Gardening = Poetry: The Winnetka Current

Gardening equals poetry for Winnetka woman

Resident’s gardens reflect creativity, love of nature

by Anna Lothson

September 22, 2010 | 10:23 AM

The beaches are barren, schoolyards buzz with activity and the sweaters are out. Yes, fall is officially here. Ready or not, the cool breezes and changing colors of the leaves have reminded Winnetkans the new season has begun.

Though plenty of well-manicured yards still green, local garden aficionado Kim Visokey wants to inspire more people to keep their shovels and gardening tools out of hibernation during the fall and take advantage of the season’s beauty.

“People are socialized and conditioned to believe that gardening is just for the summer, but there is wonderful textures and colors in the Midwest that people just don’t understand or appreciate,” the Winnetka resident said.

Visokey said her gardening addiction began when she noticed the perks stemming from the end-of-the-season sales. She saw quickly how a small hobby could grow into much more than just her home’s landscaping.

“Even in the off-season I can keep my hands in the garden,” she said. “It’s enriched my life and the life of my family.”

While some may think one garden is hard enough to tackle, Visokey manages five separate ones as part of “The Garden of Many Circles,” where each offers something uniquely intricate from the others that keeps the eye constantly discovering more.

“You don’t want to reveal it all at once. You want there to be a sense of mystery,” she said, suggesting that each garden acts like a separate room.

Since Visokey wants to urge others to create the same oasis she has at her home, she said one of her secrets is cutting back buds earlier in the season which allows them a longer life since they don’t wear out their bloom too early. She said another trick of the trade to keep a fresher look than a typical summer garden is having a good mix of perennials with plants and flowers hearty enough to endure some of the harsh season changes.

“There’s no reason to give up that early – people tend to pack up in July,” she said.

For example, Visokey’s orange roses, called “Strike it Rich,” and purple obedient plant still showed off their bright hues in September and look to have plenty of strength left. A Lobelia pink flower called “Monet Monet” tends to be disease-resistant and tough, which allows it to fight off the wrath of the weather changes.

Driving toward Visokey’s home into the circular motor court, a statue welcomes visitors to a secluded courtyard that displays a “green on green” style that is meant to be simple, like wearing a single piece of jewelry, Visokey said. And by walking on a small path through the Sunken Garden – which is equipped with a welcoming fence and a fountain –creates the first batch of textural variety. The double labyrinth gardens along the next step transform the backyard from a typical patch of grass to a functional and intriguing space. The area is encompassed by a myriad of plants, flowers and hedges that give a solid frame to the perennial gardens chock full of eye-popping palettes and designs.

“A garden can transform you. It doesn’t have to be a boring old suburban lot,” she said. “A garden is a very soulful place. People get different things from it. To me, gardening is poetry with live material.”

Visokey’s children also get plenty of enjoyment from the gardens, she said, and can often be found throwing Frisbees and hosting gatherings amid the visually stimulating atmosphere.

“It’s not just for show. It’s defiantly used,” she said.

Visokey said she draws upon the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, and people like Dutch garden designer and author Piet Oudolf, among many artists. And though her love and devotion to nature have grown beyond what she once imagined, she couldn’t begin to pick out her favorite flower.

“I love them all. It’s like your kids, you love them all for what they are,” she said.

And in a few months when the snow blankets the carefully groomed plants and meticulously trimmed labyrinth, Visokey can begin to plan for next season when she looks at a sign in her shed that reads, “She who plants gardens plants happiness.”