A Rock Quarry Garden

A Rock Quarry Garden

Part of Ep. 1903 Plants For Clay & A Garden That Rocks

Karen and Carl Vanden Heuvel grew up around old rock quarries, so it was only natural that one day they would want to create one of their very own.  This is the story of two people who got very carried away and created an enormous garden that truly rocks.

Premiere date: May 11, 2011

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:
You are looking at what is truly a labor of love only in this case, I think labor might be the operative word.  I am with Karen Vanden Heuvel.  We are in Seymour, Wisconsin.  We are looking at their quarry garden.  Karen, you and your husband Carl created a quarry in your back yard. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Yes, we did. 

Shelley Ryan:
Why?  I mean, it’s beautiful. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
That’s a good question.  Thank you. 

Shelley Ryan:
What possessed you, though?  This is obviously a major, major effort, and some of these rocks are as big as my car. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Yes, we both grew up around quarries, always loved them, always wanted to have one in our backyard, so we decided to put one here. 

Shelley Ryan:
Okay, simple enough.  How does one go about creating a quarry?  Is your background in gardening? 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
No, my background’s in farming.  I grew up on this farm.  So, no quarry experience. 

Shelley Ryan:
Other than playing in them. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Right.  And just dig a big hole and put rocks in and hope it looks like a quarry when you’re done! 

Shelley Ryan:
Well, it was just you and your husband Carl? 

And our sons.  Our sons Joel and David.  I bet they had a lot of fun working with rocks this size.  Yes, we had a lot of family fun.  Some days were better than others. 

Shelley Ryan:
How did you do this? 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Well, we had the hole dug, obviously that we could do by ourselves.  And we had a bunch of rocks that we had hauled in.  Then, one at a time, we placed then using an old wrecker that we found at a junk yard. 

Shelley Ryan:
So literally one at a time these had to be hand placed by just the four of you. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Yes. 

Shelley Ryan:
Wow.  Well, I mean it turned out beautiful.  It looks like a quarry.  I looks like a place I’d like to go swimming in the summer, too.  Tell me about some of the blooms that are going on right now.  I mean, it’s gorgeous in the sunlight. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Yes, the rudbeckia is going very strong right now.  That’s Goldsturm.  Then we have some annual salvia up on the hill.  The water lilies are starting to put on their second flush of bloom. 

Shelley Ryan:
It’s awesome when you walk in the back yard and see this, it’s like you’ve been transported to another place.  But this actually isn’t the first garden you created here in your acreage back here, is it? 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
No. 

Shelley Ryan:
Tell me about this first one. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
The first one was our formal garden.  We built that in 1988.  The problem with the two of us is Carl is an optimist and I’m more of a pessimist.  So, when he first drew the lines for this garden, I thought it’s way too big.  But, since I’m always raining on his parade, I thought for once okay, I’ll let him have his way.  Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea, but. 

Shelley Ryan:
Well, because you have to maintain it.  But I have to tell you, Karen, it turned out beautiful.  The flowers are great, the rocks are great, the gazebo is fantastic. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Well, thank you. 

Shelley Ryan:
You purchased that? 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
No, Carl built that.  His niece was getting married and we wanted a focal point down there, so in a couple months we decided to put that together. 

Shelley Ryan:
What’s it made out of? 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
It’s copper sheeting from a recycling center.  The pillars are pipe from another junk yard that we found laying around. 

Shelley Ryan:
So, you do a lot with found objects? 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
A lot with found objects.  Our budget is very shoestring, so we do what we can with what we find. 

Shelley Ryan:
So that explains the fountain that you told me is made out of lampshades from a high school. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Right. 

Shelley Ryan:
Well, it’s gorgeous.  It’s hard to believe that’s made from found objects.  Then again you’ve got rock lining the whole thing. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Yes.  The stone I got from our neighbors around here who are all farmers at that time, and were thinking I was certifiable for asking for stones. 

Shelley Ryan:
Why is that? 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Well, farmers just don’t like rocks. 

Shelley Ryan:
So there you are, bringing rock into a farmstead.  Well, I can see why they might have had some concerns about you. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
My father especially. 

Shelley Ryan:
But then you’ve also got a spot that’s completely different from these sunny bold spaces.  A beautiful shady hosta garden.  At first look, it doesn’t look like there’s any rocks, and then suddenly you realize no there’s an entire rock wall.  You’ve got rocks everywhere, Karen. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Yep, we’ve never met a rock we didn’t like. 

Shelley Ryan:
Well, I’m with you on that.  But those are different rocks over there.  What are those made out of? 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Those are mostly granite, mostly more of what would be indigenous to this part of the country. 

Shelley Ryan:
It’s a beautiful spot, it’s very restful. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Yes. 

Shelley Ryan:
So, back to the sunny spot.  let’s talk about some of the favorite plants you’ve got going on here. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Well, I would say that my favorite plant at the moment has been dwarf conifer, especially as we’ve been thinking about winter interest, and also thinking about downsizing as we get older. 

Shelley Ryan:
Okay.

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
And ornamental grasses are also a big one that Carl was always fond of when we first started gardening.  I, being a farm kid, didn’t see a point to growing grass, because I thought I was supposed to eliminate grass.  I didn't think I was supposed to plant it.  When he first planted, he planted ribbon grass, as we didn't really realize what we were getting into. 

Shelley Ryan:
Oh, dear, that can be so invasive. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Yeah, we found that out the hard way.  But when we realized, we learned more, and found out about Karl Foerster, and Northwind panicum, and miscanthuses. 

Shelley Ryan:
Some of the more well behaved varieties of ornamental grasses. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Right, and those add so much interest for the winter, cause they just look nice all for three seasons, you know, before you cut them back in the spring. 

Shelley Ryan:
Right.  Well, literally it's a labor of love, the way it blows in the sunlight is great.  I'm not quite sure how you're going to cut back, but I really appreciate you're sharing it with us. 

Karen Vanden Heuvel:
Well, thank you. 

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