Couple got rid of invasive plants and an oversized driveway to create garden
The back yard of Karl and Mary Wildner’s home at 936 Larabee St. in Port Washington is filled with perennial and annual flowers that not only add color, fragrance and beauty, but delineate spaces by bordering patios, walkways and the asphalt driveway.
The couple will show off the work they put into the property that had been neglected by previous owners and overgrown with buckthorn and weeds during the Port Washington Garden Walk on Saturday, July 12.
Theirs is one of five gardens that will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and it’s one that no one should miss.
The couple moved from Michigan to Port Washington eight years ago for Karl’s job, and they brought their gardening and farming skills (Karl used to be farmer) with them.
They first saw the stone house in December and fell in love it. They bought it in July and moved in October.
By then, the couple, especially Mary, already had ideas for how to improve the large corner lot on a hill.
The first thing was to diminish — physically and visually — the massive black driveway that leads to the lower-level, two-car garage and used to extend the length of the house.
Karl removed about a third of the asphalt, reducing the driveway to the width of the garage, and built a patio with pavers. He created a foot-wide border around the patio that his wife fills with annuals, such as pansies, lobelia and alyssum.
The patio is large enough for several tables, a grill and seating areas. Planters filled with flowers are on the tables and set around the patio. The potted plants complement those in the border.
“I start with a purple and orange color scheme and add other colors. I love color,” Mary said. “This is our outdoor living space. We spend a lot of time here.”
Last year, they couple diminished the size of the driveway further by adding a berm and wrought iron archway at one end to separate it from the lawn.
The Wildners planted boxwood and fragrant Autumn Sunset roses that climb the arch. The berm is over sand and gravel from the driveway, so Karl installed an underground soaker hose to keep the plants watered.
During the first year in their house, the couple removed lots of buckthorn and two ash trees from existing flower beds. The only desirable plants they found were ferns and snow on the mountain.
That changed quickly when the couple added a variety of shade-loving plants, including hostas, daylilies, bee balm, Siberian blugloss, Virginia bluebells, coral bells, bishop’s mantel, bleeding hearts and other perennials to add color.
A purple trellis can be found in one garden, while a nearby green metal table and chairs provide a shady spot to relax.
Karl removed a crumbling concrete stoop and walk by a side entrance and replaced it with paver bricks. That’s where a purple rocker can be found.
“I like color. If I can’t get it in flowers, I’ll spray paint something,” Mary said.
In contrast to the back yard, the front yard is primarily white impatiens amid green shrubs.
“White flowers give a little drama and definition,” Mary said.
She added a blue hydrangea and a Japanese maple tree near the front door. A metal archway near the street provides an inviting entrance.
The east yard is filled with ferns where deer bedded down during the harsh winter.
“We enjoyed watching them from our window,” Mary said, “but I don’t enjoy them when they eat my flowers.”
To ensure her flowers aren’t eaten by deer or other critters before the garden walk, Mary sprays them with deer deterrent and covers the plants at night.
Image information: Karl and Mary Wildner’s luxuriant back yard will be open to the public Saturday. Turn to page 3C for details.