Designing a Stroll Garden
Constance McAlpin’s country garden near Franklin, Indiana is tied together with one amazing hardscape element…a system of brick and paver pathways. The brickwork starts at the porch and criss-crosses through the garden making it easy for her visitors to stroll the garden. Here’s the story of her heritage house and garden.
Constance’s garden is surrounded by lush green boxwood hedges, accented by ironwork arches and gazebos and is the jewel set in the all-American farm property where she and her husband live and work. Her two influences were a wonderful nursery with lush garden beds of Hosta connected by winding pathways…rows and rows of Iris..and so many other beautiful perennials….it was paradise and I was in love!
“The second influence is a couple who, once a year, open their gorgeous gardens to the public for charity and the first time I went, I was in total disbelief about the size and beauty of the gardens. From then on…I wanted more and more and bigger and bigger. I will never be as good or have as much, but I give it my best shot,” Constance says.
She says, “My husband’s family members were the original owners of this property all the way back to the beginning when the land was deeded to them from the US Government in 1856. I’ve been married since 1973 to ‘my farmer,’ Glenn, retired from the US Postal Service.”
“We are still actively farming our land. My husband and I bought our old farmhouse and the surrounding land in the fall of 1990.”
“Our house required a total gutting and restoration, inside and out…some people said it was worthy of being demolished, but we wanted to save it because it was built by my husbands ancestors. We also added on an addition doubling the size of our house.”
Constance explains how she became crazy for Flea Market junkola in the garden,…like many of us, it began with her house. She tells us, “So, when we moved to this old two story farm house, we started going to auctions, all the time…and antique shops to buy antique furniture to fill our house. We had a lot of rooms to fill.”
“But, now if I want something else furniture wise in the house, then something has to go. I eventually decided to start looking for things for the garden and the focus shifted to Flea Markets!”
As a bonus, Constance has a daughter, Jennifer, with her own Antique shop. She lives just down the road in another house on the farm and works for an online estate sales company. She gets first dibs on some amazing finds for her Mom.
“There were no gardens at first, only weeds and huge dying maple trees. We have planted many, many trees, and cut down several of them as well. The only blooming things were one old fashioned Lilac, two Mock Oranges, a Redbud tree and a ton of orange roadside Lilies. I got to work creating garden beds and filling them with plants then moving them. Each time, I was getting rid of just a little more grass so I wouldn’t have to mow it!”
“My husband never knows if the landscape is going to be changed from day to day. I keep telling him that is how it is with gardeners…always changing, as long as there’s room to grow and if we can maintain it all.”
Learning about perennials!
Constance says, “I realized that I enjoyed gardening when my Mom brought me some flowers for around my house. I do remember saying, but these plants are just green …there are no flowers. She said these perennials, like Buttercups, Sweet Williams, and others that I have forgotten, will bloom in due time. I was a bit deflated that I did not have instant flowers after that first day of planting. That was my first introduction to perennials.”
I was hooked after that….and gradually it became an obsession and now there is nothing else I would rather do, except maybe shopping for flea market finds for the garden!
As of now, we were the house in the country on the historic home tour in September 2014 when approximately 700 people toured our house and gardens. Last summer 2015 we also hosted two garden clubs. I would like to do more things like this.
Division of labor
Constance is the one who plants the flowers, maintains and weeds, and mows the grass. She can drive a tractor and unload grain from the fields into the grain bins.
Her husband, Glenn, is very talented and can do anything, she says, and canmake anything needed. “He rebuilt the porches and copied the missing gable fretwork on our house from the old photo we have.”
Constance says, “We created the front porch just from looking at that same picture. He made the porch posts from mahogany on his lathe to match the picture, and we even installed bead board ceilings to be true to the period. He has also built custom lattice walls, arbors, and the pergola. I am his assistant and also do a lot of the painting. He also welds and has reproduced two arched arbors that I needed to complete a set of six.
Constance splurged on the brickwork, proving that having that it’s wise to have an expert come in to do the work. She says, “Over the past 25 years, we have built three porches, removed the rotting makeshift front porch and replaced it with the authentic version and then adding two others where none existed before. We have a very talented brick mason who does all our brick work for us, 200 linear feet of brick walkways and an indoor fireplace.”
“My husband built all the wood arbors, pergolas, custom lattice work and porches from the foundation up and also the ironwork including arbors and other decor. My husband is extremely talented!””
Constance says, “Here is the chandelier that my husband built for our gazebo recently. It doesn’t light at the moment….I told my husband to put his thinking cap on and see if he could make that happen!”
“Here is our grinding stone path that leads to our gazebo. It is new this year. My husband laid Jamestown blue stone steps leading to these and also another set of steps are getting ready to be made to step down to the gazebo.”
“These three steps lead down to the 14 antique grinding stones collected during the spring and summer months this year at the Johnson County Antique Market and other places.”
Constance was lucky enough to photograph this beautiful dragonfly, top, and has two other displays of garden art dragonflies, as well!
“This maple tree has gotten so much bigger since we purchased this property in 1990. Love its branch formation.”
Constance says, “My gardens are always a work in progress and will probably never be as good as I desire them to be. That is how it is with gardeners…always changing, ever expanding, never finished”