delighted were the Kleimenhagens by the results of their
backyard undertaking that a few years ago they decided to take
on the front yard, too. Today, brick paths alternate with
walkways made of wood chips or stepping stones. Ferns,
bleeding hearts, May apples, Jacob’s ladders, lungworts and
brunneras fill in the spaces with a tapestry of color and
Hartland resident Betty Kleimenhagen and her daughter Louisa have
done the nearly unthinkable: Created a subdivision landscape that
doesn’t include a blade of grass.
Instead of a lawn, the Kleimenhagens have sweeps of shade-loving
plants that provide an ever-changing vista on the family’s wooded,
one-acre lot. "We think grass is a weed," chuckles Louisa.
"If my husband sees grass, he pulls it," Betty adds.
"That’s his contribution to gardening."
When the Kleimenhagens bought their lot in the late 1970s, it was
because they wanted to live among the trees. They cleared many of the
smaller trees themselves to make way for their saltbox house, and paid
their builder a premium to work around the towering oaks, maples and
hickories. At one time, the backyard held a big sandbox and other
accoutrements of an active family. About 10 years ago, with her
children grown, Betty decided it was time to transform the landscape.
Louisa, who has a horticulture degree from UW-Madison, was
recruited to create a landscape design.
"I wanted to do the planting myself, and I didn’t want to be
overwhelmed, so I told her, ‘Put me on a 5-year plan,’" Betty
recalls. Like most gardening projects, this one took a lot longer than
Louisa’s plan was to collect the hodgepodge of existing plants
and organize them into groupings. She envisioned massed plantings,
each with a different foliage color or texture to create an
interesting pattern even when the plants aren’t in bloom. She
repeated groupings of some plants to lead the viewer’s eyes through
the landscape. When viewed from the serenity of the screened porch or
back patio, the effect is a cool and restful retreat.
As every gardener knows, the work in the garden is far from done.
Already, the two are planning to add one or maybe two water features.
There’s also a rain garden on the drawing board with a resting place
where storm water can be absorbed into the soil.
There is, however, one common maintenance task that won’t make
the project list. There won’t be any grass to mow.
daughter also wanted the yard to be interesting as much of the
year as possible. They planted daffodils and Virginia
bluebells for early spring color. After these plants flower,
their foliage dies back, and their places are taken by plants
that get a later start on the growing season. When the
summer-flowering plants are finished, the gardeners leave big
sweeps of black-eyed Susan seedheads for birds to enjoy along
with the nuts and berries of the yard’s many shrubs and