When Clarice and Dennis Vichich moved to their Franklin Home about 25 years ago, they moved more than just their furniture.
Because Clarice loves all things green and growing, they dug up most of the plants at their previous home in Greenfield, hauled them to their new home, and planted them there. They also hauled all the Lannon stone and fieldstone from that garden.
Because their new 1-acre property was all grass, she used a sod cutter to dig up the sod in the spaces where she wanted to put her plants, then took the sod back to their previous house to plant it in the spaces where her plants once grew.
“Basically my husband and I did it all. But we were a lot younger then. We got an old pickup truck and we would load up all these plants and rocks. It was a lot of work, but to me it was something I had to do,” she said.
This move may seem like a lot of work to some, but she said it went smoothly; probably because they’d done it once before.
“About 40 years ago we had built our first house where my grandfather’s farm was in Greenfield. But then too much commercial development came to the area, so after a few years we picked up the house and moved it.” to a lot in Greenfield.
In that move they took their plants along too, as well as Lannon stone they had collected and fieldstone that was once the foundation of her grandfather’s barn.
After a few years they realized the lot they had moved their house to was too small for the gardens Clarice wanted to have, so they began looking for a new home.
They found the perfect space in their current home, which is on a rolling lot in a woody area not far from Boerner Botanical Gardens.
In addition to the lot, they also loved the cottage style home, which has four bedrooms, 2½ baths and a garage apartment.
Clarice, who like her husband is retired, said that after that move, it didn’t take long for all the plants she hauled with her to get established. And of course she added more plants as time went on.
“When you take full size plants, they get established within a few months. Then, people wouldn’t have known these gardens weren’t there forever.
“Then every year I added something new; a bush or a plant, and my husband used some of the fieldstone to build a shed. And then, of course we built a walkway to the shed with the Lannon stone, and then we put gardens around the shed,” she said.
Today her shade gardens, which are informal in style, have pathways and stairways made from the Lannon stone, raised beds made of fieldstone, massive boulders that accent flowerbeds, arborvitae in different shapes and sizes, there’s a curved gravel driveway, a long allee, a large wooded area, a patio off the back of the house, and lots of water features and wildlife.
“I like to roam through the gardens. I have a lot of fountains; I love water in the garden. And I have a lot of animals that come into the garden. I plant things for the birds; things like dogwoods and mulberry. Actually the birds plant the mulberries themselves.
“We also have a lot of deer. A couple years ago we put black iron fencing around the back half of the yard because it’s hard to garden with the deer. Now, they can eat what they want but they also leave some for me.
“I also created different gardens around the house. They’re like different rooms. This house is on an angle, and you can’t tell where the property starts and ends. The way I positioned the front gardens helps tie the house to the land. It improves the way it looks.”
Work she did on the property was so stunning it attracted staff of Better Homes and Gardens.
“It happened through the Master Gardener program. (the UW Extension Master Gardener program) The people from the magazine came out here in the spring of 2012 and took photos that were printed in February of 2013.
“When they first came out, they looked at the gardens and saw all the bluebells by the shed. There was a mass of them, so they loved that. There were also bleeding hearts going up and down the Lannon stone steps that were nearby. They took photos of the flowers and the shed.
“They published a couple pages, it was a nice spread. It was my moment of fame,” she said, but added that the project took two days and although it was interesting, it was a lot of work trying to make the yard look perfect for that project.
Plants and memories
She said her gardens also hold memories for her and that gardening makes her happy every day.
“I have my grandmother’s peonies; I’ve moved them so many times. And I have plants from other people growing in my gardens. When I look at these plants I remember these people.
“I love to live in pretty surroundings. When you garden you are creating pictures. Every time I look out of one of my windows I see a pretty view,” she said.
While she loves her gardens and enjoys spending time in them, she said she is once again changing them.
“As I’m getting older I’m putting in more grass, and taking out plants to make gardening easier.
“We had a waterfall with two ponds that Dennis made, and just last year we filled in that area because it was getting to be too much work.
“I recently got rid of truckloads of pachysandra and hostas – my whole driveway is full of them. When I split them I have hundreds left. Now instead of transplanting them I throw them out in front of the house for people to take or I put them on Facebook Marketplace.
“But I’m still always making something new. Right now I’m putting in some arborvitae at the front of the property. … I also started a new shade garden on other side of the driveway. It never stays the same, it’s always changing.
“Gardening is a lot of work. You have to love it because you have to do it when it needs to be done,” she said.
She recently talked about her gardens and how much she enjoys them.
Question: Did you ever consider leaving your gardens intact rather than taking your plants with you?
Answer: No. The Realtors we worked with also said the number of plants wouldn’t be a plus. It was more than most people wanted to take care of.
Q: What was your second garden like?
A: It was a quarter acre of solid gardens with two paths of grass.
Q: Were you glad this property had no gardens when you bought it?
A: Yes. When you create your gardens, you know them much better. And when it’s something you created, you want to take care of it. It’s not the same when you inherit it. I was glad nothing was here because I wanted to do my own thing.
Q: What time of year was it when you transplanted all your plants here?
A: It was summer. I had to water a lot.
Q: Were there any trees on your property when you moved there?
A: Yes. There were some big old oak trees, but we are losing some of them. There are also a lot of black walnut trees. We planted some Eastern redbuds. We also added some ginkgo trees.
Q: How do you design your garden beds?
A: I look at the grass and I create a shape, whether it’s a big teardrop shape or a circle, and then everything else is garden.
Q: Do you have a background in horticulture?
A: I was in the Master Gardener program years ago. Then, I used to read plant encyclopedias.
Q: What role does your husband play in the garden?
A: He edges all the beds. He also takes care of the trees. At first he didn’t like gardening that much, but now he does because he sees how it’s constantly changing.
Q: Are other family members interested in gardening?
A: We have four children, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. The great-grandchildren are the most interested. They all know the names of the different flowers and they know how to garden. When we had the pond they all loved that.
Q: What are some of your favorite plants?
A: Hostas, astilbe, peonies, hellebores, daylilies, daffodils, clematis, and I like grasses. Also forsythias, lilacs and hydrangeas. They are pretty simple plants, but they make a beautiful garden because there are different textures. I like different shades of green. Lately I’ve been adding a lot of chartreuse colored plants.
Q: What are the challenges to gardening here?
A: The black walnut trees. We have about 10. Because they have juglone in their root systems, some plants won’t survive around them. But you learn. There are a lot of plants that will do well around them, and sometimes some things will survive when they shouldn’t. I respect the black walnut and don’t put plants near them that I know won’t survive. Because of the woods, it also gets weedy. I’m constantly tying to keep things at bay. I’m always struggling with garlic mustard. That’s an issue.
Q: Do your gardens match the style of your home?
A: Yes. The man who designed the buildings at Boerner designed the house. It has the same feel. The house looks like an 1800s stone cottage, but it was built in 1939.
Q: Was there anyone who influenced you in gardening?
A: My dad and mom. Dad was interested in it. My whole family always had vegetable gardens.
Q: How do you keep your gardens looking so beautiful?
A: A lot of watering. My husband does that. This season we watered a lot. And I’m weeding constantly. I use a lot of Preen; otherwise I couldn’t keep up with the weeds.
Q: Have these gardens changed much over the years?
A: They’re always changing. In any garden you go through stages. First you want natives, then you want something else and you get rid of the natives. You learn what you want to tolerate. I have less natives now because we don’t have a lot of sun.
Q: What native plants do you still have?
A: I have Joe Pye weed in a circle around a tree, and the Joe Pye is surrounded by hostas. In that circle they behave pretty well. Butterflies love the Joe Pye weed.
Q: Any projects in the works?
A: I’m planting some new arborvitae for privacy because they are putting in a bike trail near my property. I also have to remove a bunch of hostas, and figure out what to do with those.