Finding Neverland: Transforming an Ordinary Garden

Turn an ordinary garden into a magical, whimsical playground for plants-—and people.

| July/August 2008

  • A tile mosaic of a garden diva with a butterfly on her leg at StoneCrop farm and sculpture garden in Platteville, Wisconsin.
    Photo By Heidi Dyas-McBeth
  • An herb-spiral garden wall with white sage, petunias and nasturtiums at StoneCrop.
    Photo By Heidi Dyas-McBeth
  • The author's wife, Lisa Kivirist, plays chess with life-size pieces at Inn Serendipity.
    Photo By John Ivanko
  • Reflective of the fantasy-like atmosphere at the Legs Inn in Cross Village, Michigan, this sculpture entertains visitors while they savor the restaurant's authentic Polish cuisine. The twisted limbs, roots and driftwood collected by the former owner are displayed throughout the garden.
    Photo By John Ivanko
  • An old candy-striped barbershop pole sits in the alleyway gardens of an East Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago.
    Photo By John Ivanko
  • An artistic garden couch is set among ferns and flowers in Chicago's Podmajersky alleyway gardens in an East Pilsen neighborhood.
    Photo By John Ivanko
  • A manure spreader is transformed into a colorful floran arrangement.
    Photo By John Ivanko

Early one spring my son, Liam, and I haphazardly planted colorful gourds on our 5½-acre organic farm. The gourd vines crawled along the bamboo poles and sturdy sunflower stalks, up and over a juniper bush and into our flowering crabapple tree. They found their way over bushes, along garden walls, around small evergreens—it was nature running its course, and all we had to do was plant the seeds.

Our farm can accommodate large, flowing plants. It’s a place where both plants and people are allowed to follow their free wills. At the ecological and renewably powered inn my family and I run, Inn Serendipity, guests dine al fresco, surrounded by tiger lilies, cascading ferns and hostas. Our gardens follow nature’s whimsy, evolving with the seasons and our creativity.

I’m lucky to have an acreage, but you too can bring whimsy to any garden, anywhere. In one example, Chicago development firm Podmajersky replaced cement alleyways between buildings with community garden spaces that also feature tenants’ artistic creations. The gardens reconnect and delight everyone in the neighborhood, offering sanctuary from the urban bustle.

Enticed? The first rule for creating whimsical gardens is that there are no rules! Reread your favorite children’s book or watch a fantastical movie for inspiration. The following tips will help you get some good things growing.

Visit: Inn Serendipity, Browntown, Wisconsin; (608) 329-7056; .

Mosaics in the Garden

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