Carefully curated stones lead the way to the tea
house, a feature that homeowner Caryl Zaar says completes the
A lushly peaceful Japanese garden blooms at a Bayside
home, thanks to the convergence of the homeowner’s reawakened
childhood passion and the skill of a local landscape company.
Homeowner Caryl Zaar took full advantage of a reawakened interest in
gardens after buying her first home five years ago. Through a friend,
she connected with
LandCrafters Inc. of Wauwatosa and New Berlin. The result is a retreat
that incorporates a variety of Japanese garden features that fits an
eclectic, social lifestyle.
Zaar first fell in love with the gardens of Japan as a teen traveling
with her parents. The retired psychiatric nurse and health care
administrator says finding her Bayside home while volunteering at nearby
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center finally gave her the opportunity to
reignite her passion.
Chaise lounge chairs perched on a smooth stone
patio create a tranquil scene overlooking greenery and plenty of
Enter Mike Manke, registered landscape architect at
the New Berlin-based LandCrafters, who, along with a team of
professionals, planned the garden’s features. While the front yard
provides an appetizer of sorts to the Japanese theme, the backyard
is the main course.
“The overall backyard is a treat,” Manke says. “Maybe it was the amount
of research that was done to get all the elements just right.”
series of dry stream beds that are both decorative and functional are
adorned with stone bridge slabs, while select gravels are lined with
cobblestone to create the illusion of running water. Granite steppers
and irregular bluestone walkway stones add a stunning touch and grant
additional access to all areas of the garden and around the home. A mix
of sculptures enhance the area, including a traditional Japanese Kotoji-style
granite lantern that straddles one of the dry stream beds next to the
patio, a modern piece that sits near the rear of the property, and two
14th century Foo Dogs that guard each side of a short staircase that
leads to the hot tub, infusing a bit of Chinese flair into a Japanese
A mix of stones, sculptures, lanterns and dry beds
enhance the serenity of Zaar’s Zen garden.
Photos by Shoshana Herndon
This Zen garden (a term, Zaar says, is American)
could not be complete without a tea house. Here, the structure is
placed in a quiet corner draped by an existing mature willow and
accessible by a wooden bridge, providing an enhanced metaphysical
transition from the adjoining yard.
Plantings emphasize tailored, lush layers and textures of green. There
is more to both the back and front landscape than the wide variety of
groundcovers, though, such as several species of hostas, grasses and
“There’s one predominant flowing item at a time,” Manke says, noting
that pops of color include cat mint, flowering crab apple and cherry
trees, as well as a burgundy-leafed Japanese maple.
Lanterns and lights along the patio make this the
perfect place to relax
on those beautiful summer nights.
In addition, there is an intricate lighting system
set to Zaar’s preferred subtlety, and an eclectic fence that
combines bamboo and existing elements, designed to contain the
household’s pooch who has the run of the yard. Manke and Zaar say
the design’s success relies on the formation of a great relationship
that includes regular lawn care and landscape maintenance.
After all, Zaar
says, one does not have to have specific green thumb expertise — only
imagination, passion and the willingness to let professionals bring it