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Lakeside Gem
Homeowners preserve well-known East side garden

Photos by Doug Edmunds

April 2013

Julie and Mike Schinzer’s colorful garden — a riot of tulips, roses and peonies, to name just a few — is the talk of their East Side neighborhood.

"That was one of the attractions," says Julie Schinzer, about their decision to uproot from an Oconomowoc Lake home four years ago to this rambling 1915 house on an urban corner lot. "Mike intended to garden it himself but quickly became overwhelmed." When neighbors began inquiring, with great concern, "Are you keeping the gardens?" the Schinzers knew they had a responsibility to the community to keep this focal point alive.

Christine Anderson, who cared for the garden under its previous owners, took over the taming with a goal to loosen its formal structure and add a contemporary, almost funky, feel. "The view of Lake Michigan is just stunning: I smile the whole time I’m there. They feel like they’re carrying on this banner," says Anderson about the couple’s inherited garden. "People make a point of jogging past there and walking their dogs past there, too."

The Schinzers also consulted Julie’s brother, who is a horticulturist, about changes they ought to make. Mike Schinzer’s love for gardening allows him to pitch in, too. Fencing was added, including a wrought-iron gate (handmade by a blacksmith), and an invisible fence (to keep "Spud," the Schinzers’ yellow labrador retriever safe). There is also now a sprinkler system and a limestone patio for outdoor entertaining. A matronly statue, whom they’ve dubbed Rose and who presided over the garden even before they bought the house, is seamlessly woven into the landscape. Throughout, there’s an intentional effort to attract birds and butterflies.

Anderson’s five favorite features in this particular garden are tree peonies, monkshood, yellow magnolias, weeping spruce tree and Home Run roses. "Some of the roses smell like lemons, almost citrus-scented," she says.

"It’s truly like Christmas or the Fourth of July," Julie Schinzer says about the sheer variety of plants, trees and flowers within the garden, and all of its seasonal transformations. It’s the talk of the block come spring. Once, Mike Schinzer invited a bridal party taking photos across the street — with Lake Michigan in the backdrop — to snap shots in his garden too. The garden, which wraps around the house, is also frequently used for plein-air parties, from Air Show viewing fetes to fundraisers.


This story ran in the April 2013 issue of: