Reichenbachís perennial garden is lined with trees and shrubs.
Just outside of
Pewaukee on a street lined with split-level homes and perfectly
manicured lawns, Bill Reichenbach has transformed the grounds of a
1940s-era cottage into a natural landscaperís dream.
The lush oasis
may look wild, but this is not the work of your average back-to-nature
suburbanite. Reichenbach is an International Society of Arboriculture
certified arborist and 25-year veteran of the tree and landscape
business. What he has growing on his acre of land is a mini-arboretum,
with more species of plants and trees than even he can remember.
bought the property in 1990. The cute wood cottage had its appeal, but
what really sealed the deal was the huge gingko tree in the front
yard. "I often tell people I bought the tree and the house came
with it," he says. More than 20 years later the tree is even more
impressive, although today it no longer stands alone surrounded by a
stretch of green lawn.
The grass was
Reichenbachís first project. He got rid of it and began pocket
planting small trees, shrubs and ground cover. To the untrained eye,
the property looks like it has been left to grow wild, but Reichenbach
had a plan and has worked hard to see it through. "Most people
have the misconception that a natural landscape is easier to maintain
than a lawn. Thatís not true. There are weeds, buckthorn and garlic
mustard and plenty of other things I have to control. Plants and trees
fail and need to be removed and replaced. Itís a lot of work, but I
prefer that to sitting on a lawn mower all day," he says.
with spring foliage
alone. "More people are moving toward natural landscaping every
year; we should do more of it," he says. "We grow and
maintain too much turf, which is often chemical-dependent and not as
good for life in general. Natural landscaping offers a habitat for
birds and bees and other animals. Itís vibrant; thereís life
everywhere you look."
||A Swiss Stone
When he is not
sitting on one of the stumps he has scattered throughout his property
contemplating his next move, Reichenbach is assisting homeowners with
tree care, pruning, insect and disease control or proper planting
methods for Wachtel Tree Service & Science in Merton. What advice
does he give clients looking to go au naturel? "Get professional
help or do a lot of research. You have to analyze site conditions to
determine what kind of soil and exposure you have. Different plants
have different growing conditions. The biggest mistake I see is that
people begin by saying they want a specific tree in a specific spot.
They should do just the opposite. They should start with the space,
study its conditions and then decide what tree is right for that
a native wildflower
The two other
most common errors Reichenbach sees are overplanting and planting too
deep. "People want to fill a space quick so they put in too many
plants. You need to look down the road and take into account how big
things will end up. They also need to know that the majority of roots
are less than 1 foot underground. This is where the best soil is, but
people plant deeper. The tissue of the trunk is made to be in the open
air; if you plant it underground, it can rot."
says, make a plan, but understand that things change. "All trees
die and all wood rots. I am a professional tree guy and I lose plants.
Nothing is forever. Landscapes are dynamic. Keep an open mind and
adapt as needed. Remember with natural landscaping, itís always a
work in progress, but thatís why itís so much fun."