A self-proclaimed “plant geek,” Cheryl received her Horticulture degree at Milwaukee Area Technical College. She spent many years working in the Otter Creek Landscape division and at John Michael Kohler Arts Center gardens. She’s now the office manager for The Wreath Factory and Otter Creek Landscape. Check out her blog for tips, travels and things that pop up in her garden.


Garden 11 - Herb & Knot Garden
by Cheryl Walsh - posted 08/26/13

Recently I counted all the different herbs in my garden and I came up with over 25 of them!  So if you can imagine, I need a lot of room for all those herbs.  Considering this garden is only two years old, it has seen a lot of transformations.

We had our landscape shed built in November 2011 and this is the “mess” we had 16 months ago before the creation of the Herb-Knot Garden.

Last June we had completed phase 1 of this garden.   Two espaliered fruit trees, 12 Buxus microphylla ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods, 10 Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea Nana’ Crimson Pygmy Barberries, 10 Lavandula angustifolia Hidcode  lavender plants and 32 thyme plants (red creeping thyme, magic carpet thyme, variegated lemon thyme and wooly thyme) were all planted to form the “Knot” and fill in between the large concrete stained blocks.  Then a variety of perennial and annual herbs were added in the raised bed.  Double shredded hardwood mulch was added in the open areas.

This summer, the mulch was removed and granite screenings and pavers were used instead for a much neater appearance.  A water garden was added in the middle of the Knot garden and the rain barrel was updated.  The thyme plants have filled in between the large stones.  I think if I had to do it over again I would probably plant just one type of thyme for a more uniform look.  The variegated lemon thyme is the tallest at 6″ and the wooly thyme is the shortest at 1″.  The scent is amazing when walking or brushing past those plants!


A diverter was added to the downspout of the gutter for the over flow from the few times a year we get too much rain.

Two repurposed parts bins were also added to make more room for all the herbs & vegetables.  I lined the bottom with landscape fabric and filled with potting soil.  The basil, stevia, orange scented geranium, celeriac, artichoke, ornamental peppers and sorrel are lovin’ this new home.

The north side of the landscape shed had a Twisty Baby Dwarf Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lace Lady) as the only plant.  The contorted branches and leaves  draw people to it asking “what is it”?  This was early spring when the leaves were just emerging.

The landscape bed was expanded and edged with pavers.  Three Hydrangea Invincibelle Spirits, five Rodgersia ‘Fireworks’,  one Andropogon gerardii ‘Red Bull’ ornamental grass and Cercidiphyllum japonicum Katsura ‘Red Fox’ tree were added using burgundy and pinks for color inspiration.

When gutters were added to this building, I made sure that I was able to install a rain chain.  I can enjoy seeing the trickle of the rain down this chain from the inside of my house.   I left the rain chain up over winter and the beauty of the frozen water and snow that clung to the chain  caught my eye.

This is bronze fennel that has reseeded in my herb garden along with parsley from last year.

This Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote Lavender is one of the  more hardy ones for our area.  I planted ten of them and all of them came back beautifully this year.

This is the time of year to use as many herbs as you can and preserve the rest for later use.  A couple of my favorite recipes are bruschetta using fresh tomatoes and basil, herb butter using chives, basil, rosemary and marjoram and pineapple and mint infused water.   What are your favorite herb recipes?

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Garden 9 - The Bird Garden
by Cheryl Walsh - posted 05/20/13


This theme garden is for the birds.  There are lots of bird friendly shrubs, a bird bath, bird houses, bird feeders and even a hummingbird stepping stone.  There was a lone maple tree in our backyard and needing another garden bed, we decided to elongate the bed by anchoring one end with a Redbud Tree (Cercis canadensis) and the other end with a Glossy Black Chokeberry shrub (Aronia melanocarpa elata).  Then berry producing shrubs were added of  Winterberries (Ilex verticella Red Sprite) and Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’).

Aronia melanacarpa elata (Glossy Black Chokeberry)  This shrub produces blackish purple fruit, has fall color and has spring white five petal flowers.

This is the fall color of the Rhamnus frangula ‘Asplenifolia’.  I love the fine texture of the thin leaves.  There is a smaller plant similar to this called the Fineline Buckthorn.

This was the  existing maple tree that we created by elongating the bed.  The fall color is gorgeous and it also is a great place for bird houses and garden art.

The beautiful purple berries of the Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ Beautyberry Shrub are a must have.  I only had room for one but would have liked three of them.  Right now this shrub is first starting to leaf out.  Next to this shrub are three Winterberries – two are Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ and one is Illex verticilla ‘Jim Dandy’.  Jim Dandy is the pollinator for the other two so the bright red fruit is available for the birds.  The first year I wasn’t able to find the male shrub so I didn’t have any berries.

This multi stem tree is Cercis canadensis Redbud.  This native tree is blooming right now in our area and is easily recognized by the reddish purple flowers.   When this tree was planted, I notice one of the large stems was rubbing against the other one so I immediately staked it so that it would not be injured.  Now it looks great and is healthy!

Last year I purchased two Syringa x ‘Penda’ Bloomerang Lilacs.  After walking around my yard a few times, the only place I could find for them was this bed.  It didn’t really meed my criteria as “bird friendly” but I needed a home for this reblooming lilac so I planted them there.  I may have to move them sometime soon but for now I will be enjoying the purple flowers.  Does anyone else purchase a shrub or perennial without a home in mind….but you just have to have it so you walk around the yard until you find a space?

Another piece of garden art in the Bird Garden is the Bottle Tree.  Slowly I have been replacing the “boring” colored wine bottles with the brighter blue ones.  I enjoy looking at this Bottle Tree in the winter with the snow covering parts of it. Does anyone else have one of these? I am not sure this is the right home for this art piece but for now it is in the Bird Garden.  Enjoy waking up every day to something new blooming in your garden.

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Week 7 - The Ally Mae Garden
by Cheryl Walsh - posted 04/14/13


This week’s tour is one of my favorite gardens the “Ally Mae Garden.”  The garden is about 50′ by 20′ and has a lot of shade plants.  When we moved to this property, this garden consisted of two ash trees, nine spireas, three junipers, one lilac shrub, large accent stones and eight tons of rotten granite.    I tried to add more interesting plants and shrubs to this bed but found out the soil underneath the stone mulch and fabric weed barrier was severely compacted and of poor quality.  Every time we dug a hole, we ended up removing lots of stones and had to amend the soil in order to plant the new plant.  To this day, I am still in debt to my husband who over a period of several weeks that summer, removed all the rotten granite using a shovel and hauling it with a wheelbarrow to an area on our driveway.  We then had someone remove the large pile of rotten granite and haul it away.  After removing the fabric weed barrier and all the shrubs except for the large lilac on the north end, I had a new palette to design a garden.  That summer my mom & dad were generous with my birthday gift and I was able to buy lots of perennials and shrubs.  You guessed it……my mom’s name is Ally Mae.

This vignette has Hakonechloa ‘Aureola’ and ‘Albo Striata’ (Japanese Forest Grass and perennial plant of 2009) along with some garden art that I have collected.  These grasses have brilliant foliage that cascades around the large rock.

A few years ago, I added 50 Hyacinth bulbs in yellow and fuchsia.  I should be seeing them come up soon.

I designed the garden to have flowering plants in pinks, yellows and purples.  These Helleborus orientalis (Lenten Roses) get about 16-18″ tall and blooms persist over two months.

This Syringa (Lilac) bush is the only shrub left from the original landscape bed.  My husband loves lilacs so we had to keep this one.  The blooms smell wonderful.

Tiarella cordifolia (Foam Flower) has marked foliage, light fragrance and elegant flowers.  These were planted in a group of three.

Nine Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) perennials were planted around several large rocks.  I had these plants in another area that turned out to be too sunny and dry for them.  They are much happier in this location.  I love the way the morning dew drops rest on the leaves.  This plant makes a great ground cover also.

There are three of these Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ – Tiger Eyes Cutleaf  Staghorn Sumac in this bed.  Here they are with their yellow, orange and scarlet fall color hiding their fuzzy covered branches.  The deeply cut leaflets drape downward, giving it an oriental look.  This plant grows to be about 6′ tall and wide.

One area of the bed has lots of sun so I planted five Stachys ‘Pink Cotton Candy’ (Betony) with it’s wands of cotton candy pink flowers that stand attention above the foliage (I think we had a lot of winds before I took this picture as they seem to be falling).

These are a few others plants that complete this garden:

3 Hemerocallis ‘Dragons Eye’ – Pink Daylilies

3 Cimicifugs simplex ‘White Pearl’ – Bugbane with burgundy leaves

3 Hydrangea paniculata ‘Quick Fire’ – Shrubs with white flowers that turn dark pink (almost red)

3 Each of Ligularia ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’ & ‘The Rocket’ & “Desdemona’ – yellow flowers – some daisy like and some plume like and some have burgundy leaves

1 Hypericum frondosum ‘Sunburst’ – St. Johnswort Shrub – beautiful yellow flowers and unusual seed heads in fall

3 Juniper ‘Gold Coast’ – evergreen shrubs for winter interest with a golden color

3 Aruncus dioicus (Goat’s Beard) – has showy, creamy-white plume flowers

3 Heuchera americana ‘Green Spice’ (Coral Bells) – purple vein leaves with white flowers

1 Paeonia – Red Tree Peony – the flowers are gorgeous and every year it produces more flowers than the year before

The things I learned when planting this garden – it pays to take the time and money to amend the soil.  After the weed barrier was removed, we loosened the soil and added a lot of compost.  After planting, we installed about 3″ deep of double shredded hardwood mulch.  Every couple of years I continue to top dress with mulch as over the years it breaks down and enhances the soil.  Plant 3 to 5 of each perennial so the impact of the flower color or foliage is greater.  Since we have two ash trees in this landscape bed and I anticipate that they may not live much longer,  we planted a Fagus sylvatica ‘Spaethiana’ – European Beech with purple foliage.  This tree will get 40-50′ tall and will give me the shade that will be gone when the ash trees need to be cut down.

I picked up a new book called “The Inspired Gardener – What makes us tick?”  It has insightful sayings with beautiful pictures.  Today I am drawn to this one:

In the spring, at the end of the day; you should smell like dirt. (Margaret Atwood)


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