Gardener's Retreat

Call it a garden shed, but it’s really an object of architectural art

Heidi Janous’s garden shed has everything she needs to care for the multiple beds in her yard, decorative touches such as the cherub that flies over her potting bench and beautiful views from the large windows on the south side of the building. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press Staff

If you’re looking for Heidi Janous, there’s one place you need to check — her garden shed.

“I love this space. I work in here all the time,” the Town of Port Washington woman said last week. “I can’t wait for it to get warmer so I can start planting again.

“Spring, summer and fall, this is where you find me.”

Janous, an Ozaukee Master Gardener, will have plenty of time to spend in her gardens now. She recently retired from Delta Airlines, where she worked for 34 years as a sales account executive who negotiated corporate travel contracts.

“This is the first spring I can really get into my     garden,” Janous said.

At the heart of her gardens is her garden shed, although calling the building a shed seems to be almost a misnomer. It’s a work of art designed by Janous’s husband Dave, an architect who specializes in designing hospitals, and built by him and their son Nick using stones they found around the area.

The stones encompass three sides of the building, while the south side is a bay comprised of large panes of glass that provide not just plenty of natural light but stunning views of the countryside and Lake Michigan.

The windows create a greenhouse effect inside, trapping the warmth of the spring sun so Janous can get an early start on her plants.

And with 22 borders around her home that are filled with flowers, that early start is a necessity.

Originally, Janous’s husband had a different vision for the shed, she said. He was going to design it to match the Nantucket styling of their house.

“He came home one day and said, ‘I changed my mind. I want to build a shed that looks like it’s been here for 200 years,’” she recalled.

To do that, Janous, her husband and son traveled throughout the area looking for farms that had crumbling barns with split-stone foundations.

“He (Dave) wanted to make it authentic,” Janous said. “We would drive around and look for old barns, and he would talk to the farmers.

“It just killed Dave to think that someone would bulldoze these old foundations and they would be lost.”

They collected many of these split stones for use in the shed, Janous said.

“It was a lot of work, heavy work,” she said. They laid the stones out in the yard and her husband and son “put them together like a jigsaw puzzle” to create the shed.

The building looks like it emerged from the ground, its an aged appearance enhanced by the stone facade and moss that’s starting to grow on the roof.

The arched windows on the north side, purchased at a recycled window center, match the recycled arched door on the east.

The large west-side door is also arched. Although it appears from a distance to be one large door, it is split in the middle. The door rolls open from the center.

“Dave wanted it to be more like a barn door,” Janous said.

Corrugated metal panels clad the east side of the structure, something Janous said is common in Germany.

The Janouses built a structure of metal pipes onto the corrugated panels to hold firewood to fuel their nearby stone firepit.

The rustic feeling of the shed is enhanced by the floor, which is made of pavers set in sand. When ants sometimes undermine it, Dave pulls up the pavers and rebuilds the floor, Janous said.

Open beams provide storage space for garden supplies and equipment, while watering cans, a screen for soil and other accoutrements hang on the walls.

Janous’s husband built the large potting bench that sits in the bay defined by the large windows, providing the perfect space to enjoy nature while giving plants a start.

A sculpture of a cherub flying — a gift from Janous’s sister-in-law — hangs overhead.

The warmth of the sun heats the shed on cool spring and fall days. In the summer, when the heat builds up, opening the doors creates a cross-breeze that cools anyone inside.

“It’s very serene,” Janous said. “When I garden, I can hear the lake — it’s pretty perfect.”

And it’s not unheard of for Janous to relax inside the shed, taking in the views while chatting with friends.

The shed also has water and electricity. In the winter, she decks it out with twinkle lights and a wreath, creating a picture-perfect holiday setting.

But the building is more than just a garden shed. It also serves as a storage shed. While practical, it does take away from the ambience a bit, Janous said.

“If I had it my way, there wouldn’t be any of this stuff in it,” she said. “It would all be pretty.”

It’s not just the shed that’s pretty. The surroundings are as well. In addition to the nearby fire pit, there’s a stone berm that surrounds her composting area.

“If you really want to know how nerdy I am, I’m a master composter,” said Janous, laughing. “I teach it.”

There are multiple birdhouses, many of them made by her husband, and the gardens — riotous and colorful groupings of mostly perennial flowers.

“My goal is that when you look out (of the house), you should always see gardens, splashes of color,” Janous said. “I love my flowers.”

She also loves the 10-year-old river birch tree just outside the shed, a stunning tree whose bark naturally peels back to reveal a bright orange underside.

“Every year, it gets more peeled back,” Janous said. “I really wanted a big, peely tree. They have so much personality.”

Like many gardeners, Janous always sees something more to be done in her yard. This year, she plans to create raised beds in her potager garden — a kitchen garden that also has perennials — that’s just behind her house.

“The crabgrass is encroaching on it, and it’s just impossible to keep it out,” Janous said.

Gardening is her hobby — really her passion — and Janous now has more time to devote to it. But she’s equally focused on stepping back and enjoying the beauty of the gardens and landscaping she’s worked so hard to create.

 “Instead of the broad-brush things, you tend to focus on the details when you’re working in the garden,” she said. “Sometimes, you just need to take it all 



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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