happens when two artists collaborate on their homeís landscape? In
Cindy and Alan Vogtís case, the results are a garden thatís artfulóand
Over the last six years, the Oconomowoc
couple has turned an empty lot near Lac LaBelle into a garden retreat
that reflects their personalities and their talents. Alan, a retired
letter carrier who carves Santas-with-attitude as a hobby, handles the
He hand cut every board in the fence
that frames the garden. Then, he created birdhouses, set at varying
heights to punctuate the fence posts. These are not just fashion
accessories, however. A hard-to-lure bluebird has taken up residence
in one of them, Cindy reports proudly.
the garden, the unexpected becomes art. Thereís a broken
terra cotta pot "planted" next to an old garden
fork. To some, those would be throwaways. In Cindyís hands,
it becomes garden art. A barbed-wire wreath hangs on an old
post near the front door. An old wooden wheelbarrow has become
a planter. "We collected water cans years before it was
popular," Cindy says. Their collection is displayed with
panache throughout the yard.
The old-fashioned-looking pump set
amidst the daisies is another of Alanís creations, as are the
benches that give the parking area of the driveway a courtyard feel.
"He handles the structure; Iím
the softener," is how Cindy explains their division of outdoor
A gardener for as long as she can
remember, Cindy laid out formal garden beds in the front yard, then
filled them with a relaxed profusion of perennials and annuals. Itís
not as jumbled as an English cottage garden, and not as tailored as a
formal gardenójust what Cindy had in mind.
Cindy likes the surprise of it.
"Alan will say, ĎI didnít know you planted zinnias there,í
and Iíll say, ĎI didnítóat least not this year,í" Cindy
In addition to filling the canvas of
her yard with flowers, Cindy also paints in more traditional ways. She
painted a sign that says "Pumpkin patch"ójust in case you
didnít know those vegetable plants in the front yard are there on
purpose. The pumpkins are one of the ways Cindy is introducing her
four grandchildren to the joys of gardening. "Last year, we got
40 pumpkins," she says with pride.
centerpiece of the front yard, the rose garden, went in even
before the fence went up. Later, Cindy added a border of
perennials. Big groupings of monarda make a colorful splash
thatís offset by daylilies, coneflowers and blazing stars.
Many of the gardenís accessories are
treasures that have moved with the Vogts from house to house. An old
school bell, a milk can from Cindyís fatherís farm, the wooden
bench that belonged to Alanís grandmother, and an old, white wooden
folding chair from a favorite cottage Up North.
Around the back of the house, the Vogts
have opted for a more natural landscape. They worked hard to save as
many trees as possible when their house was built on this partially
wooded lot. They cut many trees themselves to avoid bulldozers coming
in and clearing. As a result, a grove of trees right outside their
bedroom window shades the house and offers privacy. It even provides a
home for a red fox.
"Our neighbors were so surprised
when they came over," Cindy says. "They said, ĎWe had no
idea all this was back here!í"
In a small clearing beyond these trees,
Cindy has been busy sowing seeds for several years to create a meadow.
An old arbor creates an inviting entrance to the sunny space. Nearby,
Cindy has assembled an unlikely arrangement of her fatherís milk
can, a rusted fertilizer spreader and a bumper with a license plate
from 1952. It not only serves as a still life, it has special meaning
The Vogts spotted the bumper when they
accidentally came upon this newly subdivided lot. The license plate
expired at the end of November, 1952óthe birthdate of Cindyís late
brother. "I got goosebumps when I saw it," Cindy recalls.
"I knew this was our lot. It was meant to be."