Gardening brings people together for various reasons.
In the case of Diane and Gordon Waddington, their shared passion for creating colorful floral displays sparked a romance.
The couple, who met in 2007 and married two years ago, will show off their garden on Saturday, July 13, during the annual Port Washington Garden Club’s Garden Walk.
The garden at 1534 Wilson Ave. is one of five city gardens that will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (see related story).
It’s no coincidence the couple love to garden.
When Diane, who was divorced in 2005, decided to date again, she made one stipulation.
“I wanted to have someone who I could garden with,” she said.
The floral display at their home shows that two people working together create a synergy that far exceeds what each could have accomplished alone — not only in size, but also in personality.
The Waddingtons dramatically changed the property that Diane bought in 2005. At that time, overgrown evergreen hedges were along the front of the house and a few daylilies were in the back yard.
“There have been several owners. I suspect some were gardeners and some weren’t, so nothing was really taken care of,” Diane said.
Diane planted a few perennials and hung planters, but she was too busy raising three daughters and working as a special education aide in the Mequon-Thiensville School District to tackle any major changes.
Enter Gordon, who also has three daughters about the same ages as Diane’s girls. They now range in age from 17 to 25.
“Gardening is the place to recoup and get our minds at ease,” Gordon said.
Diane added, “We walk around and look at how everything is doing and see what’s blooming. It’s like they’re our children.”
Unlike raising children, Diane noted, it only takes 30 to 45 minutes a day to keep the garden looking nice.
“If I can’t get out in the morning before work, I know Gordon will do it,” she said.
The lone guy amid seven women, Gordon said gardening is his refuge, a place where he can express himself.
When the couple met, Gordon took one look at Diane’s property and knew she needed help. A former golf-course groundskeeper, he was an expert in amending heavy clay soil to create a fertile environment.
“I immediately ordered 18 yards of dirt and compost and ripped out the whole front yard,” Gordon said.
He doesn’t use wood chips, preferring to work up the ground to get rid of weeds.
Together, the couple chose and planted a myriad of perennials, small trees and bushes, creating colorful borders around the front, back and side yards.
They tucked in annuals for instant color and added whimsical touches. About 80% of the flowers are perennials.
“Our garden is about color and texture combinations,” Gordon said. “I enjoy putting a light green plant next to a bronze one.”
White picket fences, a white garage and rustic log fences serve as backdrops for the borders, which get wider every year.
“I’m trying to get him to dig up more grass,” Diane said. “A center garden would look nice.”
Gordon’s response was, “Not until the last graduation party is held.”
The couple agreed to be on the garden walk last year, but then came the drought, followed by the ice and snow and a cold, rainy spring. They lost several of their favorite plants.
“We’re trying to find out what grows in our microclimate,” Gordon said. “We split and divided a lot of what we knew would survive. But I would rather be battling too much rain than the drought we had last year.”
They traded plants with other gardeners and also got plants from friends and family.
The couple enjoy shopping for flowers and found some new perennials they hope will survive Port’s weather. Fortunately, both of their favorite flowers are Wisconsin natives and thrive in their garden.
Diane’s favorite is white hydrangea.
“I don’t like the pink and blue ones,” she said. “I like the old-fashioned white ones. They remind me of my grandmother’s garden.”
Black-eyed Susans are Gordon’s favorite flower, and they can be found in numerous spots.
All the plants are labeled with their common and botanical names.
Diane loves to go to rummage sales and second-hand stores and always find something to add interest to the garden.
An old, rusted-out fire pit was turned into a rock garden for succulent plants. A large red rocking chair sits in one garden and a child’s rocker in another. Old teapots serve as planters. Ladders, watering cans and old tools hang on the garage.
Fanciful birdhouses that Diane painted sit on fence posts. Most of the birdhouses were found at rummage sales.
Gordon built a screened patio onto the back of the house that allows the couple to enjoy the fruits of their labor through three seasons.
He painted the patio blue and yellow, which prompted Diane to use the same color scheme in the back yard this year. Many items that used to provide red accents now add splashes of blue and yellow.
“They have to be repainted every year anyhow, so why not change the color?” she said. “I’m pretty good with a spray paint can.”
A few red accents can still be found.
The gardens are bordered with rocks that the couple found along country roads.
“We’ll be driving along and she’ll say, ‘Stop, there’s a rock pile,’” Gordon said. “I don’t think the farmers mind.”
Image Information: Diane Waddington reveled in a cluster of her favorite flowers, white hydrangeas. Photo by Sam Arendt