A Wisconsin Garden Designed for All Seasons

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With its range of colors and varied textures, this Wisconsin garden delights in all seasons. Landscape designer Michael Patek made sure the landscape would provide year-round interest through blooms, grasses, silhouettes and bark. He also provided privacy from the neighbors, made the most of vistas and added a lovely pond. Let’s take a stroll through the seasons in the garden.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

Photos by Michael Patek

Garden at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple of empty nesters
Location: Sussex, Wisconsin
Size: About 1.4 acres (0.6 hectare)
Designer: Michael Patek of Cottage Gardener

The color starts to pop out in the spring, thanks to tulips and daffodils all around the house, seen here off the back patio.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

In late spring and early summer, azaleas and German irises on the right side of the house beckon visitors down this bluestone path to the backyard. A garden with herbs and vegetables is just out of the picture to the right.

“At this time of year, the peonies were about to pop,” Patek says. You can make them out on the left side of the photo. A group of paper birch trees at the end of the path pushes you to turn left and see the pond.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

The paper birches have gorgeous white bark and provide shade for a hosta garden underneath. They also offer privacy from the neighboring house. Just in front of the birch trees is an alfresco dining spot and, beyond that, a fire pit. In the background, you can see a silo from the original farm — the farmer sold some of his land for this development of homes on 1.4-acre lots.

The patio is full-range bluestone in a pattern composed of five sizes. “It has a full range of color — coppers, grays and blues,” Patek says. The bluestone’s hues complement the ever-changing colors in the plant palette.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

Turning left at the birches leads you to this backyard patio, seen here at sunrise during midsummer.

Around the patio, you’ll spy silvery-green ornamental grass and yellow ‘Happy Returns’ daylilies. A ‘Pumila’ spruce provides evergreen color year-round.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

Beyond the chairs, oak leaf hydrangea, salvia, Shasta daisy, red monarda, rudbeckia and heliopsis provide a wide range of midsummer color. The tree is a narrow cultivar of serviceberry, which offers year-round interest through berries, blossoms, lovely leaves and smooth gray bark.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

The pond is about 3 feet deep. It has a rubber liner with a gravel bed on the bottom and two waterfalls. Patek used a pond system by Aquascape and highly recommends it for its durability. The boulders around the pond’s edge are local Wisconsin granite. “Granite is preferable to limestone around the pond because it has less of a leeching effect on the water,” he says.

From left to right you’ll spy ‘Grey Owl’ juniper, mugo pine, barberry, little bluestem and Tiger Eyes staghorn sumac. In the pond are waterlilies and water irises.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

In late summer, zinnias provide happy color as the gaillardia and ‘Indian Summer’ rudbeckia start to fade. Russian sage is still bringing in the purplish blues as the rest of the perennials begin to go to seed.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

Here’s the fall view across the pond toward the house.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

In the fall, all eyes go to the brilliant orange-red leaves on the Japanese stewartia tree, its white summertime flowers just a fading memory. The leaves of the paper birch trees provide a beautiful golden yellow backdrop.

On the ground, the grasses transform to wheat colors, the lavender maintains its somewhat spiky structure, and the yellow coreopsis blossoms are going to seed.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

Fall is a wonderful time of year to enjoy the fire pit, which is 4 feet in diameter. There is a metal ring inside concealed by limestone.

This part of the patio is also made up of the full-range bluestone, but this time, the stone is cut in an irregular pattern. “It’s a little more natural and less formal,” Patek says.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

The greens of the juniper, pine and yucca contrast with the yellow of the Tiger Eyes staghorn sumac and the red of the barberry.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

Erigeron’s purplish blues look beautiful during a fall frost.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

The white of the paper birch trees is all the more beautiful next to the flaming red of the Japanese maple and the sunlight-grabbing wheat color of the purple miscanthus.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

During winter, colors and variations in bark as well as interesting silhouettes, such as that of the Tiger Eyes staghorn sumac shown here, provide interest in the foreground. The snow-covered meadow leading up to the edge of the evergreens in the woods is a serene winter vista.

Traditional Landscape by Cottage Gardener, LTD

Cottage Gardener, LTD

Patek says the opportunity to enjoy the snow atop the purple miscanthus like this is short-lived. “If it snows just right, it looks great, but if the snow is too heavy, it just pounds it into the ground,” he says.

Toward the back of the photo, the branches of the redtwig dogwood will contrast with the snow until winter ends.

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