A French Garden in Alma

A French Garden in Alma

Part of Ep. 1904 Around the World in Wisconsin

In Alma, at the Hotel de Ville, we'll visit a secret garden inspired by the gardens of Southern France and Italy.

Premiere date: Jun 29, 2011

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:
This a great treat, to walk though an ice cream shop to get to this lovely garden.  I’m with one of the co-owners, Dan Kordiak.  Dan, tell us about the ice cream shop; tell us about your garden.  And, where are we? 

Dan Kordiak:
Well, my buddy Jeff and I came to Alma, Wisconsin, five years ago.  Basically, because we had to work though these gardens, these world class bones that we found here.  The building here and across the street had been abandoned since even the ‘50s. 
Shelley Ryan:
Oh dear. 

Dan Kordiak:
The ice cream shop had been opened, had remained open until the bitter end, I guess, just before we hit town.  And this garden was here.  The walls had been built here in 1867, when they built the building.  Our fountain in the corner here still sits where the well was sitting.  The hand pump is still underneath our little fountain there. 

Shelley Ryan:
But this is just the beginning.  I mean you designed this for us to discover as we walk through it, right? 

Dan Kordiak:
People walk into the shop, they look right out the French doors into the garden, they love that.  They’re drawn into the gardens and up the walkway. 

Shelley Ryan:
Let’s go take a look. 

Dan Kordiak:
Let’s go that way now. 

Shelley Ryan:
Okay. 

Dan Kordiak:
Upstairs here and across the street, we have the Hotel de Ville, our European themed hotel rooms. 

Shelley Ryan:
So hence, the European themed gardens. 

Dan Kordiak:
The Fench formal gardens, the fleur-de-lis, which we’ve put into the plants is our symbol for the hotel. 

Shelley Ryan:
I really love the digitalis up there with the statue.  Again, the terracing is just gorgeous. 

Dan Kordiak:
Jeff does all the flowers.  Luckily it’s a marriage made in heaven.  I do the topiary animals and the shrubbery and he loves the flowers.  

Shelley Ryan:
So you get the sharp objects, hmm.  Well, and so this is the French formal, the centerpiece. 

Dan Kordiak:
Yes, it is.  Here’s where I just recently planted 650 boxwoods. 

Shelley Ryan:
I love the statue.  I mean, that’s just beautiful.  But, you know, I have to tell you, my favorite part is this right here. 

Dan Kordiak:
I’m thrilled that you love it.  But I brought all these huge bronzes in, and people seem to like the small pigs is actually what gets the comments. 

Shelley Ryan:
You mean the little guys like that there? 

Dan Kordiak:
There, and on the other side of the gardens. 

Shelley Ryan:
But, you know, I do have a question for you, because I did see a few other pigs around here.  In
fact, let me see if I can find that one. 

Dan Kordiak:
Yes, I know you’re going to go into our flying pig. 

Shelley Ryan:
Yeah, the one up there on the roof.  You going to tell me about that one? 

Dan Kordiak:
There’s a story that goes with that, and not today. 

Shelley Ryan:
Darn! 

Dan Kordiak:
You’ll have to stay at the hotel and I’ll go into it.  You’re going to love it.  We get more comment on that pig than anything, and it’s not even in the gardens. 

Shelley Ryan:
Okay, then I have an excuse to come back.  I love this fountain, too.  This is beautiful.  Is this another old well or something? 

Dan Kordiak:
This was actually the outhouse foundation. 
(Shelley laughs) 

Dan Kordiak:
It was another find.  The outhouse was actually lying on top of it when we first found the gardens along with the debris that was in here. 

Shelley Ryan:
So maybe I don’t want to look down too far. 

Dan Kordiak:
Well, it’s pretty pure water down there actually.  We felt that with the Italian hillside terraced gardens, we’d call it the Privy Fountain. 

Shelley Ryan:
Well, I’m glad I’m privy to that information.  There, how’s that? 

Dan Kordiak:
It works.  It works for me. 

Shelley Ryan:
Look at this.  Is this part of the original garden? 

Dan Kordiak:
The upper two walls date back to 1867, along with the building. 

Shelley Ryan:
Wow. 

Dan Kordiak:
The lower part was dug out in the ‘40s, when actually it was moved across the street and put
underneath the house that we currently own there, too.  The walls had collapsed though. 

Shelley Ryan:
Oh, dear. 

Dan Kordiak:
25 years ago, and twice more since we’ve put them up. 

Shelley Ryan:
Oh no. 

Dan Kordiak:
Initially, there a mammoth pile of rocks at the bottom after a washout.  Third time up, just recently.  We think we’re done with it.  We carried each of, well what would have been the largest of these rocks, because this is just the tail end remainder of it, up the couple steps here and built the staircase here, walked across the back, up a construction staircase, up a ramp, hoisted them up.  There’s another wall behind that wall, so it was actually 18 inches of rock, each hand set and tried to fit in.  We’ve actually gotten, honestly, to what we recognized some of the rocks as they went back up for the third time. 

Shelley Ryan:
You’ve seen them before!

Dan Kordiak:
It’s painful, yes. 

Shelley Ryan:
So maybe instead of an Italian garden, it’s more like the Egyptian pyramid. 

Dan Kordiak:
We hear that, too.  The ice cream shop guests will sit here during the weekends, watch us work, and they say it’s the best thing they’ve seen up and down the avenue. 

Shelley Ryan:
Well, and yet again, they’re really is this European feel to this hidden Italian garden. 

Dan Kordiak:
It really is.  The town was founded by the Swiss in the 1850s, so they knew how to hold a hillside back. 

Shelley Ryan:
And you’ve had people from Europe come here and tell you you’re doing it right.  

Dan Kordiak:
Yeah, they come out of the Mayo Clinic, and they’re the Europeans, and they see this and they
say, “My Lord, we’re home.” 

Shelley Ryan:
Oh, that must be a nice retreat.  And I love what you’re doing here, too.  You’ve got these little topiary going.  I mean, you’ve got a bunny there. 

Dan Kordiak:
I do have some formal training in topiary, actually.  I watched the movie “Edward Scissorhands.” 

(Shelley laughs) 

Dan Kordiak:
When it came out, I tackled my hedge, in Minneapolis initially, and now I’ve advanced onto the boxwood plants.  I’m about seven years into this plant, into a ten-year topiary, still filling out here and there. 

Shelley Ryan:
Hey, at least you fed them! 

Dan Kordiak:
Yes, absolutely.  The kale’s a great benefit to the topiary animals. 

Shelley Ryan:
They’re recognizable.  What more can you ask? 

Dan Kordiak:
Well, to most people, on a good day, yes. 

Shelley Ryan:
You know, I can’t imagine a better place to stay, in one of the rooms, or come and eat ice cream. 
What a wonderful retreat. 

Dan Kordiak:
It’s been wildly popular.  We had no idea when we got here, to build out the gardens, that we would end up having such a successful hotel as part of the package, and that the hotel guests are here because of the gardens, and not really the other way round. 

Shelley Ryan:
Well, thank you for letting us come and visit, too. 

Dan Kordiak:
Thank you. 

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