Splendor in Bay View
September 2, 2012
You don’t have to look very far to find a garden in Bay View. The passion for gardening spills out everywhere. It cascades from restaurant flowerboxes, invades curbsides, glows in front yards, or is secreted in private spaces.
Gardens in Bay View run the gamut from postage-stamp size to urban farm, from strictly ornamental to completely edible, from public to private, from practical to fanciful and back again.
Bay View gardeners are a plucky lot, claiming any and all available space to ply the art and science of gardening. Faced with weeds, pests, poor soil, drought, and rodents, they soldier on, finding solutions on their own or in concert with their friends and neighbors.
Here is our humble tribute to all who have put spade to soil. We share this string of pearls—a tiny sampler of Bay View’s garden splendor captured as late summer gives way to fall.
Neil Albrecht’s garden, 3262 S. Taylor Ave., has been in the process of creation since 1994. He started his garden after he was inspired by English cottage gardens he saw during a visit to Great Britain. “Every year my yard is someplace different,” he said. “Most often, someplace better.”
Many of the plants in his garden symbolize milestones from his life. “Plants in one of the front gardens were given to me when I left my job at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. Next to those are three peonies that were given to me when my father died. Many others have come from friends and neighbors,” he said. “I barter a lot: A plant from your yard gets you a plant from mine.” His yard also includes what he describes as “uncharted areas” that he has “surrendered to nature.” These areas are thick with plants such as prairie grasses, bee balm, vining hydrangea, and wild aster. He suspects that rabbits live in this area, and possibly other creatures. “I’m not sure and I like that I don’t know,” he says.
Albrecht’s garden is chemical-free. He relies on mulch and weeding.
He develops his gardening skills chiefly by observation—planting, watching, and planting more. The solitude of gardening is what Albrecht likes best. What surprised him most when he got into gardening was that he likes it. “My experiences as a kid in the yard were limited to mandatory chores. I was in [this] house for years before I challenged my adolescent perceptions of yard work and really got some dirt under my fingernails,” he said.
Albrecht’s advice for first-time gardeners: Give yourself a generous gardening budget every year. Don’t spend more, but don’t spend less. Be patient; don’t be discouraged. Learn from your soil and approach your yard like this is a longtime adventure. —AW
Anodyne Café, 2920 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., sports a sidewalk vegetable garden on the south wall of the building. Lacee Perry, Matt McClutchy and their three children tend the garden next they’ve tucked up next to their café. Peppers and tomatoes proliferate in the petite garden. “We grow vegetables because they taste so good right out of ground, and it’s a good way to get the kids to eat more vegetables,” Perry said. “[Our children] can’t deny a cute little green bean they have planted, watered, loved, and picked themselves.”
The garden soil was enriched with compost from Sweet Water Organics. No synthetic fertilizers are used. Instead Perry and McClutchy use worm castings and tea to enrich the soil during the growing season. In fall, composted bedding from the family’s chicken coop is spread on the garden soil.
The biggest obstacle for gardeners Perry and McClutchy is the dearth of space for gardening. “Early spring rolls around and we have visions of stacks and stacks of home-canned goodies. The challenging part is to adjust those visions down to a city-size plot,” Perry said. “[Matt and I] were used to larger garden beds as kids. The city lots have forced us to plant in small beds carved out between swaths of concrete, both at our home and at Anodyne. Despite space constraints, the garden has been a source of delight. It’s great to talk to the customers and neighbors as they walk by about our garden’s progress and about their own patches of earth.” —JK
Jamie Beauchamp has cultivated the garden at 2943 S. Clement Ave. for only three years but in that brief time, along with his partner Andy Reid, transformed a banal landscape to something all together more interesting and pleasing to the eye. He has been gardening since he was a child and continues to do so as an adult. He is a professional floral designer and the proprietor of Jamier’s Floral.
Beauchamp and Reid revamped the space behind their home, previously defined by an ordinary lawn, into an outdoor living room of sorts, decorated with lush greenery, flowering plants, and shrubs, while retaining a small section of green lawn. The garden and yard were designed by Reid and planted by Beauchamp, who refers to their project as a friendship garden. He said that about 85 percent of the plants were acquired from friends through plant trades. “Almost all the plants in the garden have a story of where they came from. That is what makes a garden,” he said.
For those just who are just beginning to garden, Beauchamp advises that they start with low-maintenance plants that grow in a manageable clump, rather than those that spread. “I’m the type of person who will plant something one year and see how it does. If I don’t like it, I take it out the following year,” Beauchamp said. “Start small. If you start out with a big garden, it can become overwhelming very fast. Gardening is all about experimenting with all sorts of plants.” —JK
The Knapp Family (Shannon, Kent, Zoey, Miles, Isaiah, and Oscar) lives in a house at the top of a very steep slope leading up from the street. Matriarch Shannon Knapp was dismayed to see their neighbors mowing their lawns with mowers tied to ropes (in order to navigate the inclines), when they moved into their home four years ago. She thought there had to be a better way.
In their first year in the new house, 2839 S. Linebarger Ter., Knapp removed the grass from one side of the steps and replaced it with perennial plants that didn’t require mowing.
Later, while she was away for a week with one of their sons for a school trip, her husband Kent Knapp surprised her by removing the grass from most of the other side of the hill. He replaced it with terraces. They are now planted with a mix of native plants and perennials, herbs, and edibles such as strawberries and tomatoes. The family also tends a large raised bed and container garden full of vegetables and greens in the back yard.
Knapp said she gained her gardening skills by trial and error, from friends, and Google. Most of her trees and perennial plants were acquired through an annual plant swap she participates in each spring and by trading plants with neighbors. For annual and edible plants, she saves seeds and trades them with friends. In late winter when it is still too cold for planting outdoors, the Knapp family starts seedlings in the basement. “The happiness of creating the seedlings in the middle of winter brings joy to a difficult time of year,” Knapp said.
The Knapp garden is grown entirely without chemicals. She buys ladybugs to reduce the aphid population and employs companion gardening to fend off pests. Even though tending the garden is hard work, it is rewarding for everyone in the family, especially at harvest time, when a garden “feeds our bodies and souls,” Knapp said. —AW
It’s impossible for patrons and passing pedestrians not to notice the bodacious flower gardens at the Bay View Library, 2566 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Since the mid-90s, the flowerbeds have been planted, nurtured, weeded, pruned, and lovingly maintained by volunteers—members of the South Shore Garden Club (SSGC). During the past decade and a half, an evolving, eclectic mix of annuals and perennials has characterized the library’s floral landscape design. As they work on each year’s designs, garden club members consider plants’ growing habits and choose various species and cultivars to ensure that there’s something in bloom throughout the growing season. Daffodils, grape hyacinth, Russian sage, irises, daylilies, Brown-eyed Susans, asters, Liatris, butterfly bush, gaillardia, sunflowers, hollyhocks, and cosmos are some of the colorful blossoms bedecking the library’s flowerbeds. “One constant is the moss rose. It reseeds faithfully each year,” SSGC’s Kitty Schaefer said.
Hydrating the plants can be tricky because the island beds are not supported by the library’s in-ground watering system, Schaefer said. That stimulates an ongoing search for drought-tolerant plants by club members.
The volunteers apply fertilizer once or twice a year to give annual plants a boost. “We are constantly trying to improve our lovely clay soil with mulch and compost,” Schaefer said.
Schafer said she’s gratified and enjoys the positive feedback she receives every time the SSGC members work in the gardens.
Schaefer’s main advice to new Bay View gardeners is to amend the soil. “You have to have good soil, so keep working on that clay,” she said. —JK
Note: SSGC meetings are held at Grace Presbyterian Church, 2931 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., on the first Monday of each month at 6pm. Walk-ins are welcome.
Since becoming involved in the local food movement about a decade ago, Ann Wegner Lefort developed a strong interest in growing, preserving, and cooking her own food, and being as self-sufficient as possible. Over the past seven growing seasons, with help from her husband, she has transformed the family’s backyard in the 3700 block of South Wentworth Avenue into an edible landscape. They dug up the soil, installed numerous raised beds, planted fruit trees and berry bushes, and made the most out of both horizontal and vertical space to grow their garden.
Window boxes are planted with edible greens, the gate to the backyard is arched with a grapevine, and a “hedge” of blackberry bushes grows along the foundation. Garlic plants grow at the base of a fence. Pole beans climb tall teepees and trellises. Edibles including salad greens, carrots, zucchini, winter squash, herbs, watermelon, turnips, tomatoes, kale, and beets spill over the sides of raised beds. Lefort said she’s most proud of how she has maximized the limited growing space of their small city lot.
Lefort’s urban garden also includes a cold frame that extends the growing season into colder weather. There are also rain barrels to capture rainwater. Lefort fertilizes her plants with organic fish emulsion, compost that the family makes themselves, and compost tea. Instead of using harmful chemicals, she manages pests by picking insects or insect eggs by hand or by using homemade solutions such as a soap and cayenne pepper spray to deter aphids. She uses beer-filled tuna cans to catch slugs.
Lefort acquired some of her vegetable growing skills at Pinehold Gardens where, she traded some labor for part of her share in their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).She learned from reading gardening and urban homesteading books, Mother Earth News, and through a lot of trial and error. “I’m usually very ambitious when it comes to vegetable gardening, but as a result have made a lot of mistakes from which I’ve learned valuable lessons,” she said.
Lefort loves gardening’s benefits. It provides time for deep thought, exercise, and fresh food. “I’m always surprised at how little time it takes to maintain a good-sized food garden. If you weed early and often and do little bits and pieces of upkeep every day, it’s really not a huge chore, which is what often keeps people from even trying it,” she said.
There are also challenges. Lefort said the 2012 drought brought abnormally high pressure from insect pests. Earlier this summer she was heartbroken one morning to find that foraging raccoons had pulled down half of their cherry tree just when it was in full fruit. Lefort advises new gardeners to start small, set goals for the next year, 5 years, 10 years, and to keep checking the plan to see “where you are with those ideas or if they have changed.” The best thing about gardening is that even if something goes terribly wrong, there’s always another season, she said. —AW
Visitors often comment about Paul Lewandowski’s unique garden at 2787 S. Linebarger Ter., which some describe as a magic kingdom or secret garden. In contrast to the more typical front lawn landscape, vibrant, colorful panoply of perennials, wildflowers, vines, and shrubs bursts in contrasting shapes and sizes against the cheery backdrop of a sunset-orange bungalow. Lewandowski has been cultivating his front yard garden for the past 10 years. “I always loved cottage gardens,” he said. “My house is a cottage bungalow, so it works well with the style of the house.” Because his lot has no backyard, he said he makes the most of the front yard.
The result is an eruption of color, visual interest, and life. Playful artistry ties the house and garden together.
The front perimeter is subtly lined with low, ornamental wrought-iron work that evokes twisting tendrils. Orange trumpet vine blossoms draped on an arched arbor attract hummingbirds. The arbor beckons and draws visitors towards a bright blue and white mosaic in the bungalow’s entryway. The interior of the garden opens up into a design that suggests a space of different rooms. Stone-and-brick pathways wind around shrubs and flowers, birdbaths, and a bench framed with flowers. At night, small white lights trailing over the arbor animate the garden and confer a sense of magic. “I love the wildlife [the garden] attracts,” said Lewandowski. “I feel like I created my own forest.”
His plants were acquired over time from garden centers, were started some from seed, or were given to him by friends and family. His garden skills are self-taught, mostly through trial-and-error and the aid of “a few good garden books.” Lewandowski said the biggest surprise about gardening was his discovery that “it doesn’t happen overnight.” He remembers looking at cottage gardens in books and thinking, That doesn’t look that hard! “Little did I know, it would take years, and I’m still working on it,” he said.
His advice for new gardeners: Just get out there. Start small, and keep adding each season. Don’t take it too hard if something doesn’t work out, because there are many plants to take its place. —AW
Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar, 3001 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., gets a little help from its friends. The restaurant’s window boxes and containers are designed and maintained by fellow building-tenant Lynn Goldstein of Creative Landscape Designs, Inc., 3003 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Goldstein changes the plants seasonally. “We start with pansies in the spring, which are used by Pastiche for garnishes for their dessert plates and for salads. Then we plant the window boxes and containers with a mix of annuals and herbs. What’s great about the edibles is that the chefs can just open the door and pick the herbs for whatever they are cooking that day,” Goldstein said. Annuals in the boxes include lantana, geranium, and Million Bells, all selected for their bright color and drought tolerance.
Pastiche chef/owner Mike Engel gave Goldstein a list of herbs and edible flowers he wanted in the boxes and planters including sweet basil, rosemary, thyme, chives, lemon verbena, Johnny Jump-Ups and nasturtium. “The nasturtium is used in salads and desserts. The lemon verbena is used in panna cotta. The rest of the herbs are used for seasonings, sauces, and entrees,” said Goldstein. She anticipates the herbs and annuals in the window boxes will be harvestable until late fall.
The concrete containers on the sidewalks flanking Pastiche’s main entrance are planted with Alberta spruce and periwinkle. In fall, they will likely be planted with mums, hostas, coral bells, asters, and flowering kale. Around Thanksgiving, the planters will be adorned with red twig dogwood and evergreen boughs. —JK
Donna Pogliano’s patio garden at 1930 E. Estes St. makes use of containers and pots in combination with permanent beds. Herbs and annuals grow in pots and her flowerbeds are planted with perennial coral bells. Coleus are the predominant annual in the flower pots, which Pogliano says she can never resist, despite their tendency to overwhelm whatever is planted with them. “I particularly love the lime greens and some of the pink and green combinations, and of course, the black, and there seem to be wonderful, sometimes whacky new cultivars every year,” said Pogliano.
Pogliano’s garden starts in late May after she makes a trip to Custom Grown Greenhouses to discover what new varieties are available. There she also picks up some of her favorites: verbena, phlox, petunias, begonias, rue, and sun impatiens that she interplants with coleus. “I love, love, love annual vincas for their disease-free hardiness, their neat, dark green foliage, and their lovely reliable blossoms in shades of pink, purple, and white. I particularly like Little Bright Eye, which has white petals with a red ‘eye’,” said Pogliano.
The mix she has contrived for her pots is a blend of timed-release fertilizer, soil, and occasionally she includes polymer granules. The soil itself is a mixture of bagged potting soil, organic peat, and a generous amount of vermiculite. Pogliano uses vermiculite attic insulation rather than horticultural vermiculite because the attic variety is less expensive, just not as finely ground. Her biggest challenge in the garden is a wily chipmunk with which, Pogliano said, she resignedly coexists.
Pogliano, who dug her first Bay View garden in 1975, said her advice for newbie gardeners is to realize that gardens of every kind are always a work in progress. Nothing is forever. If you try something and it doesn’t work, not only is your compost heap a little richer for your failed experiment, but you have also opened up a new opportunity in the form of a vacant space in your garden. —JK
Nancy Tawney has been creating her gardens at 2973 S. Delaware Ave. for 17 years, since she moved into the neighborhood. Her desire to have a garden was one of the compelling motivations behind her move from a downtown apartment to her present home in Bay View.
Her gardens in the front and back of the house are deftly designed and highly sophisticated landscape quilts fashioned with the foliage of myriad green hues. A large sugar maple in the backyard plus two birch trees in the front yard create lots of shade. Consequently Tawney created a shade garden with plants that cannot tolerate much sun.
Twenty varieties of hostas, along with ferns, wild violets, astilbe, impatiens, and lamium adorn the garden behind her home. A wooden deck overlooks the fenced-in backyard garden that is stitched with winding walkways paved of Lannon stones. “I feel like I have created a personal park in my backyard—Nancy’s Secret Garden,” Tawney said. “I enjoy spending much time on the deck in my backyard, looking at the garden. I find much serenity in this.”
The front yard is planted with pachysandra and hostas. “The garden keeps evolving over the years as changes are made,” she said.
Tawney does all the gardening herself and she finds inspiration in taking garden tours. “Seeing things that I like in other people’s gardens give me new ideas for things to try in mine,” she said. —JK
Sisters Helene Mertes and Mary Lou Schramer oversee and help maintain the huge vegetable gardens at the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, 3221 S. Lake Dr. Volunteers from Clare Hall, a residence for retired sisters, and a number of other people who live in the complex or nearby in the neighborhood, assist Mertes and Schramer. The volunteers weed, harvest, and tend the garden. The sisters started the kitchen garden three years ago. It is planted chiefly with vegetables and herbs plus strawberries and rhubarb. New additions this year include fennel, sweet corn, popcorn, dried beans, and the herb Veronica. “Every year we plant something new,” Schramer said. There are also flowerbeds and a squash garden that the sisters oversee, all pollinated by bees from the numerous hives on the grounds of the convent.
Schramer plans the garden’s layout, while Mertes is the primary seed starter. The majority of the garden is planted with heirloom seeds, which are started in the basement of the Motherhouse under grow lights. If pest control is required, the plants are treated with insecticidal soap and “beetle juice”— a mixture of hot peppers, dish soap, and water. This summer the drought and extreme heat were a challenge. To cope with the severe conditions, the garden was watered twice a week, and the time workers spent in the garden was scaled back.
The garden harvest begins in mid-June. After the early-morning harvest, the produce is taken to Clare Hall, where the vegetables are prepared for the various kitchens of the complex. Tomatoes are often served fresh; others are juiced and later in the season, some will be made into sauces. From the 63 tomato plants comprised of 18 varieties, to date 1,100 pounds of tomatoes have been harvested. Last year, the garden produced 910 pounds of potatoes. “That is the excitement—the yields,” said Sister Mary Lou. “No two years are the same and thus adjustments and experimentation is always being done. That’s what makes gardening a surprise.” —JK
Lu Wyland has lived at 1936 E. Oklahoma Ave. for more than two decades. When she started gardening, she originally planned to plant some asparagus. She tore out some yews, and eventually “a garden overtook the entire lawn.”
Wyland’s beautiful garden is a maze of sedum, lilies, passionflowers, delphinium, daisies, verbena, asters, coral bells, roses, balloon flowers, masterwort, and Love-in-the-Mist. She planted milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies after the neighborhood milkweed plants were removed when the Lake Parkway was constructed. “I gather the seeds every year so that everyone [around me] doesn’t have to have milkweed,” Wyland said.
Somehow though, the asparagus never got planted. “I could have been eating asparagus for 17 years!” she Wyland.
Wyland’s backyard is a combination of flowers and vegetables in a beautiful landscape. Along the patio, viburnum, cucumbers, hibiscus, clematis, miniature roses, peonies, marigolds, and potatoes intermingle. A lush champagne grapevine winds along her fence. “The grapes are really good and the birds got every last one this year. They came ripe so soon and I wasn’t expecting it,” Wyland said.
Just behind the patio is a meditative space—Wyland’s memorial garden for her cats and dogs that passed away. The garden is populated chiefly with plants given to her by friends and neighbors and includes sedum, bleeding hearts, foxglove, lavender, day lilies and irises. A tiny Japanese maple features prominently.
Her raised bed vegetable garden grows next to her garage. Carrots, watermelon, and butternut squash grow in elevated beds that require less bending and stooping, a boon since Wyland has had both knees replaced. She said another benefit of her raised beds is that they are “a tad” harder for the rabbits to access.
Wyland’s advice to anyone embarking on the first steps of a garden odyssey: Start small, with good soil. “Make sure,” she said, “you do really good things with the soil early on. Don’t think you’ll come back later and do it because that’s a pain in the neck.” —JK
Steve Goretzko’s love of gardening and plants is evident everywhere you look, inside and outside Sven’s European Café, 2699 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Inside, customers dine under the imposing boughs of a 40-year-old rubber tree plant and fresh-cut flowers adorn tabletops. Outside, garden beds host shrubs, flowers, and crab apple trees. His potted palm trees share space with basil and peppermint plants, which Goretzko uses in various menu items served at the café.
Goretzko brings a lifetime of gardening experience to his café. “I had a garden at [Mitchell] Airport when I was 12. I grew my own stuff out there. Back then they had garden plots at the airport,” he said. So it was a natural progression for him to establish gardens outside his café, where he said every employee helps tend the gardens.
Some of his customers have given him plants. One of his customers was the source of the big rubber tree. She called Sven’s and asked if Goretzko would rescue her rubber tree when she could no longer keep it.
The palm trees were brought in from Florida and overwinter at Custom Grown Greenhouses (Milwaukee) each year. Goretzko grows tomatoes for the café in a couple of raised beds at the Hide House Community Gardens.
Gardening, Goretzko said, is fun. “It’s a peaceful thing,” he said. “It’s seeing something grow.” —JK
Boiled Turnip Greens à la Mabel Walker
1. Wash and remove the thick stems from the turnip greens (leaves). This is very important as any remaining dirt will end up in the pot and will make the greens gritty. Wash them repeatedly, 3 or 4 times at least. Separate the main stem and any other large side stems from the leaf. Throw away the stems or compost them.
2. Buy or harvest far more greens than you think you will need for your dinner. They boil down considerably. It will take several pounds of raw greens to feed 3 or 4 people after stemming and boiling.
3. Bring a large pot (2-gallon capacity, or larger) half full of water to a hard boil. Add 4 tablespoons salt, 4 tablespoons sugar (to kill the “bitter”), and vegetable oil or salt pork, to taste. (I use them interchangeably.)
4. Add de-stemmed and washed greens in batches. As they begin to boil they will shrink, so just keeping adding them as they boil down until they all fit in the pot.
5. Cook on a low boil for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
6. Serve the greens over cornbread or alone. The juice that the greens are cooked in can also be
consumed. It is known as “pot liquor” and is high in vitamins.
The main points to keep in mind are to always wash the greens thoroughly, to remove the stems, and to use sugar in the water. Otherwise, you will most likely end up with a bitter, gritty, green mess that is completely inedible. If done right, they can provide a highly nutritious, low cost meal.
This is the recipe that my grandmother Mabel Walker used and put on the table for the better part of 75 years. We grew the greens, but they are available in grocery stores here year-round.
In the South, they are planted in the fall and eaten all winter. However, here in Milwaukee, I have managed to grow them as a summer crop and they seem to do quite well. In the South, the term “greens” usually refers to mustard, kale, or collard leaves, but turnip greens can be used. The main reason mustard, kale, and collard are used is that they produce a greater amount of greens for a given plot of land than turnips do. Greens are planted in a mix, ordinarily. Back home, turnips are primarily grown for their roots—the turnip, when boiled, is eaten much like a rutabaga.
Mustard does not grow well in the summer here in Milwaukee, so I have had to depend entirely upon turnip greens. This year the total cost of planting and growing my turnip plot was less than $1.00.
Bay View resident
Laurens, South Carolina native
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