personalities define us, shaping our wardrobes, our homes and even our
landscapes. A home can tell a visitor a great deal about its owner,
but so too can what is found outside of its doors, making a garden a
creative way to express yourself.
So what kind of gardener are you? Hereís your chance to find out.
Patron saints: Andrť Le Nítre, King Louis XXIV of Franceís
gardener and the man behind the landscaping at the palace of palace of
Versailles; Beatrix Farrand, one of Americaís first female landscape
Influences: The formal gardens of Europe
Signature plants: Clipped shrubbery and evergreens; a calculated
mix of perennials and annuals
"When I think of formal gardens, what immediately comes to
mind is the palace of Versailles," says landscape architect Joe
Kresl, owner of Hawks Nursery. "Itís a manicured space, with
focal points and symmetry."
If youíre the kind of person who likes to experience nature in
control, this is your sweet spot. "One of the best ways to think
of formal gardening is that youíre extending your house
outdoors," says Kyle Kohlmann, a landscape architect with
Seasonal Services in Mukwonago. "Formal gardens take a lot of
their cues from the architecture of your house."
Well-defined, crisp edges, in everything from paths to the way
hedges are clipped, are the hallmark of a formal garden. "Water
also is a big element in formal gardens, but itís more in the form
of pools, fountains or ponds with a very controlled edge," says
Kresl. "Formal gardens are actually strong in Milwaukee, and I
think itís due to our areaís deep European roots. Thereís a real
strong sense of traditional landscaping here."
Patron saints: Jens Jensen, designer of Chicagoís Grant Park and
founder of The Clearing, a school in Door County; Lorrie Otto, local
naturalist and conservationist; Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of
landscape architecture; Frank Lloyd Wright
Influences: Nature itself, the pre-European landscape
Signature plants: Native species
Wisconsinites are fortunate in that we have firsthand exposure to
some of the leaders of this movement, which relies on native
"The big idea behind native and natural gardens is that
everything is tied back to the local environment," says Rob
Holly, a landscape architect with Seasonal Services. "The design
should fit a particular space."
Holly points to the work of Jens Jensen, designer of numerous parks
in Chicago and the founder of The Clearing in Door County, as well as
Northshore naturalist Lorrie Otto, the inspiration for the Wild Ones
conservation group. Locally, we can also look to Milwaukeeís Lake
Park for an example of natural landscaping. The park was designed in
the 1890s by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape
architecture. "His idea was to bring nature into the city,"
says Kresl. "Thereís a blend of what was going on in the formal
parks of Europe, but also a place for nature, which was more
unmanageable and more random."
Even Frank Lloyd Wright gets a nod here. "He was an architect,
but he had three favorite plants found in Wisconsin: arbor vitae,
cranberry bush viburnum and red dogwood," he says. "You can
see how he utilized them at Taliesin in Spring Green."
Natural gardeners place a value on what is around them, and are
willing to put in the time and effort to keep or restore the native
landscape. Itís not as easy as it sounds, though. "It is a
looser style than traditional, formal gardening," says Holly.
"But thereís more of a focus on the whole ecosystem, of not
just planting things but also removing things, like buckthorn, that
Patron saints: Rosalind Creasy, author of "The Complete Book
of Edible Landscaping;" Alice Waters, owner of Californiaís
Chez Panisse restaurant
Influences: Grandmothers, World War II victory gardens, farmers
Signature plants: Palate pleasers that can stand up to Wisconsinís
"Of all the gardening types, edible gardens are unique because
they can fit into any other landscape," says Kresl. "They
work with any type of garden style or personality."
Certainly the oldest gardening style known to man, edible gardeners
started out as purely practical. "Kitchen gardens were very
popular in the New World and what people are doing now has really
evolved from that," he adds. "We donít see the big garden
plots that people used for survival or to feed their families anymore,
but there is a definite interest in this type of gardening."
This type of gardening draws a wide swath of people. Thereís the
organic crowd and the ultimate locavores who relish nothing more than
walking outside for a fresh-picked tomato or herbs. Then there are
those who embrace the challenge of simply growing their own food.
Kresl is one of them. He incorporates herbs into his landscape ó
noting that parsley can make a "great little hedge" ó as
well as terra cotta pots for herbs and tomatoes. "In my opinion,
this isnít an approach you should try to save money," he says.
"Itís more about enjoyment and convenience, and then thereís
a little pride in being able to say you grew it yourself."
Patron saints: Poet Stanley Kunitz, author of "The Wild Braid:
A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden;" artist Simon Rodea;
environmentalist John Muir
Influences: Surrealism, American folk art
Signature plants: All are welcome
As a self-described eccentric gardener, master gardener Barbara
McHugh has an apt description for her landscape. "Itís like an
heirloom quilt that Iím piecing together from scraps Ö and Iím
never going to finish it," she says. "I like to deconstruct
previous gardening notions and try new ideas."
If youíre a creative soul who doesnít like to abide by notions
and rules, this is where you should be digging. "Our defining
element is that we donít have a defining element," laughs
McHugh, who often answers the phone at the Ozaukee County Master
Gardenersí Yard and Garden Line.
Eccentric gardeners have a tendency to accept all plants and all
objets díart that come their way and incorporate them into the
landscape. Nature is not the enemy; itís a conspirator in an
eccentric garden. This type of gardener also tends to apply an artistís
eye to the ground.
Thatís one of the reasons McHugh cites Simon Rodea, creator of
the Watts Towers in Los Angeles, as a personal patron saint. Like
Watts, McHugh is a fan of thoughtfully incorporated objects. "I
drag things home," she says. "I have four pieces of a
bridge, a walkway, Studebaker hubcaps."
But itís also important to understand that eccentric gardening
has a purpose; itís not controlled chaos. Instead, thereís more of
a happy tension between gardener and nature. "I do have little
pools of order in my landscape, such as my vegetable gardens,"
she says. "Nature always tries to reclaim itself, but in my
landscape, I choose who lives and who dies."