conley6.gif (2529 bytes)


Leveraged space


May 2008

Large elephant ears and the bright foliage of a coleus plant are just a few of the selections Van Ommeren grows in terra cotta pots. The pots flank the base of a concrete fountain with a lionís head. An Asian-inspired wooden trellis frames a stone bench. Hanging pots of annuals offer a dramatic counterpoint to the lush environment.

Peter Van Ommerenís backyard proves the point that small can be beautiful. Not letting size reduce his vision, over the past 15 years, this Wauwatosa homeowner has planted 18 trees in his postage-stamp size space while leaving room for both a significant selection of perennials and a bit of grassy lawn. Using the dwarf varieties, most of which will only grow 10 feet tall, Van Ommeren has truly leveraged the space in his 40-foot by 50-foot city lot. Heís expanded his efforts to the front yard, converting the tree line with spiraea, pachysandra, burning bush and a Mugo pine.

Varieties of dwarf conifers found in Van Ommerenís garden include Alberta spruce, bristlecone pine and a "Little Gem" juniper that was grafted onto a standard conifer. Pachysandra is utilized as a ground cover; sedums, purple coneflowers and other perennials add color. A clematis grows skyward on a trellis. The papery bark of a river birch, viburnums and ornamental grasses provide four-season interest. Youíll know itís spring when the Japanese lilac and star magnolia begin to bloom.

Two chaise lounges sit side-by-side under a canvas umbrella, inviting visitors to stop and enjoy the view. The slate patio provides a good contrast to all the greenery. Van Ommeren fenced in his yard to provide a bit of privacy and to frame the space. With the approval of his neighbors, he installed chicken wire along the exterior of the wooden fence to keep the rabbits at bay.

Van Ommeren employs potscaping to force shots of color among the various hues of green. Tropicals like cannas reflect this retired psychiatric nurseís Dutch and Indonesian ancestry. The foxtail spruce appears to have gotten a little out of hand. The 30-foot-tall conifer tucked in the corner of the back yard was only supposed to grow to 10 feet. Van Ommeren designed the limestone steps leading to the upper backyard and garden.




This article was featured in the May 2008 issue of