Garden Tour: Creative License in Wisconsin | Midwest Living

Garden Tour: Creative License in Wisconsin

The fantasyland in this wooded Wisconsin garden reflects the owners’ joy in indulging their imaginations by creating colorful mosaics and reusing old objects.
  • Ordinary to extraordinary

    “We don’t even know how things will look next week,” Douglas Henderson says jokingly about the quirky art and collections that define the Hendersons’ fanciful gardens.

    Doug and his wife, Barbara, both Master Gardeners, live on a heavily wooded 1-acre lot on Wisconsin’s Door County Peninsula. Under the canopy of green, hostas and other shade-loving plants blanket the land. Within this potentially dim and staid setting, they installed their singular artwork to create a color-infused wonderland.

    Here, an urn of flowers towers above mosaic stepping-stones. The pedestal material? Decorated concrete septic rings. Nearby, a cut-in-half fireplace screen forms a garden gate. 

  • Artful highlights

    Salvaged posts frame the homeowners’ fused-glass masks. A curlicue gate opens to a courtyard filled with hostas and ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas.

    Initially, Doug and Barbara haunted flea markets and salvage yards for unique items to place around their cottage. They used some of the 80 bowling balls they’ve collected like exclamation points, piling up “totems” for accents of black, cobalt blue and other colors. This use is emblematic of the couple’s goal: “We just try to have fun,” Doug says. “That’s the philosophy behind everything we do.”

    Then Barbara began creating mosaics. She soon expanded to fusing glassworks, and when Doug retired in 2005, he followed suit. Today, they own eight kilns, and their detached garage has been converted to a studio and guesthouse.

  • Rescued delights

    Barbara and Doug collect old signs from Door County businesses and use them as folk art. “We like the look, and we’re telling the history of the area,” Doug says.

    In front of their studio, eye-catching bowling balls bring to mind traditional gazing balls. Fused-glass flowers ring green trellises beneath a rescued Door County restaurant sign. 

  • Fanciful creation

    Barbara used a glass-blower’s cast-off bits to craft the brilliant feathers of this mosaic swan.

  • Sprite sculptures

    Primitive fused-glass sprites with bright red hands stand sentry in the undergrowth.

  • Star treatment

    Boosted by a decorated pedestal and reflected in a mirror, a mosaic planter gets star treatment in front of a recycled, arched window frame.

  • Repeating colors

    Perched on green-painted poles, simple planters showcase trailing flowers and add vertical interest.

    In an expansive wooded garden with so much to look at, a consistent palette creates visual harmony. “We used the same shade of red and green on just about every object we painted,” Barbara says. Annuals continue the red-and-green theme. The house, studio, pergola and stairs wear the same warm, neutral gray stain to provide a quiet backdrop. 

  • Seeking serendipity

    Barbara and Doug relax under a pergola made from salvaged columns and covered with flowering trumpet vine. 

    The Hendersons take a whimsical approach to design. It’s all about finding something delightful by accident. Just about any castoff that catches Doug and Barbara’s eye is ripe for recycling or redesigning. “Doug and I like to collaborate.  I come up with the really wild ideas, and Doug figures out how to make them work,” Barbara says. 

  • Preserving memories

    A mosaic bench covered with salad plates that once belonged to Doug’s parents brings fond memories. “I like it when things tell a story,” Barbara says. Painted pinecones accent the featured plates.

  • Sparkling touch

    Barbara used a coat of thin-set mortar to secure sparkling glass pebbles to this resin planter.

  • Vintage signs and birdhouses

    Old signs and birdhouses populate the garden. 

  • Mosaic birdbath

    Even bathing birds get to enjoy the Hendersons’ creativity.

  • Shade-loving annuals

    The Hendersons fill pots with what they call “thrillers, fillers and spillers” in a bold palette of red and chartreuse. In the pot pictured:

    • ‘Garden Meister’ fuchsia (thriller)

    • Fancy-leaf coleus (filler)

    • ‘Marguerite’ sweet potato vine, yellow calibrachoa and variegated potato vine (spillers)

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