Introducing our At Home Gardener Series
It was ten minutes to 10am when I turned onto Minnesota Avenue. At that point, I no longer needed to look at me GPS, because from a block away, I could already see big hosta gardens and a sign that said, Hostas For Sale. I knew that I had arrived at the Hostaholics!
My first interaction was with Sue Janowski, and she was so friendly. She told me that she wasn’t going to be a part of the interview that morning. She said that it would just be her husband Ed, and Son, Dave, because the hostas are their thing. Even though, later on, I found out she has a helping hand throughout the gardens as well. That’s when her husband, Ed Janowski came out of the door and introduced himself. Shortly after, their son, Dave Janowski arrived and we were ready to begin our fun tour. Before the tour even started, I knew this was going to be a great informational tour, because I could tell already that these guys were extremely passionate about their hostas!
Ed has been retired for nine years after working over 40 years in media and production at channel 4, in Milwaukee. Retirement for Ed, is sort of like a whole new beginning since he and his son, Dave, just started their Hosta business around 7 years ago. Dave was full time in construction, and then the bad economy hit in 2009. This steered him towards teaming up with his wife in their dog grooming business, which still thrives today. When I asked them how their obsession started, they quickly pointed the fingers at Sue and Dave’s wife. Ed said that Sue brought home a few hostas from a garden center one day, and he didn’t believe they were hostas. He thought the colors and textures were too unique and interesting to be hostas. That’s when the fascination began for him. At this time, Dave just moved into a new house with a bigger yard. His wife bought a few hostas online, and told him to go find a place for them and plant them. It wasn’t long before, he too, grew to wonder more about these hostas. So the funny thing is, Ed and Dave’s Hosta fascination, started at the same time. It quickly became a competition. Hearing this father and son talk about this, was quite entertaining and made me laugh. Dave thought, because he had a bigger yard, he could surpass his dad with the amount of hostas he’d grow. Then one day, his dad called him up and said, ‘I have 66 hostas’. At that time, Dave only had 65. So he immediately went out to buy one more. It wasn’t long before their passion for hostas collided, and this father son duo teamed up to create a business called, Janowski Homestead Hostas.
As Ed and Dave became more serious about their business, they met Ken Ziarek through the South Eastern Wisconsin Hosta Society. Ken is what Ed and Dave call, a hosta guru. Ken quickly became a mentor to them in the hosta business, because at this time, Ken just retired from the business of selling hostas. They all quickly became friends, and much of what Ed and Dave know today, they give thanks to Ken for that knowledge, passion and excitement.
As we walked through the gardens, the passion was just spilling out of these guys. They love hostas, as much as I like gardening and decorating. In every conversation, I learned something new. They said educating others on everything they know about hostas is primary. Selling hostas and making money, is just secondary.
As they walked me over to their outdoor shop, I noticed they had a big shade cloth up over top of the hostas, and all of their hostas looked so healthy and beautiful. I asked them what their secret was. They told me its their soil. They have their own recipe, but it is locked away in the Janowski vault. They said that they get all their compost from, Blue Ribbon Organics, in Caledonia. They highly recommended them. They told me how Blue Ribbon Organics mixes their soil for them in batches. Ed and Dave bring some of their own ingredients, and they mix it all in for them. This eliminates a lot of time and tedious work that Ed had to do, when he mixed their soil mixture by hand. He seemed to be relieved to be rid of that task. At one point during the interview, we had to stop filming and run for cover due to a down pour of rain. This worked in my favor, because rain on leaves is perfect for taking pictures. After that the sun was shining and we continued on.
Continuing the Tour
I asked Ed and Dave what they would suggest for slugs, because when you grow hostas, that seems to be one of the biggest pests. They suggested a product called, Sluggo. If you’d like to hear more on their suggestion, be sure to watch the video above.
As I toured the gardens on my own, while taking images, the yard looked different from every angle. There are images I’ve taken of their yard, that I’m sure Ed and Sue haven’t even seen before. Every little space is not only dedicated to hostas, but other flowering annual varieties as well. When they plant a new hosta, it will say on the tag how far to space it, so it can reach it’s full potential size. A lot of times a hosta takes 3 years or more to hit the size described on a tag. So in the meantime, the area that the hosta is planted in tends to look bare. So they just fill in those bare spots with annuals until the hosta reaches its full size and fills in all the bare space. You won’t find a weed throughout the gardens, because sue is always there pulling them. She likes to help maintain and keep the gardens looking great.
Ed and Dave take pride in the fact that, any hosta their customer wants to purchase, they can see it in Ed and Sue’s yard. So if a client has a certain spot they want to put a hosta, they can see the full size of it in the gardens. They can look through the gardens and decide what hosta and size would work best. When customers come, they will personally be walked through the gardens, and be educated on growing hostas by Ed or Dave. They like to have customers schedule an appointment, which is a very flexible schedule, and they also post sales and days that they are open on their Facebook page: Janowski Homestead Hostas.
In Ed’s yard, he has around 360 different hosta varieties. He said, “I’m a bit of a collector”. Ed and Dave offer 150-200 different varieties of hostas for sale throughout the growing season. That’s more than any garden center that I have ever come across.
When I speak with other gardeners, I always hear them talking about digging and dividing their hostas. Ed and Dave shared, that if you continue to dig and divide your hostas every year, you will never see it hit it’s full potential. Dave said that if you have to divide your hostas, take a knife and make a cut while the plant is still in the ground. That way the whole root system isn’t disturbed. Ed threw in a tip as well. He said, after making a cut, wrap and tie up the leaves on the new cut for 7-10 days. This technique helps keep the leaves in an upright position while it is going through shock. When a hosta goes through shock of being replanted, the leaves get droopy. If you decide not to tie up the leaves, those leaves won’t be in an upright position through the season, but when they return the following season they will be upright again. If you want to see this described in more detail, check out the video above.
Ed and Dave have plans to tear up more lawn, and expand the hosta garden in the front of the house. Eventually, there will be no lawn left. It wasn’t until after the interview, that Sue reappeared. I told her how wonderful and beautiful her gardens were. She said, “When it comes to gardening you are never done.” That comment right there, told me, she is very passionate about her yard as well. I could tell by the happy expression she had on her face when she said that. As I walked through the gardens, there were so many different sized pots planted up with hostas, succulents, herbs and vegetables. I knew immediately that-that had to be her hand. Even though Sue didn’t appear in the interview, her work sure did.
If you’d like to visit or shop at Janowski Homestead Hostas, be sure to contact Ed or visit their Facebook page by CLICKING HERE!
1721 Minnesota Avenue, South Milwaukee, WI 53172
It was a beautiful sunny morning when I pulled up to Mary’s house. I was immediately relieved of feeling hot by a cool east breeze off of Lake Michigan, which is only a few blocks away. As soon as I started unpacking my cameras and tripods, I found myself greeted by Mary and her generous offer to help carry my things over to her gardens. I was definitely grateful for the help.
She walks me to her backyard, and I am immediately noticing that she, #1 has a green thumb, #2 is obsessed with adding gardens and #3 is very creative and talented. She guided me up the deck steps to her outdoor dining table. She offered me a seat in the shade, while I got my equipment set up. Out of the house door, came her husband, Steve. He immediately offered me coffee, and of course, I accepted. I love coffee in the morning, especially with people who have the same interests I do. I soon came to find out that Steve has just as much of a working hand in the gardens, as Mary does. They each have their own ideas how they would like to see varieties planted and placed, so luckily for them, they have a lot of gardens to play around with. Mary and Steve showed me pictures of what their gardens look like at other times of the year in a picture album that they keep. They have beautiful tulips and other early spring bloomers that were just impressive. Their gardens will be featured in this year’s, 2017 South Milwaukee Garden Tour, on June 24th, and they plan on putting that photo album out on display so everyone can see what the gardens look like throughout the entire year.
Mary said that her favorite plants to watch grow and blossom are her lilies, and her favorite garden is her wildflower garden. In her wildflower garden she has varieties such as cosmos, rudbeckia and coneflowers. Unfortunately, I only saw it green, which was still impressive. I didn’t come at a time that these varieties are in blossom, but I can only imagine the explosive amount of color that garden provides through the Summer months.
After spending quite a bit of time with Mary and Steve, they started having more fun with the interview. They were even joking, and telling me stories about their gardens and of their recent travels to Hawaii. I asked them to do some garden work while I took pictures, and Steve grabbed the hoe and told Mary to start pointing. We all had a chuckle! That’s when Mary earned the title, Project Manager.
Steve said that when he and Marry got married 8 years ago, that his yard started to transform into a beautiful backyard. As he said this, I could tell that he was very proud of Mary’s vision and what they have created together throughout their yard. Steve loves perennials more than anything, because he doesn’t have to replant them every year. His favorite part of their yard, is his raised bed vegetable garden. He grows one of many varieties. Some of the varieties planted in his garden are tomatoes, lettuce, onions, chives, yellow beans, radishes and more.
One thing I learned very quickly, was that these two like to winter over some of their plants. One of their favorite plants to winter over are Spikes. They got one so huge after having it for a few years, they nicknamed it Spike! They use their wintered over spikes throughout their beautiful container combinations. Every Spring, Mary brings up her plants from the basement, and revives them by bumping them up into larger pots and adding some new soil.
Mary and Steve have many gardens and garden themes. The one that I thought was the most creative was ‘The Bike Garden’. It’s a beautiful, shadier garden with all different kinds of small decorative bikes. The coolest one was a bike made out of wine bottles. Mary said you need to drink the wine first, then Steve blows the glass and creates the object that Mary is imagining. There are bikes that are planted up, and bikes that are windmills. You will find a lot of red in Mary’s Garden, since red is her favorite color. She loves the way the color red pops against all of the green in her yard.
Continuing the Tour
There’s a spot in their yard where they were hesitant to create a garden. They were told that nothing would grow there and that they should just fill it in with grass seed. Well, of course, Mary said no way and took her chances. That’s when her and Steve started creating their blue grass garden with specialty perennials and stepping stones that have a border of sweet smelling white alyssum. In the summer, when that lake breeze kicks in, the smell of alyssum fills the air and travels all the way to the back patio where they like to sit and enjoy their hard labors.
Mary enjoys growing herbs and peppers in pots. She enjoys cooking and using the food they grow, and Steve will toss whatever is ready onto the grill. Even when they are on vacation, they like to cook for themselves. Mary said, ‘If we have a kitchen, we cook!’. She buys her herbs, but she also likes to seed them as well. Mary said,’It’s amazing that you can just put something in the dirt, and something amazing pops up.”
She also likes to try out new bulbs and plant varieties every year. Mary and Steve have found that they have the same passion and feeling of peace when it comes to gardening. Even though their backs may be sore at the end of the day, they look around and feel good about the work they just did.
I saw this really cool planter they had for growing tomatoes. It basically makes watering easier, provides a trellis for the tomato and it’s on wheels! It doesn’t get any better than that! In this planter they are growing Early Girl Tomatoes, and they are already seeing yellow blossoms, which means tomatoes will follow.
When you are in Mary and Steve’s yard, you can’t help but be distracted by the Large, Orange Poppys in blossom this time of year. The flower was larger than my hand!
Above the Poppys, Marry buys small hanging baskets and transplants them into her more decorative hangers. By bumping these combinations up into a larger basket, they then grow larger and last all season. The best thing is, she doesn’t have to make her own combination. It’s already done for her! The variety of the flowers are Million Bells, ‘Calibrachoa’. This variety can take the cooler temperatures that come early in the late Summer season, when you live right by the lake.
Above is Mary’s Rose Garden. She has roses that are of pink, yellow and red hues, along with a border of marigolds to help with the rabbits. Steve and Mary went and picked out each and every stone that borders their gardens. They said that it was fun, and a project they both enjoyed. They like a more natural appearance in their gardens. As we walked on, Mary had an entire garden decorated in fairies. I asked Mary why she chose fairies, she said, “They’re just really in right now, and everyone goes crazy for them.” Here are some images that show Mary’s beautiful Fairy Gardens, along with the beautiful garden art that her husband Steve helped create.
What I also found in their yard, is what Mary and Steve call, their grass garden. This garden is all different varieties of grasses that are perennials in the Midwest temperatures. They said this garden draws a lot of birds, once the grasses seed out. After the birds come and eat their seeds, then they watch them play in the bird bath.
Here are a few more photos I took along the Garden Tour of Mary and Steve’s yard.
Mary and Steve told me that they spray paint their Alliums in their yard. (Pictured below) Steve said, “The color on the flower only lasts so long, but the actual flower sticks around a lot longer. So we go ahead and spray paint them the color they were with outdoor spray paint, and they last a really long time.” I found that so interesting. What a creative idea!
As I walked around to the front yard, there were more surprises to find. At this time, when I was taking photos, Mary and Steve went inside to clean up for their afternoon plans. When they came out, I had to get a picture of them all spruced up on the front porch with their colorful landscape. By this time they were used to me, and their full personalities came out, as you can see in this picture.
Here are a few more pictures I took as my tour was coming to an end. You will find that Mary and Steve are very creative throughout their gardens, and they add a touch of their personalities throughout as well. Their styles combined, create the perfect yard to sit and relax in.
By the end of the tour Mary and Steve gave me, I got a sense that there was more to their gardens than the varieties in them. It’s their hard work, creative minds and the love they share for gardening. Their gardens aren’t just a look, they’re a feel. You won’t be able to just take a glance at these gardens, because there will be something that draws your attention and willpull you in. That’s when I realized, this isn’t just Mary and Steve’s Garden, this Mary and Steve’s world.
If you’d like to see more of Mary and Steve’s Gardens, you can see them in the 2017 South Milwaukee Garden Tour on June 24th.
They will also be featured in the 2017 South Shore Garden Tour on July 8th.
When I walked into Vicki Maloney’s backyard, I was immediately surprised by the charming garden getaway that laid before my eyes. Not only was I charmed by the gardens, but I was also charmed by the glass of lemonade that greeted me as soon as I got there. She and her family decided to move into their home over 20 years ago. This allowed them to be closer to her father, who lived near by. At this time, not even Vicki knew what she was about to create in her backyard over many years to come.
She decided to start off this long term project with some different varieties of Hostas. These Hostas were separated from her father’s garden. With her father living very near, this made her addiction to gardening grow even stronger and faster, without her knowledge. With unlimited hostas, she was quickly running out of shady spaces and looking for the next thing to fulfill her gardening desires.
Through years of trial and error of many plant varieties, from flowering to foliage, she finally found what she is most passionate about. Her passion, today, has grown into a love for succulents. She says she is a bit new at this new love she found, but from looking around her yard, I saw that being new at it didn’t matter. It’s her green thumb that found a soul mate in succulents.
Between all of her creative ideas and garden trinkets, you will stay busy looking through her gardens because there is so much to see. As I talked with Vicki, and got to know her more, that’s when I realized her gardens were a piece of her personality. By using drought tolerant varieties such as hostas and succulents, this relieved her of having to dwell on watering all day, every day. By using these varieties, she now has more time for her other passions and hobbies she enjoys. Most of her free time is now spent in her “She Shed”. It’s the cutest little wooden out building, preserved in it’s natural state. It stands where it always has stood, since the day they bought the property. She put her finishing touches on it by adding furniture with a feminine flare, decorative lights and art pieces created by her talented granddaughter. Since the garden projects for the year are complete, she’d like to take more time to read in her newly renovated, little quaint shed.
Another passion of Vicki’s is “Rock Hunting”. Anywhere she goes, she searches for amazing rocks to bring back and place throughout her gardens. Some of these rocks are painted with beautiful colors in all different patterns by her granddaughter. I found that Vicki finds a way to use items throughout her garden, that have meaning. Nothing old goes to waste in her gardens, because she takes anything that has become old, and finds a new use for it somewhere in her garden. Whether it is used as a decorative piece or recreated into a planter for succulents, Vicki won’t let anything leave the garden. This is what has created her gardens to be a one of a kind, and why it will be featured in this year’s 2017 South Milwaukee Garden Tour, on June 24th.
This year seems to be a big project year for this garden getaway. Vicki explained the big projects they just finished up in time for the 2017 South Milwaukee Garden Tour, on June 24th. One of the projects was a dry river bed, and the other was a fire pit area with gravel. From what it sounds like, her hands weren’t the only ones getting dirty. She said it was a family effort, and calluses found the hands of her husband and son as well.
Every Piece has a Story
One of the many gardens that Vicki tends to, is what I’d like to call eclectic. It is so unique, and nothing is placed in a uniform suit. That’s my favorite part about it. Every piece has a story, and I notice Vicki’s face light up as she explains every little piece.
In this garden she grows Hens and Chicks in a Tub. She said that they have returned now for a few years. I was confused at first, because perennials can’t return if they are grown in a planter, but Vicki explained that the bottom of the tub was cut out. So the roots of these plants are growing in the ground. By placing these perennials, in a tub, it gives the appearance that she is growing them in a container. I loved this idea because this is a great way to break up a perennial garden, and make it a lot more interesting.
She also breaks up her hosta gardens by throwing in a little bottle art. This adds color and texture, and definitely creates a conversation.
One of Vicki’s favorite flowers to tend to is the Lophospernum vine. She said she is gifted this basket every year, from one of her friends, on her birthday. She loves that there isn’t much upkeep on it. Not only are the flowers beautiful, but the leaves have an artistic shape and growth habit.
When I say there is a lot to see in Vicki’s gardens, I mean it! Every little corner I turned, there was always something more different and unique than the last.
Just when I thought I saw it all, I walked under an arbor to find…
The coolest and cutest fairy garden I have ever seen! There is a village of fairies back there. Not just a fairy garden container, a WHOLE FAIRY VILLAGE! I had to stress that so you understand the extent of this fairy garden that Vicki has created. During the 5 o’clock hour, the sun gives this fairy garden a magical appearance, and the only thing missing were sparkles in the air. Which I’m sure Vicki is probably already thinking of ways to add the sparkle with her talented, creative mind. As I found my way through her gardens, sipping on lemonade, I took a second to sit on her porch to take it all in. It was about 75 degrees, real light breeze, the sun was golden at the 6 o’clock hour. I looked to my right and saw another great idea! Most gardeners have extra pots and wood laying around, but leave it to Vicki to come up with this creative way to combine all of these materials to create a plant ledge along the edge of her deck. There, she features beautiful porcelain pots with succulents growing out of them.
It’s only the first week of June, and Vicki has already put in a season’s worth of work. She said that being featured in this year’s 2017 South Milwaukee Garden Tour, on June 24th, pushed her to get yard work done quickly. She is stressed, because she is a perfectionist. Yet, at this time, it won’t be hard for her to unwind in her “She Shed” with a cold glass of lemonade, or in front of a roaring fire that is crackling in her new fire pit that she and her family worked so hard to create. I felt I completely captured this beautiful garden through my lens, I decided to take one more sweep around the yard. I was drawn in the direction of the “She Shed”, since that’s where I spotted Vicki in her garden zone. Near the end of our time together, I caught some shots of Vicki in front of her “She Shed”. We played around with the photos and had fun. It was so natural to see her in her gardens working, while I stood behind the camera to capture the moment. Gardening isn’t just one of Vicki’s passions. By the time I left, I realized, gardening is a huge part of who Vicki is. With each turn in the garden, it’s like meeting another side of Vicki, and by the time you have walked through and seen everything, you feel you’ve known her forever!
Thank you for watching and reading.
Planters and Drinks, featuring Staci Joers, Cooking With Class