installing a rain garden. Morgan is
putting plants into a portion of her yard to slow down runoff that
would otherwise go into the sewer. And likely planning more changes
for her existing spaces.