Archive for Sunday, September 28, 1997


September 28, 1997


New owners inherit a well-planned and thoughtful garden.

In the real estate business, curb appeal can be as much a factor in the sale of a home as its price. A house that is attractive when viewed from the street might be just the enticement prospective buyers need to look at the inside.

A house on the corner of Ranch and 24th streets has a certain kind of curb appeal. Its charm demands a second look. The house is squarely centered on a pleasant city lot in this growing part of town. It's neatly painted a tasteful cream color. Lacy curtains hang in the windows.

Equally important is the charming garden that surrounds the house. In fact, the garden is what first caught my eye as I drove by. Bright orange marigolds, vinca and elephant ears decorate the corner flower bed. Others beds follow a split-rail fence that parallels a sidewalk. Bradford pear trees punctuate the way like large exclamations points. Circular beds at their feet contain a ring of mums surrounding red impatiens.

Nearby, a large curved flower bed is loaded with ajuga, alyssum and snapdragons. In the same bed a sprawling yellow locust tree gives dappled shade to verbena, iris and sweet Annie. A tall wooden fence running along the back edge of the property offers privacy for the homeowners. But an arch at its center allows friendly conversations between neighbors.

The curb appeal continues with a view of a patio covered with a wide pergola and more flowers in the background. One might guess that trees, not yet grown to their mature height, have been added only a few years ago. This yard has all the evidence of a gardener's hand at work.

When a house has this much curb appeal, it might be hard to resist. At least that's what house hunters Bill and Eugenia Bryan found.

``The house met 90 percent of our needs,'' Eugenia said. ``The garden is a major factor in why we liked the house. We are gardeners.''

So they purchased the house, garden and all.

Angles of interest

The gardeners responsible for the landscape are Rita and Larry Janssen. When they planned their garden three years ago, they strove for one that would look good from every angle and for every season.

``We designed all the beds and pretty much followed (the plan),'' Larry said. ``We considered early spring to winter.''

They also sketched the view of their house from all four sides. The result is a finished landscape with an interesting view from each angle.

Tall plantings near the breakfast nook give privacy, while open spaces at other windows provide perfect visibility to the outside garden. Fragrant roses bloom below the windows of the kitchen.

``We absolutely enjoy the view of the garden from inside and out,'' Larry said.

As expected, the job of creating the garden started by amending the soil in the raised beds. Larry carefully informed me how he went about the task, almost as if he were giving me a precise recipe.

``Dig the soil to loosen it -- that is one thing that will help any soil,'' he said. ``Add fertilizer, chemical or organic, mason sand, 4 to 6 inches, and manure.''

He admitted his earnestness about landscaping comes from some interesting sources -- a Sunday school teacher from the 1960s, formal training in horticulture and landscape design he received at Kansas State University, the couple's business and experience.

``My Sunday school teacher was a premier horticulturist,'' he said. Her flower beds were filled with hybrid flowers ``from one end to the other.

``She gave me carload after carload of flowers,'' he said. Her instructions to Larry were simple: He had to share his plants as well.

The Janssens share some of their plants through the landscape business they started two years ago called Homescapes.

``We help people with rock design,'' he said. The cottonwood limestone they use comes from a 1887 vintage rock farmhouse.

Larry enthusiastically shared a couple more landscape basics with me.

``Stand at a distance and see what everyone else sees and what you don't want them to see,'' he said. Perhaps an air-conditioning unit or a utility pole needs to be camouflaged. Seeing what needs to be done guides plant choices.

His previous work as a superintendent of a golf course provided him with the experience for the second tip -- minimal maintenance.

``In the golf course business, you survive by how low you can keep your maintenance,'' he said.

The Janssens implemented their plan for low maintenance by using plants that do well in Kansas. For that they relied on K-State Extension ``bundles.''

The wildlife and song bird bundles each include plantings that attract nature. Cotoneaster, wild plum, cherry trees and fragrant sumac cause quite a stir with the birds.

``The birds just love these,'' Rita said. ``The cardinals go crazy.''

Mum's the word

Right now the garden is blooming prolifically with mums, which are one of the Janssens' specialties. They have even created a private mum hybridization project with seeds they collect from the plants. The results are lovely mums throughout the garden. They cluster around a fence near the driveway and in a large curved bed in the front. In another area near a vegetable garden they have a stockpile of mums, some of which they give away.

Much of the glorious mum display is credited to Rita even though she admitted: ``I'm not much of a flower expert.'' She has learned about flowers and become the pruner in the family, carefully trimming back the mums to a height of 6 inches from spring until July. Then they are left to grow so they will bloom during the fall.

``In August I start moving mums to fill in the holes,'' she said.

``I still like annuals, snaps, petunias, pansies, alyssum and impatiens,'' she said. To give the garden a fuller effect, she plants them close together.

``We never leave as much space as they say to.''

Another feature of the garden is a small pond. Bright goldfish swim among the cattails, water lilies and water grasses. Johnny-jump-ups, portulaca and sedum surround the pool and spill over the stone walkway. Elsewhere hostas, peonies, daylilies and clematis vines and trumpet creepers brighten spaces.

The garden has so much variety and interest. I'm not sure how the Janssens could sell their house and give it up.

Then again, the Bryans also are making a dramatic change. They have maintained a huge garden on property that has been in Eugenia's family for 50 years. The garden in east Lawrence is almost an acre in size and filled with plants of all kinds, some of which have been in the family for dozens of years.

Yet in their upcoming retirement years, they decided to look for a smaller garden.

``We are downsizing,'' Eugenia said. Still they didn't want to start from scratch.

``Bill wanted a place that was reasonably well-established,'' she said.

They got just that. Their new garden is as beautiful as the one they are leaving, but only about a third of the size. I asked Bill if perhaps he wouldn't be bored with such a small garden. He assured me that wouldn't be the case.

``Surely one lifetime will not exhaust the possibilities inherent in even one garden spot,'' he said.

-- Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

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