A German Village garden delights the neighborhood's walkers and pollinators.
Every summer, Boyd and Renate Fackler relish the porch view overlooking a meadow-like garden at their home in German Village. Yet, they aren’t the only beings enjoying the blooms. Bumblebees energized by the morning sunshine load up on pollen from the purple spires of anise hyssop. A painted lady butterfly sips nectar from a purple coneflower, and a hummingbird zips over to check a fire-orange torch lily. Meanwhile, the village’s active walkers pause in front of the Facklers’ charming, gray-painted brick home to gawk at the garden, its exuberant container displays and colorful window boxes.
That’s the way the Facklers wanted it when they moved to German Village from
Buckeye Lake in 2013. In fact, they brought with them artist Renate’s bronze sculpture “Cultivating Beauty” and tucked it among perennials in the front corner of the garden. It’s one of many bronze sculptures she’s created for herself and clients throughout Central Ohio.
This particular sculpture is based on the heroine in the picture book “Miss Rumphius” who seeks to make the world more beautiful by planting lupines along the coast of Maine. Renate says the sculpture first sat beside a pond and has since traveled to three other homes. “She’s been around,” she jokes, adding that a forklift is necessary to move the 500-pound sculpture and its 1,000-pound rock base.
To live out the sculpture’s mantra of cultivating beauty at their new home, Renate and Boyd turned to long-time friend and landscape designer Nick McCullough of McCullough’s Landscape & Nursery in New Albany to design an inviting landscape. When Nick first visited the pint-sized property, he was surprised to find the space and surrounding blocks were “a desert island.”
“There are no pollinators here,” says McCullough, “so I thought, ‘We’re going to change that.’”
For the landscape design, he recommended elevating the corner of the property to be eye-level from the curb and containing it by adding a limestone wall and decorative iron fence, which was installed by the Facklers’ nephew. A garden of native prairie perennials was then situated in the elevated space.
“He brought up the urban prairie idea, since he knew we loved a more natural and not manicured style with lots of sculpted boxwoods,” says Boyd.
Here, McCullough filled the space with a compact planting of pollinator-friendly perennials including many Midwest natives. The plant list includes yarrow, allium, orange and purple coneflowers, anise hyssop, golden Rudbeckia, torch lilies, salvia, Russian sage, betony, perennial geranium, clethra, Rudbeckia maxima and daisies.
“The pollinators moved in instantly,” says McCullough who still maintains the property every three weeks for deadheading, light weeding and “a social visit.”
“It’s relatively low maintenance with only 5,000 square feet, no lawn and low maintenance plants,” he adds.
The key to the garden’s naturalistic style—or organized chaos—is to put in place “bones,” such as walls or rows of evergreen plants, fill the open spaces with natural plantings featuring a sequence of blooms and seasonal interest, then editing (or thinning) the more aggressive plants as they mature. For example, McCullough says they found over time the vigorous Henry Ehliers Rudbeckia had to be “kept in check to behave.”
Along the alley, he also created a privacy screen by planting four red-leaf Japanese maples and a couple of conifers.
In front, he planted liriope or lilyturf instead of traditional turfgrass in the hellstrip—the space between the curb and sidewalk where lawns typically languish. The liriope plants tolerate shade from the street trees, endure the hazards of a pet walking zone and require no mowing or watering. Interestingly, many other Village residents have repeated the concept in their hellstrips.
To dress up the home’s front facade, McCullough designed four window boxes and two pedestaled containers to hold seasonal displays of annuals in Renate’s favorite colors.
“I tend to design in cool colors, but Renate is like a firecracker and likes hot colors, so she pushed me beyond the cool colors to warmer ones,” says McCullough.
In summer, they fill the two window boxes and containers with bright tropicals such as bird of paradise and annuals including red begonias and yellow lantana that stand out against the backdrop of the dark gray house. In fall, they reassemble the containers and window boxes with purple- and red-colored plants such as Redbor kale and Medusa ornamental peppers. In winter, the planters are filled with fir and cypress clippings, magnolia leaves and curly willow stems dramatically uplit with spotlights.
While McCullough’s business mainstay may be the upscale gardens among the estates of New Albany, the Facklers say he certainly shines in designing the intimate landscapes in German Village. “For a very small space, he’s created an urban prairie that’s so unique,” says Renate. “And, what he does with plants is like what an artist does with paint.”