An Old Fashioned Country Garden

An Old Fashioned Country Garden

Part of Ep. 1101 Garden Style

Discover why Richard Kilmer uses old-fashioned plants like clove currant and fern-leaf peonies to expand his family's gardens and create a lovely country garden. This Wonewoc garden is also home to chickens and a wildflower pigpen.

Premiere date: Mar 01, 2003

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
This is Clove Currant. It's a wonderful old-fashioned plant for the garden. When the flowers are open, like this, you get the scent of cloves. It's just heavenly. And we're in an old-fashioned country garden in Wonewoc, Wisconsin. And I'm with the owner, Richard Kilmer. Richard, obviously, not only do you have a beautiful country garden, here, you've gotten into country living in a big way.

Richard:
Right. The chickens out here, they keep the weeds down in the garden-- not the weeds, but they keep the insects down.

Shelley:
Well, he's just a cutie, too. This whole area looks like it's been here for a while, too. Tell me the history of this place.

Richard:
Well, the house was built in the 1850s. And my aunt and uncle bought the farm in the 1950s, and they used it as a retirement farm.

Shelley:
But it had a wonderful story before your relatives even got to it, didn't it?

Richard:
It was owned by the circus. It was on the abstract. There was a circus in Wonewoc called the Dode-Fisk circus. And the farm was mortgaged one night to buy an elephant.

Shelley:
Of course, that's what we all do with our mortgage! Really?

Richard:
Right. But they made enough money the next day to pay off the mortgage.

Shelley:
So, they had a 24-hour mortgage because of the elephant.

Richard:
Correct.

Shelley:
Oh, how neat. Well, how did you become involved with this?

Richard:
My uncle was getting elderly and he just didn't want to take care of the farm anymore, so they offered to sell it to me. And that's what I did in 1986. The gardens were originally my aunt's. She was a big gardener. I've added on to them, though. This behind us is the ledge garden that used to be the dump.

Shelley:
Like a real dump?

Richard:
A real dump, they would throw their cans over the hill.

Shelley:
It looks much better now.

Richard:
Much better now. All of it terraced. I have lots of plants planted in the ledge, Celadine poppies.

Shelley:
That spreads all over.

Richard:
Well, Celadine poppy is a quick spreader, right. Trilliums. Lots of rock garden plants.

Shelley:
And just a wave of purple. That's the Johhny Jump-Ups.

Richard:
Oh, the Johnny Jump-Ups, right. I just hate mowing them. They're so beautiful.

Shelley:
Well, there also edible. So, if they spread, you can just eat them. You've got some other spots, too. You had the old dump, and then there's the old pig pen.

Richard:
The old pig pen, which is the bluff. The pigs used to be on the bluff. My aunt planted a lot of wild flowers. And that's where I put my extra plants that I divide.

Shelley:
So, it's just kind of turned into a garden by itself.

Richard:
It's turned into another garden, right.

Shelley:
What is the beautiful haze of purple stuff that seems to be spreading across it?

Richard:
Creeping Verbinia.

Shelley:
I bet that's beautiful in the spring, then, too.

Richard:
It's very beautiful. It's full of daffodils.

Shelley:
And then you've got the chicken coop that used to be a chicken coop.

Richard:
Now it's the guest cabin. And that's my garden I started there. Many of those plants were my aunt's old plants.

Shelley:
So, she brought a lot with her.

Richard:
She brought a lot from her ancestors in Minnesota.

Shelley:
Okay, now you mentioned a couple really special ones in front of the chicken coop.

Richard:
One is a Fern Leaf Peony. I was told it would never be found anywhere but in Wonewoc, but now I see it is in the catalog.

Shelley:
Why is that?

Richard:
It was brought by the settlers from Germany in the 1870s. They call it the Pine Peony here.

Shelley:
Because of the beautiful foliage.

Richard:
The beautiful foliage, right. So, that one's very rare. You see it in catalogs now.

Shelley:
And it's much sought after.

Richard:
Much sought after, yes.

Shelley:
And then, you've got a maze of Dwarf Iris in there that's really pretty, too.

Richard:
And lots of other peonies, too.

Shelley:
You mentioned, also, the Cutleaf peony.

Richard:
She brought that from her ancestor's farm, too.

Shelley:
So, lots of heirlooms around here, then.

Richard:
Lots of heirlooms, right.

Shelley:
Actually, everywhere I look , there are things planted. My most important question, Richard, is when do you sleep?

Richard:
Well, my cousin says I'm the only gardener he knows who gardens on a dead run.

Shelley:
I believe it. I mean, everywhere I look there's something interesting to look at. You've got Morning Glories that are going to climb up the silo. There's flowers. There's bird feeders. Any spots that you just can't walk away without talking about?

Richard:
Well, probably my favorite spot is the gate I put in the garden that has the view up the valley toward where I grew up.

Shelley:
Oh, nice.

Richard:
It was the first thing I built.

Shelley:
You've come a long way from that. Everywhere I look, there's color.

Richard:
Thank you.

Shelley:
Thank you for sharing this, Richard. Richard's garden in Wonewoc is so lovely, we thought you'd like to see what it looks like in other times of the year.

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