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Garden living
Low-maintenance landscape leads 
to maximum homeowner enjoyment


April 2007

At least 25 different types of plants and flowers fill the gardens that surround the house, including seven hemlock trees, fairy rose bushes, Blue Forest junipers, leaping meadow ornamental grass, Annabelle hydrangeas in blue and white, dragon blood sedum, Roseanne geraniums and ivory halo dogwood.

When the Dowdles decided to build a 1,000-square-foot addition to their Washington Highlands home in 2004, it proved an opportune time to redo their garden as well. The Dowdles, who have lived in the 1952 home for 11 years, added a great room and a master suite with library, laundry room, dressing room and bath; they also converted their one-car garage to a two-car.

That added space and configuration meant a complete renovation of the drainage system, which, in turn, led to a complete renovation of the yard. "The lawn was completely ripped up," remembers Richard Dowdle.

An outcropping of huge Lannon stone rocks in front of the home add texture and anchor the free-flowing garden design.

To give the Dowdle home the makeover it needed, the couple hired Arthur Chadek, a historic architect who worked on the state Capitol. For the garden, an equally skilled expert was hired — landscape designer Greg John from Johnson Nursery Inc. in Menomonee Falls.

Richard Dowdle says his goal was a "fairly maintenance-free" garden area with a color theme dominated by white and variations of purple. And with plenty of latitude from the homeowners, John was able to use his creativity when designing the gardens. "I told him I needed to make sure the water gets pushed away from the house," says Dowdle. "I gave him free rein. I wanted something that was maintenance free but also dramatic for the neighborhood ... something that was very demonstrative, that made a statement."

A brick patio leads visitors into the backyard, adorned with flowers, fountains and a serpentine lannon stone wall.

Today, with a simple once-a-week weed trimming, the Dowdles are able to enjoy their outdoors oasis without major upkeep. "I like things to grow fairly natural and feathery looking," says Dowdle, noting that a more structured look wouldn’t complement the house. "People stop by and ask to walk through the yard," he says of the gardens neighborhood impact.

John says the property’s drainage problems and severe slope in the front yard drove the design, but divulges the gardens aren’t completely maintenance free. "Once a year we go and re-mulch it," he says. "Richard does a lot of watering. I know he enjoys a little gardening."

According to Dowdle, his interest in gardening and colors was sparked in high school biology and art history classes. He’s also been to the gardens of Luxembourg and is inspired by what he sees abroad. "When I go overseas, I look at other peoples’ gardens," he admits.