July 08, 2022
In my last post I shared the Asian-style front garden of Linda Brazill and Mark Golbach, whose Madison, Wisconsin, garden of 28 years I toured on the recent Garden Bloggers Fling. (I first saw their garden back in 2010.) Today let me lead you on a tour of their larger, hillier, and even more spectacular back garden.
Believe it or not, this serene expanse of raked gravel with carefully placed boulders and smaller stones was originally a waterlily pond. As Linda explains in a blog post at Each Little World, “We moved to this 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 centerpiece of the space.” They excavated and built a small upper pond, a cascading stream with waterfalls for natural filtration, and a large lower pond for waterlilies in their sunniest spot.
But after a couple of decades the pond had become too big of a maintenance chore to keep up with. Had the Fling occurred when originally planned, in June 2020, we likely would have seen the lily pond. But during the long COVID summer at home, Mark and Linda fearlessly began planning its removal. They decided to drain it and create a karesansui garden instead, which mimics water with raked ripples and boulder “islands.” The new gravel garden was completed last summer. I think it’s incredibly beautiful — better even than their lovely pond was.
Obviously it’s not without maintenance too. But raking the gravel and combing it into patterns is meant to be a contemplative act, and probably is more enjoyable than mucking out a leaf-clogged pond.
Linda wrote extensively about the redesign, as she’s done with all their garden design moves (one of the reasons I love their blog). Click here to read why they made the change and here to read about the final stage of the karesansui garden’s completion.
Mark experiments with different raking patterns. To me these circular ripples evoke scattered raindrops falling into water. Appropriate for a damp day with off-and-on rain.
Looking upstream (how did I neglect to photograph the gravel stream and rock waterfall??), a tea house handcrafted by Mark draws your eye to the top of the slope. In front, a beautiful shade garden features few flowers aside from apricot martagon lilies. But Linda’s skill in using clipped shrubs among looser perennials and groundcovers gives the garden form and shape as well as varying shades of green. An assortment of trees — pines, a ginkgo — cluster around the tea house, adding their dappled greenery to the scene.
Stone steps lead up the hillside to the tea house, offering a higher view of the gravel garden.
Again, through a picturesque scrim of pine branches
Tea house windows and martagon lilies
And here’s the door, on the uphill side. Mark invited us to step inside after removing our shoes.
The inside view, with mats and cushions to sit on.
The exquisitely crafted and decorated interior
Doorway vignette — notice the propped-open window and wide-plank fence.
From the tea house porch you enjoy a view of the upper karesansui garden. This used to be the upper pond before Mark and Linda switched to gravel.
Stones and boulders cluster near the dropoff, and you can easily imagine water gathering force as it falls down the hillside. Raked ripples and a fishing heron sculpture complete the watery illusion. Notice too how 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 a striking vertical statement beside the upper “pond.”
Rounded boulders and echoing mounds of boxwood and Japanese forest grass, among other perennials, edge the gravel.
Japanese forest grass and more apricot martagon lilies…
…which dangle over a tan-and-black pot, creating a nice color echo amid the greenery.
Astrantia, a flower I’d definitely grow if I could. How I love it.
A stone lantern with intricate carvings makes a focal point along the path.
At the back of the half-acre garden, a Japanese-style fence and gate, complete with shingled roof, makes a neighbor-friendly separation. Mark built the fence himself.
Linda created an inviting strolling garden here, planted with sedge, ferns, boxwood, yew, and beautiful trees.
A glimpse of the house, and the lower gravel garden, from the path
Potted plants appear amid the perennials, one with pine cones for mulch.
Looking back along the path toward the stone lantern
And let’s admire the craftsmanship of the fence too.
Mossy shingles add character.
I believe Linda has written about losing some old trees on this mound, and planting carex as a shaggy groundcover, which I find very appealing.
A silvery fern echoes silver-green pine needles above.
A weeping tree dangles leafy tendrils in the other back corner. You part them and step through as if entering a secret garden.
Silvery ferns line the fence and hop across the stone path, leading the eye along.
Another sedgey berm
And another stone lantern along the way
Now we’re on the opposite side of the lower gravel garden from the tea house, which is perched on the hillside straight ahead.
A viewing path — and perhaps maintenance access — invites a closer look.
Trees lead the eye up and deeper into the garden. I wonder how many trees Linda and Mark have planted during their nearly 30 years here. Near the house, a Japanese-style boardwalk leads across a boggy area…
…toward a large deck — a perfect spot to sit with coffee or wine and enjoy views of the garden.
On the deck, a bouquet of flowers cut from the garden dresses up one of a pair of pottery vases.
And on the dining table, I was happy to see the famous his-and-hers posy vases that appear in the header of Each Little World, representing the gardeners…
…who graciously posed for me here. What a lovely and talented couple!
And what a stunning garden they have created together — and continue to re-create.
Heading out, I spotted a little scrap-metal face on the wall and did a double-take. Hello and goodbye, little guy!
Up next: Tom and Cheryl 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.
I welcome your comments. Please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post. And hey, did someone forward this email to you, and you want to subscribe? Click here to get Digging delivered directly to your inbox!
Join the mailing list for Garden Spark! Hungry to learn about garden design from the experts? I’m hosting a series of talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added. The 6th season kicks off in fall 2022.
All material © 2022 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.