Itís the plants that smell good that
Pewaukee resident Dianne Henke wants blooming in her gardens. Roses,
peonies and lilacs all contribute both their fragrance and color to
Henkeís desire to make the world a beautiful place. "Iím a
sucker for roses," she admits.
Created on the site of a reportedly
"haunted house," the landscape was a bare canvas when Henke
hired Dennis Buettner of the Fox Point-based Buettner and Associates
to site her new home and design the landscape and gardens.
"The woman who lived in the
original house was a recluse," says Henke. "Her last wish
was that after her death, the house was going to be burnt down. We
were thrilled we could honor her last wish."
The Henkes invited their neighbors to a
rather nontraditional "house warming" gathering on St.
Patrickís Day some 12 years ago and allowed the local fire
department to burn the structure to the ground. Out of the ashes came
a limestone Tudor.
"When we built the house, the
gardens had to be developed to fit the property," she says. A
survey of the land found that the Henkes actually had 10 acres instead
of a 7.5-acre lot to work with.
Mixed woods comprise two thirds of the
property. The woods play host to shooting stars and trilliums in the
spring. Some 3.5 acres are landscaped with lush green lawns and
Buettner and Henke began the process of
creating the overall plan after viewing the site from a boat on
Pewaukee Lake. "Itís nice when a client comes to you before
they build the house," says Buettner, "rather than just
having to Ďshrub it upí when itís done."
Bringing Buettner in early allowed him
to locate the house for the best views and preserve the existing
trees. "He had the vision to place the house and knew how the
patio had to complement the house," says Henke. "He listened
to what we needed and followed what nature had already
The result was an undulating landscape
thatís "tailored to where both human and nature can react
naturally," she adds. Part of the design included a set of broad,
curving steps to invite people down from the terrace to the lake.
The property had significant springs
that flowed year-round so Buettner formed a stream channel that runs
under the driveway and supports various wetland plants. He also
created a couple of shallow ponds for the three Henke children to
safely play in.
Pewaukee Lake get an excellent view of the Henkesí front
yard gardens. The Henkes began planning the yard while the
house was under construction so the gardens would "fit
The dining terrace includes a honey
locust shade tree with small leaves that are easy to remove. The
opposite terrace contains an ash tree. The sunny side on the south
chimney sports climbing roses. The shady side next to the porch hosts
Starting from scratch gave Henkeís
imagination a free rein. "She was going to have everything she
wanted," says Nancy Benninghouse, owner of Firefly Garden Design
in Wauwatosa, who consulted with Henke on the plant choices.
"Dianne was a passionate gardener. I would draw up preliminary
plant palettes for her and she would immerse herself in the plant
Besides roses, peonies were a
must-have. Henke acquired varieties that bloomed early in the season,
blossomed during the middle of the season, and those that waited till
the end of season to show their colors.
While many gardeners insist that plants
bloom where they are planted, Henke takes a different tact. If things
donít grow well where they are, sheíll move them to another
location. "Dianne would say itís an opportunity to try
something else," says Benninghouse. "She likes to
experiment. When something wouldnít work, she would look through the
catalogs and find something better."
"I would try to find a plant that
likes it where itís planted," says Henke. "I want the
plant to be the best it can be by putting it in the right place."
Thus the original rose garden is now the roseless garden after Henke
had to move the flowers to a new spot. And when the hydrangea planted
next to the door facing the road limped along until it gave up the
ghost, Benninghouse and Henke decided to put in a weeping cherry,
which has flourished.
tucked into a nook on the patio is surrounded by a variety of
Other Henke choices include varieties
of daylilies, blue Amsonia and bearded irises. "I tend to have a
lot of the solid, deep purple or lighter purple irises," she
says. "They make a nice contrast with the peonies."
In addition to dressing up the house,
the gardens and landscape serve a more numinous purpose. Henke, who is
heavily immersed in social justice issues, uses nature as a respite.
"This garden is like a spiritual retreat," she says.
"Digging in the soil and seeing the flowers bloom is really
seeing the beauty of creation."