Bastians have been planting their yard with gardens for years.
They did not follow a strict plan, but rather designed it
along the way.
There’s a bit of England tucked
behind a thoroughly Midwestern Lannon stone tri-level home in Elm
You can’t see it from the road, but
what lies behind this house is a 25-year labor of love created by
irrepressible gardeners Frank and Hope Bastian. Lush beds brimming
with a continuously changing mix of trees, shrubs, perennials and
annuals border the back yard. There are islands and peninsulas of
colorful plants offering secret paths and hidden views, all offset by
a velvety green lawn.
perennials create a splash of color.
Aside from wanting to emulate Frank’s
favorite style — English gardens — the couple had no grand plan
for their one-acre yard when they and sons Nate and Joe moved here
more than two decades ago. At the time, the landscaping was limited to
a rose garden, some pine trees and what Hope refers to as a
"50,000 gallon water feature" aka the swimming pool.
"We started in the pool area and
moved out a little each year," Hope explains.
Exactly how their garden grows is often
a mix of vision and happenstance. Hope does the plant buying. She goes
through catalogs and visits garden centers, buying what catches her
eye. "Some-times we have a place for them; sometimes not,"
she reports. If there’s no particular spot for a prized purchase, a
new flower bed may be born.
"My husband has the eye for
things," Hope says. "He sees how everything goes
are planted throughout the property including these two that
stand sentry in the back yard.
Sometimes, nature helps create a new
garden — like when some pines died of old age a few years ago. Frank
turned the trunks into a sculpture that forms the centerpiece of a
new, sunny flower bed.
Last year, Hope decided to use the spot
where she composts into a flower garden grown from seed. Amongst the
zinnias, nasturtiums and other flower seeds she planted was a big
surprise — vegetables that sprang from seeds left in the compost.
And, the veggies weren’t the only ones to appreciate the especially
fertile soil. "Have you ever seen cosmos grow so high," Hope
exclaimed, pointing to the 7-foot tall plants.
When the 9-foot-tall cedar fence around
the pool blew over in a storm a few years ago, this created another
"accident" turned opportunity. The Bastians replaced the
solid fence with a handsome wrought iron one they could see through.
This provided the impetus for a whole new garden beyond the fence.
Here, the burgundy leaves of Japanese barberry shrubs and green
conifers offset purple coneflowers, white Asiatic lilies, puffy pink
hydrangeas and fragrant bee balm.
Early on, the couple replaced the
willows growing along the back of the property with conifers from
their home up north. "They were mostly just scrubs," Hope
recalls. Mingled among them are the trees each of her sons brought
home from their school Arbor Day celebrations. At the time, the trees,
forgotten for a few days in school backpacks and such (as
third-graders are wont to do), were barely more than sticks. Today,
they loom 40 feet.
Inside this green and private backdrop,
a profusion of prairie plants like baptisia, black-eyed Susans,
queen-of-the-prairie, Joe Pye weed and helianthus happily mingle with
an eclectic mix of sedum, Asiatic lilies, phlox and ornamental millet.
Eventually, this back border became so deep that Hope created woodchip
paths through it to provide access for both viewing and maintaining
the many plants.
Spotted throughout the gardens are
pairs of evergreens — arborvitae, pines, blue spruce and boxwood.
Earlier in their lives, each pair graced the large planters that flank
the Bastians’ front doors. The trees, accompanied by annuals,
decorate the entry for a season and then take up permanent residence
in the garden. "We’ve had so much fun with this," Hope
Around the pool, the original rose
garden remains, although its occupants have changed over time.
Learning how to care for the tender hybrid tea roses has become a
mission for Hope. Dissatisfied with their performance, Hope
determined, "Either I have to get into this or get out of
it." She jumped in with both feet, researching the plants’
requirements and talking to rose aficionados about successful
techniques. "Now, they’re looking great," she says with
In addition to the roses, Hope likes to
use lots of annuals, including many in large containers, to provide
bursts of color throughout the growing season. Some plants — like
the palms and hibiscus — find a home inside for the winter. To get a
jump on the growing season, Hope starts other tropical plants indoors
over the winter.
"I start the cannas in February.
They take three to four months to wake up," she says. Sometimes,
though, a plant takes off sooner than expected.
"I started the elephant ears in
mid-February. They grew so fast, I didn’t have room for them in the
house," she recalls. "I made myself a note: ‘Next year,
start in April.’ Because, really, how do you deal with elephant ears
in the house?"
Taking care of all these gardens is a
big job — one that’s grown over time. Both children of gardeners,
Hope says she and Frank became more intensely interested after their
own children left home.
They share the work of the gardens,
dividing tasks according to their interests. Both weed. Hope says she
deadheads and cuts back the flowering plants — the "fussy
stuff." Frank handles pruning the trees and shrubs. "He’s
constantly clipping, and I’m the picker upper," Hope notes.
Retired after 30 years as a special
education teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools, Hope calls gardening
her new full-time job. "In the spring, whoa, every minute is
filled with dividing, planting, sowing seeds, mulching," she
says."I used to spend more money, but now I don’t have time to
shop," she adds with a chuckle.
"We don’t travel in the summer,
because you can’t leave all this," she continues, sweeping her
arm across the flowering expanse. Good thing she can be transported to
the English countryside simply by stepping into her back yard.