July 08, 2022
In my last post I shared the Asian-style front garden of Linda Brazil and Mark Golbach, whose Madison, Wisconsin, 28-year-old garden I toured at the recent Garden Bloggers Fling. (I first saw their garden in 2010.) Today let me take you on a tour of their larger, hillier, and even more spectacular back garden.
Believe it or not, this serene expanse of gravel protected with carefully placed boulders and small rocks was originally a watery pond. Linda explained in a blog post on Every Little World, “We moved to the property in 1994 specifically to create an ornamental garden. We spent the first two and a half years planning and designing the pond, which was going to be the focal point of the space.” They excavated a small upper pond, a cascading stream with waterfalls for natural filtration, and a large lower pond for ponding in their sunniest spot.
But after a few decades the pond became too big for maintenance. If the fling had happened as originally planned in June 2020, we would probably have seen the lily pond. But during the long Covid summer at home, Mark and Linda fearlessly began planning to remove it. They decided to extract it and build one karesansui Instead the garden, which simulates water with racked ripples and boulder “islands”. The new gravel garden was completed last summer. I think it’s incredibly beautiful – even better than their beautiful pond.
Obviously it is not without maintenance. But shoveling gravel and scratching into patterns is a mindful task, and perhaps more enjoyable than shoveling a leaf-clogged pond.
Linda writes extensively about redesigns, as she has completed all of their garden design steps (one of the reasons I love their blog). Click here to read why they made the change and click here to read about the final stage karesansui The end of the garden.
Identify tests with different raking patterns. To me these circular waves evoke scattered raindrops falling into water. Perfect for a damp day with off and on rain.
Looking upstream (how did I neglect to photograph the gravel stream and rock waterfall?), a hand-built tea house by Mark catches your eye at the top of the slope. In front, a pretty shady garden has a few flowers besides apricot martagon lilies. But Linda’s skill in using loose perennials and cut shrubs among the groundcovers gives the garden size and shape as well as different shades of green. Around the tea-house trees-pines, ginkgo-bunches, add their lush greenery to the scene.
Stone steps lead up to the hillside tea house, offering an elevated view of the gravel garden.
Again, through a picturesque scrim of pine branches
Tea room windows and martagon lilies
And here is the door, uphill. Mark invited us to take off our shoes and go inside.
Interior view, with mats and cushions for sitting.
Exquisitely crafted and decorated interior
Doorway Vignette — Notice the propped-open windows and wide plank fence.
From the balcony of the tea house you enjoy the view above karesansui This was the above pond before the garden Mark and Linda switched to gravel.
Rocks and boulders cluster near the dropoff, and you can easily imagine the power to collect water falling down the mountain. Wrecked ripples and a sculpture of a fishing heron complete the aquatic illusion. Notice also how the shrubs and small trees screen the view of the large gravel garden below, creating a sense of mystery.
A weeping Serbian spruce (Picea omorika ‘Pendula Bruns’) makes an interesting vertical statement next to the “pond” above.
Round boulders and mounds echoing boxwood and Japanese forest grass, among other perennials, edge the gravel.
Japanese Forest Grass and more Apricot Martagon Lily…
…which hangs over a tan-black vessel, creating a beautiful color echo among the green.
Astrantia, a flower I would definitely grow if I could. I love how it is.
A stone lantern with intricate carvings forms a focal point along the path.
Behind the half-acre garden, a Japanese-style fence and gate, complete with shingled roof, creates a neighbor-friendly separation. Mark built the fence himself.
Linda has created an inviting rambling garden, planted with sage, fern, boxwood, yew and beautiful trees.
A glimpse of the house from the path, and the gravel garden below
Potted plants appear among the perennials, with pine cones for a mulch.
Looking back along the path to the stone lantern
And let’s also appreciate the craftsmanship of its fencing.
Moss shingles add character.
I believe Linda wrote about losing some of the old trees on this mound, and planting carex as a random groundcover, which I found very interesting.
A silver fern echoes silver-green pine needles above.
A weeping plant dangles leafy tendrils from the other back corner. You tear them apart and step through as if entering a secret garden.
Silvery ferns line fences and walk across stone paths, leading to eyesores.
Another decorative berm
And another stone lantern on the side of the road
Now we are on the opposite side of the lower gravel garden from the tea house, which is straight ahead on the hillside.
A viewing path – and perhaps maintenance access – invites a closer look.
Trees draw the eye into the garden and deeper. I wonder how many trees Linda and Mark have planted in their nearly 30 years here. Closer to the house, a Japanese-style boardwalk leads across a wetland…
…to a large deck — a perfect place to sit with coffee or wine and enjoy the view of the garden.
On the deck, a bouquet of flowers cut from the garden adorns one of a pair of earthenware vases.
And at the dining table, I was delighted to see her and her famous Pozzi vases displayed under each little world title, representing the gardeners…
…who kindly posed for me here. What a beautiful and talented couple!
And what a stunning garden they have created together — and continue to recreate.
Going outside, I saw a little scrap-metal face on the wall and did a double-take. Hello and goodbye, little guy!
Next: Tom Kuster’s layered collector’s garden and pond. For Part 1 of my tour of Linda and Mark’s East-meets-Midwest garden, click here.
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