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Lakeside retreat
Between the water’s edge and golf course green 
are the beautiful cottage gardens surrounding the Evans’ home

By PATRICE PELTIER

June 2007

With Lac La Belle shimmering before her and the Lac La Belle Golf Club beckoning at her back door, it’s a wonder Karen Evans has any time for gardening. Yet from the moment you spy her charming yellow Victorian, it’s clear someone with a green thumb lives here.

Color — bold, exuberant color all summer — is what Evans had in mind for her landscape, and she achieved it. Even the corniced mailbox doubles as a planter, cascading with pink petunias.

"I wanted it to look like Door County," says Evans, an admirer of the casual, cottage garden style.

"I always try to put paths in my gardens," says Karen Evans. The stepping stone path through this garden is lined with creeping thyme. "It smells so good when you walk on it," Evans reports.


This is actually the second version of this landscape. Evans and her husband Bill built the house in 1990, planting many of the existing trees at that time. In 1995, they bought a house on the other side of the lake. But, they really liked that Victorian, so when it became available again in 2002, they bought it back.

To give the landscape a new look, Evans worked with Meg Miller Landscape Design in Stone Bank. Evans and Miller have been collaborating for eight years, starting with that house across the lake. "We’ve become friends over the years," Miller says.

And how could Evans and Miller not get to know each other well looking over the lush landscape that is filled with beautiful flowers and plants.

Hydrangeas bloom in the filtered shade of a locust tree, and near the back door, lady’s mantle, azaleas and astilbes share space with a birch tree. Large-leaved coleus and begonias bloom from containers that add color on another plane.

Between the house and the driveway an arbor, painted in deeper tones of the Victorian’s sage-green trim, invites you to explore further. Meg Miller’s husband Dan custom-made the arbor as well as many trellises to complement the home’s architecture. Flowers spill from window boxes and billow in lushly planted beds.


The two shady areas are linked by repeating many of the same sun-loving plants that festoon the front walk. Along the side of the house, a black-eyed Susan vine grows up a trellis. Everywhere, colorful pinwheels spin in the lake breeze — an attempt to keep hungry rabbits at bay.

The back of the house opens onto a private patio with a spa. "My husband uses the spa every day and our grandkids love it," Evans says. "They go in the lake, and then they want to go in the spa."

The spa is enclosed by oak-leaved hydrangeas, hibiscus, black-eyed Susans, day lilies and colorful annuals. Here and there, old pine trees that pre-date the house offer privacy. Beyond them, the yard opens seamlessly into the golf course.

Tall pines separate the Evans from their next-door neighbors. Between these pines and the house, a narrow path of stepping stones lined with the tall yellow spikes of ligularia leads back toward the front of the house. Here, a shady view of the lake is framed by a metal trellis lined with cardinals.

Roses, phlox, blazing star and perennial geraniums bloom in hues of pink and red. Coreopsis adds a punch of yellow, while delphiniums, Russian sage, verbena and butterfly bush provide a palette of purples and blues. Huge red and orange zinnias as well as red hibiscus — with flowers nearly as large as dinner plates — pick up the color of the patio umbrella and cushions.


With golf, grandkids, watersports and other diversions, it’s a wonder Evans has time to weed, deadhead, water and otherwise tend her extensive gardens, yet garden she does. In fact, when she’s not outside amidst the flowers, Evans says she likes to just sit in her house and admire the garden view.

"When I start looking out the windows," she admits, "I don’t get anything else done."