Beautiful Outhouse Gardens: When Life Gives You Lemons. . .

Beautiful Outhouse Gardens: When Life Gives You Lemons. . .

Part of Ep. 2004 Whiffs, Wasps and Wonders

Visit the historic Village of Cooksville where even outhouses are cherished and have become the focal point of  elegant gardens.

Premiere date: May 12, 2012

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

SEGMENT #1: BEAUTIFUL OUTHOUSE GARDENS: WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS

 

Shelley:

Here in Cooksville, no matter how decrepit the structure, people tend to not throw anything away! Cooksville is a very special community outside of Janesville. The entire village is on the National Register of Historic Places. I'm with one of the residents, Jennifer Ehle. Jennifer, you have one of the oldest homes in Cooksville?

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Correct. This is considered the oldest house in Rock County that was built as a home that is still being used as a home.

 

Shelley:

And you were blessed with some decrepit structures on your property when you moved here.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Correct. The irony of this is when we moved into our house, we had no indoor plumbing but we had two outhouses.

 

Shelley:

Well, lucky you!

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Yes!

Shelley:

This is not still functioning as an outhouse? I'm going to check.

 

[both laugh]

 

Shelley:

No, it looks more like a kind of a garden storage shed.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Correct.

 

Shelley:

The interesting part about this is, at least from my point of view as a gardener, it looks to me like you've made this the focal point of this area of your garden.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Yes, we have. This was a very shaded area. We needed something with some height, something that would pop. So we created a color scheme that would attract the eyes.

 

Shelley:

I've never heard of anybody restoring an outhouse. But it works! You have two of them.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

We have two.

 

Shelley:

So you've quite a bit of work with this.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Correct.

 

Shelley:

Now you've also got some plants in this area that really work well as part of this outhouse garden scheme.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Correct. Well again, we're working in a shade area so we have some lilies that we planted. These are called Lilium speciosum Album. We also have a Quickfire hydrangea. These are shade plants with some sun.

 

Shelley:

This Quick Fire hydrangea is a really special hydrangea, isn't it?

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Correct. It made the top 20 list of kind of sure fire hydrangeas indestructible, which makes my list.

 

Shelley:

Yeah, anything indestructible goes onto my list. Now, another theme that I see throughout the gardens here is metal.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Correct. We live next door to the Cooksville Blacksmith Shop. It is a working blacksmith shop. Dr. Tom Evermore did a lot of his sculpture work over here at the blacksmith shop.

 

Shelley:

Kind of a famous sculptor of metal.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

So we just felt like there had to be one in Cooksville so we purchased one of them for the yard.

 

Shelley:

One of his beautiful big birds.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

That's correct.

 

Shelley:

Then other pieces look like they just maybe walked across the back yard?

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Correct. Yes, we've become good friends with Dr. Evermore's son. My friend and I have a good eye for what could be good art work so we have purchased, borrowed, a number of pieces.

 

Shelley:

Well, the other outhouse was more effort. Let's go take a look at that.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Yes, okay.

 

Shelley:

Okay, now this is fun. I mean, a pink outhouse as the focal point of a garden! I didn't think it would work, but it's fantastic. The other one was just a coat of paint. This one is the one that cost you.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Yes, this one required a major amount of work. I mean, we're talking carpenters, we're taking cement guys. Rebuilding. Rebuilding the entire building.

 

Shelley:

What did it cost you?

 

Jennifer Ehle:

About $2,000.

 

Shelley:

Wow! Now, some people would probably look a little funny at that, but again, I mean this makes you smile when you come by.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

That's right.

 

Shelley:

You have a beautiful flower bed here. Would a functioning outhouse have plants historically planted around it?

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Correct, very many. They would have had plants that would have counteracted the negative smell from the outhouse.

 

Shelley:

Oh, okay.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

So they would have had lilacs. They would have had morning glories. They would have had hollyhocks, which became known as outhouse roses.

 

Shelley:

Really?

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Yes.

 

Shelley:

So they were there for a purpose.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Exactly.

 

Shelley:

Well, your bed is great again. The colors make that pink pop and they just work so well together.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Yes.

 

Shelley:

I see some of the colors kind of repeated behind you.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Very much so. Some of the plants were selected and some have just migrated from the prairie behind us. So, we are very pleased with this borrowed view behind us that we are very thankful for, and that was one of the terms that we learned about in the master gardening class also, is borrowed views. You enhance what you have.

 

Shelley:

Sure, if somebody grew a prairie behind you, take advantage of it, right?

 

Jennifer Ehle:

That's right.

 

Shelley:

You know, we need to talk about the fact that you're not the only person pushing outhouses in Cooksville.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Correct. I have a good friend named Earlene Hanson who is a good gardening friend. She's somebody that picks out color schemes with me, helps me decide what plants I want to have. But she also shares the experience. So I recommend a friend.

 

Shelley:

And the two of you together have kind of changed the face of outhouse gardening in Cooksville.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

Well, I think people are realizing that there is a benefit and a purpose for having other structures in your yard, whether they're functional structures, whether they're part of your overall garden scheme.

 

Shelley:

Or just pure whimsy.

 

Jennifer Ehle:

That's right.

 

Shelley:

Well, thank you so much for sharing this and I'm grateful to have been privy to this tour!

 

Jennifer Ehle:

You're welcome.

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