Way back in March, Jeff Epping, horticulture director at Olbrich Botanical Gardens here in Madison, gave a talk to the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society about his own garden. Many of us have seen Jeff's garden in the past, but it was going to be featured this summer on a WHPS tour of members' gardens. So we were all interested to hear what Jeff might have to show and tell.
Jeff talked about various garden design enterprises he's doing and gave us a teaser about the changes that have happened at his own garden. His shady front garden with no-mow grass (below) bit the dust when the city redid his street including replacing gutters and putting in a major drainage project.
Since this area (above) was about to be destroyed — more or less — by the construction work, Jeff figured it was the perfect time for a big change. Once the city was finished, Jeff turned his front lawn into a low-water, low-maintenance gravel garden similar to the sustainable ones he's created at Olbrich. This is a specialized kind of planting that needs the proper plants and prep to succeed. But in a couple of years it should be totally filled in creating quite a different look with very little work needed to maintain it.
The Hakonechloa grasses that are still in the front garden (below) foreshadow what's to come. We walked around the right side of Jeff's house to get to the back garden.
The side of the house features an array of different kinds and sizes of logs . . .
which are sporting mushrooms.
This is what Jeff's back garden looked like the last time I saw it, which was July, 2010. Wide mixed borders edged a central area of grass with a path that led through the garden out into a shared neighborhood park. The pots with small evergreen trees are on a pair of stone pillars that are part of the wall around Jeff's deck.
This is the view in 2010 looking back towards the side of the house with the mushroom logs.
Stepping into the garden at the same location as the photo above but the view today is totally different.
The greensward has disappeared, replaced with a gravel circle that has a pair of Wave Hill chairs along with pots filled with plants and water. Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa species) has gone from an accent to become the foundational plant, interspersed with purple Perilla.
The deck is the same and still offers a view out to the shared neighborhood space, though Jeff mentioned the furniture has been replaced with items that are more low maintenance than what he had before.
The deck also still showcases pots of plants, shrubs and flowers on all sides.
These groupings offer so many ideas in terms of the plants one might use, size and scale and position of plants and pots. Both displays use repetition of plants and pots to great effect.
Jeff also still has my favorite pair of evergreens on the raised stone posts on either side of the steps leading from the deck into the garden. This shows one of them in the old garden view.
The fabulous plantings in the narrow space between the house and driveway are still fabulous . . .
just much more mature.
Jeff's artful driveway with its espaliered trees and plantings in pots and the ground is my all-time favorite — after my own rather nice driveway!