Gardens: Guests welcome Sunday
When she was young, Lynde Uihlein remembers playing in the fountain in the center of her grandparents’ circle garden and looking up at a bear sculpture holding a Red Lion flag.Sitting on a bench above the terraced garden, Lynde Uihlein has a beautiful view of the circle garden enclosed by a privacy fence. Photo by Sam Arendt
Bears can be found throughout the approximately 120-acre rural Port Washington property that was transformed from a farm field into a lush estate by her grandfather Joseph E. Uihlein, heir to the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co.
On Sunday, Aug. 7, the gardens Joseph Uihlein and his wife Ilma developed in the 1930s as well as newer gardens planted by caretakers Steve and Sandy Sandlin will be open to the public for the first time for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program.
The Uihleins’ Afterglow Farm, 703 Hwy. P (Dixie Road) in the Town of Port Washington, will welcome visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The farm was established in 1929.
The nonprofit Garden Conservancy’s goal is to preserve exceptional American gardens for the education and enjoyment of the public and to deepen the appreciation
of gardens as integral elements of America’s artistic and cultural heritage.
Since 1995, nearly 3,000 private gardens — from large estates to intimate spaces — have participated in the conservancy’s Open Days program, which this year started April 26 in Texas and concludes Nov. 5 in Mount Kisco, N.Y.
Lynde Uihlein, who with other family members is helping preserve and restore the buildings, gardens and grounds created by her grandparents and now owned by a family trust, shares the conservancy’s goal to preserve gardens in environmentally responsible ways.
Uihlein has wanted to participate in Open Days since she started working on the circle garden in 2007 and read Stephen Orr’s book “Tomorrow’s Garden: Design
and Inspiration for a New Age of Sustainable Gardening,” which featured 60 private gardens.
In his book, Orr tells about climbing fences as a boy to peer into the gardens hidden from view and urges gardeners to invite people into their gardens.
Uihlein said she agrees with Orr’s philosophy that the private spaces gardeners create “reach their full potential when shared with others.” Unlike her
grandparents’ controlled gardens with paths clearly delineated, Uihlein likes the cottage look with perennials falling into each other’s spaces. Magnolia, crab apple,
paper-bark birch and gingko trees also grow in the circle garden, which is enclosed with a vine-covered privacy fence.
Last year, garden managers Dean Weigert and Christine Sobocinski visited several private gardens on the Open Days tour.
“They came back and said, ‘We’re ready,’” Uihlein said.
Perennial plants grow within the same steel frames her grandparents used in their traditional Teutonic garden. Concentric gravel paths lead to the center fountain,
where goldfish swim.
“The garden is completely different than when my grandparents had it,” Uihlein said. “This was their vegetable and fruit garden. Everything in here could be eaten.
“What they didn’t eat, they canned for the winter and took back to Milwaukee. My grandmother made something called raspberry juice and served it with sparkling
water and ice.
“When she was fed up with us kids, she made us deadhead daylilies, and there were thousands of them.”
Her grandparents, who she called Opa and Oma, lived on the farm in the summer, then returned to their Milwaukee home on Lake Drive for the winter, Uihlein said.
The main house appears to be a brick and stone house that was added onto, but it was all built at the same time, Uihlein said.
“My grandfather wanted it to look like a peasant cottage that had been added onto,” she said.
The green metal roofs on most of the buildings were replaced several years ago, but are the same color as the original roofs, she said.
The ironwork found throughout the property and on all the buildings are restored pieces her grandfather may have found on his many trips abroad or crafted himself
by combining bits from various wrought-iron items.
Her grandfather collected unique rocks and crystals, many of them from Arizona, that are imbedded in concrete pillars or tucked into gardens.
When her grandfather decided to develop the property, he relied on neighbors and local craftsman, masons and woodworkers.
“All the farmers around here — the Karrelses and the Poulls — were instrumental in making this,” she said.
In her grandparents’ day, it was a working farm with horses, chickens, geese and pigs and fields of corn and grain to feed the animals. There are woodlands, ponds
and ravines on the property. Paths cut through the woods and a five-year-old prairie lead to surprise gardens or sculptures, Uihlein said.
Visitors will enter through two concrete pillars topped with pineapples, go past the former horse barn where family members used to keep polo ponies, a
woodworking shop, large chicken coop, drying shed and the caretakers cottage, then through a wooden gate into the private estate.
There, they will be greeted by a restored wrought-iron monument dedicated to Erasmus, a Renaissance humanist, theologian and Catholic priest who Joseph Uihlein
admired. A narrow road winds past several stone buildings to the main house.
In addition to the circle garden, visitors will get ideas for native plantings that are deer and drought-resistant in the newer gardens. The area was a lawn when
Uihlein’s grandparents owned it. She can envision her grandparents and friends playing croquet there.
“We have their original croquet set,” she said.
A sloping rock garden was transported from the Bradley Sculpture Gardens in Milwaukee to the farm. The rock garden was removed from her late mother Jane
Bradley Pettit’s private garden to make room for a parking lot in preparation for opening the home and garden to the public last year. It is now called the Lynden
A terraced garden next to the house at Afterglow was developed in memory of a cousin’s mother and filled with her favorite plants. There is also a thyme walk filled
with varieties of the versatile herb.
The plants will be identified with markers. Visitors may linger and walk the various paths.
The buildings will not be open to the public.
Uihlein is constantly looking for ways to make the farm sustainable to offset the cost of maintaining it.
“We tried a CSA (community supported agriculture) for five years, but couldn’t find a size to make it sustainable,” she said.
The latest venture is cultivating a family crop — hops for making beer.
Hop vines were discovered on the property and developed into a crop. Last year, the hops were sold to Capitol Brewery in Madison, which used them to make
Supper Club beer.
Some hop vines, which should be in bloom for the tour, can be found growing on a portion of the circle garden fence.
During the tour, there will also be information on the adjacent Forest Beach Migratory Preserve operated by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, the Fondy Farm
Project, a cooperative farm effort that seeks land and markets for small-scale farmers, and other nonprofit organizations.
Admission to the garden is $5, with children ages 12 and younger admitted free.
For more information, visit the Web site www.opendaysprogram.org.