Skinners put heart, soul in garden
If you go
What: Rotary Botanical Gardens' 18th Annual Home Garden Tour
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 21, rain or shine.
Ticket booklets: $12 the day of the tour or $10 in advance. Tickets are available in Janesville at Rotary Botanical Gardens, 1455 Palmer Drive, or K&W Greenery, 1328 E. Highway 14; or in Milton from Patty's Plants, 819 E. High St. Children ages 12 and younger admitted free. The booklet also acts as a one-day entry pass into Rotary Botanical Gardens on July 21.
For more information: Call (608) 754-1779.
Gardeners can see the results of 14 years of landscaping when they visit the home of Tom and Sue Skinner.
"It's an eclectic theme," Sue said.
"And not really formal," Tom said.
The couple's garden is among seven home gardens and a botanic garden featured in this year's Rotary Botanical Gardens Home Garden Tour on Saturday, July 21.
When the Skinners bought the North Parker Drive property, they found the landscape to be plain, overgrown and not their style.
They removed trees, replacing each with two new trees. They ripped out the slate patio in back of the house and the low hedge that bordered it. They removed concrete steps in front and replaced them with limestone to match the 1839 Greek revival house—one of the earliest homes of Janesville.
They resurrected the buried wire fence on the south side of the house and replaced the cedar posts of the front antique wrought iron fence with new concrete posts.
"We pretty much replaced everything," Tom said.
We're very interested in keeping with the history of the house," Sue said.
A wood trellis, with a pattern that resembles a checkerboard, leans against the house. It came from an 1840 Greek Revival House in Illinois that was being demolished. Sue had extra trellis slats made into planters to match the trellis' game board squares.
"We like old, vintage stuff. I love the patina," she said.
Metal wire sculptures for planters, large copper flowers and whirligigs made by the couple's son accent garden beds.
Pieces of glass, china and pottery Tom unearthed through the years while digging in the yard have been incorporated into sculptures Sue made as well as into a concrete serving table and patio tabletop.
"So we try to incorporate anything we find on the property into the yard/gardens," Tom said. "This place is a treasure trove of artifacts."
The Skinners have used vines and branches to create sculptures scattered throughout their gardens, which feature perennials and colorful bursts of annuals Sue started from seed.
Tom and Sue find unusual objects in interesting places for their gardens, such as a marble bench and black urns found at rummage sales, a bird bath base somebody had set out as trash, tin cutouts of two dogs from an estate sale and an outhouse turned gardening shed found online on Craig's List.
Tom saved a historic Civil War summer kitchen that was featured in a 1976 Bicentennial edition of historic buildings of Rock County. After restoring the smallest example of a Greek revival building in the county, he decided to use it for storage.
Years later, Tom discovered that the person from whom he bought the outhouse was the son of the man who owned the summer kitchen.
For the most part, the Skinners are done landscaping.
"Now it's maintenance," Tom said.
HOME GARDEN TOUR FEATURED GARDENS
Tom and Sue Skinner, 2306 N. Parker Drive, Janesville.
See feature story.
Matt and Konya Schuh, 2365 N. Parker Drive, Janesville.
This property, nestled along the Rock River, features showy flowerbeds near entrance pillars that lead visitors to this stately home accented with flower containers, a Japanese maple and other plantings of colorful perennials and annuals. A swimming pool, pool house, fireplace, cooking area and fountain welcome guests to the backyard, which is bordered by a woodland edge that supports a wide range of wildlife giving guests a feeling of the country in the city.
Dave and Milly Babcock, 10118 N. Trescher Road, Milton.
This garden is perpetually a work in progress since there is always room for more flowerbeds. Situated adjacent to a 15-acre pond and surrounding woodland, this wildlife haven is accented by 45 wood duck houses, 10 bluebird houses and numerous bird feeders. Many of the flowers planted throughout this garden are intended to attract and feed the animals. A waterfall and pond with surrounding landscape were recently added to the garden that includes a variety of plants and wood-chipped paths into the woodlands.
Jeff and Penny Miller, 9106 N. Raven Drive, Milton.
This sloping property contains three acres of shade gardens with meandering trails that weave around 220,000 hostas representing more than 2,100 different varieties. It also features perennials, trees and shrubs, plus a 30,000-gallon pond with four waterfalls and benches to sit on and enjoy scenic views.
Dave and Barb Bendlin, 656 St. John's Court, Milton.
For more than 12 years, the Bendlins have worked to create gardens that include rocks, stone paths, waterfalls, ponds and a stone shed that complements cottage-style gardens of perennials, ornamental grasses, flowering and fruiting trees and shrubs, plus dwarf and miniature conifers for year around color. They also designed and created hummingbird and butterfly gardens, plus rock, wildflower, vegetable, Asian and water gardens.
Mark and Karen Shulz, 4554 E. Hillcrest Drive, Milton.
This wooded lot features a long driveway bordered by a dry creek surrounded by hostas, ferns, hydrangeas, coral bells, Japanese maples and other shade-loving perennials. A sunny perennial bed that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds accents the back yard while a pond with a stream and Koi fits into the natural slope of the land. Ornamental edibles can be found in the vegetable garden while a copper arbor leads guests to a woodland path highlighted by hemlocks, redbuds, fringe tree, native viburnums, witch hazel, a seven sons tree and varieties of dogwood.
Doug and Mary Agard, 4967 N. Grandview Drive, Milton.
This 3-acre lot sits on a hill bordering the Ice Age Trail, where its homeowners have spent the past 26 years clearing the oak woodlands of invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle and replanting a variety of shade-tolerant plants and shrubs. Pathways also have been developed and a small pond with a waterfall has been incorporated with native prairie plants to attract birds.
Rotary Botanical Gardens, 1455 Palmer Drive, Janesville.
This 20-acre nonprofit botanic garden features 20 different garden areas and 4,000 varieties of plants. Of the themed gardens, many have an international focus such as the Japanese, Scottish, French formal, Italian and English Cottage gardens. The less formally structured gardens include fern and moss gardens that have been recognized by the Hardy Fern Foundation, as well as shade, prairie and woodland gardens. There also is a visitor center, gift shop and facility that can be rented for wedding receptions, reunions, memorial and meeting.