Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Sunken Garden Transformation

As part of our 25th Anniversary celebration, I'm trying to blog once per week on the creation of one of our garden spaces.  Our intent is to share this history with our readers and incorporate much of this information on our website as well so we always remember our exciting development over these 25 years and beyond.  My focus is on the sunken garden which I'll mention a bit further in this blog posting.  The photo directly above and directly below are quite recent but the transformation just in photos is amazing as this specific garden is now 20 years old.
We had another great day and only had minor sprinkles overnight which allowed for a full day of action at the gardens.  We had our grounds staff orientation today so had a full crew of Larry, Jenny, Terry, Big John, Pat, Cindy, Cheryl and Janice.  We had a nice lunch and talked about the exciting year ahead.  Everyone of course worked out in the gardens as well with lots of clean-up, potting up caladiums, container preparations, composting and other duties too varied to even describe.  Everyone had a full list!  We had some great volunteer assistance with Shirley, Kay and Eva all working on garden clean-up and we saw the return of Ron K. in the woodland walk garden which is his area to maintain (which he dove right in to!).  Bill O. was here to help clean-up and Gary S. continued work on labels.  Dick H. was in to run debris to the dump and Maury F. went on some errands for us as well.  Our Garden Development & Maintenance Committee (Hal R., Gary S., Maury, Big John, Christy M., Christine R., Larry H. and Iza G.) all had a productive morning as well.  We also saw Chuck S. and many others today.

Above is the original use of the site that is now the sunken garden.  This BMX bike track took advantage of some peripheral mounds that defined this space and was perfect for racing bicycles.  Some of the original fencing and structures can be seen above.  The sunken garden itself and the location was suggested by Dennis Buettner of Buettner & Associates, Inc. (Milwaukee, WI).  In 1993, Dennis completed a master plan for a good portion of the entire garden and this formal sunken garden was proposed.  Features would include a center area of turf for special events (concerts, weddings, etc.) with peripheral raised beds defined by stacked and mortared lannon stone.  Brick paths and a water feature would complete the garden and a surrounding hedge of arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) would provide privacy, definition and the separation from adjacent garden areas.  Constructed in 1994 (estimated), this space was funded by the Parker Family and includes a wonderful sculpture at the east end of the gardens created by George Parker III (of Parker Pen).

This semi-private garden continues to host multiple weddings and events each year and provides a wide range of color from annuals, perennials and eight large containers.  The plantings are 50% annuals and 50% perennials for a wide range of color and texture throughout the growing season.  Benches offer respite and the water feature (including a small fountain) is a nice focal point thru this formal space that features colorful (but informal) plantings.  My captions below will help describe the development of this garden space which happened in conjunction with the reception garden just to the west of this space.

after the track was smoothed out, fill was brought in to level this space
early walls and the initial water feature are installed
early flooding of this garden created the need for significant drainage improvements
surrounding beds are being prepared
This archway is from the Parker Pen World Headquarters and is on permanent loan from the Rock County Historical Society.  This archway is the transition point from the reception garden to the sunken garden (and the reverse!).  A view through the center of this archway focuses on a sculpture at the far end of the sunken garden.
more early work in the sunken garden prior to planting
note the water feature is recessed below ground level and will ultimately be replaced by a pool with a raised wall (due to flooding issues) which can still be seen today
brick paths and surrounding arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) are added
note the plantings on the far side in these 10' deep beds
the sunken pool is removed and replaced with a raised structure
the Parker Pen archway as seen from the sunken garden
here is a recent shot of some of the flowing planting drifts
recent photo
recent photo (note bricks are memorialized)

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