A Real Showstopper: A Colorful Country Garden

A costume artist brings her talent for dressing the stage to a colorful country garden in Lawrence, Kansas.

| May/June 2011

Creating a garden is like costuming a show for Susan Rendall, head of the University of Kansas’ theater department costume shop. It’s all about drama, color and good taste. In her country garden, Susan designs colorful scenes that delight, entertain and soothe.

Susan and her husband, Doug, had a family farm in Wisconsin when, in 2000, Susan landed a dream job as the head of the KU costume shop. Susan headed south to Lawrence, Kansas, renting an apartment while Doug stayed behind so the youngest of their three children could finish high school with his classmates. A passionate gardener, Susan spent the transition time touring local gardens, plotting her dream garden. After Doug took a farming job and joined Susan in Lawrence, the couple bought a home on 5 acres of rich, loamy soil.

Staging the Scenes 

After touring local gardens and learning about the best plants for the area, Susan was ready to map out her garden scenes. She envisioned windbreaks, native prairie and cultivated gardens framed by snow fence, rock benches and archways. The couple built a rambling wall out of dry-stacked concrete blocks to define a large part of the garden and provide seating. They also built a wooden pergola to cover a shade garden.

On nights and weekends, the couple steadily planted trees, constructed trellises and established paths. But when their oldest daughter announced she wanted to be wed in the garden, they started to improvise, hurrying to set the perfect stage for the wedding. Today, nearly eight years later, the scene Susan created for the ceremony remains climactic: Blazing stands of roses, zinnias and lilies in shades of red, orange and yellow surround an archway that frames the prairie beyond.

Building Colorful Sets 

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