A Woodland Gardener Creates a 3-Acre Wonderland

The tree-lined road offers no clue as to what I will find when I arrive at the Stillwater property of Waltraud Brogren. I park on a high patch of driveway and, for a moment, I don’t see that I have entered a wonderland. Then I look out over the three acres.

Stillwater Garden Pond
Waltraud Brogren artfully blends dozens of varieties in her sun garden: native plants and other perennials, herbs, grasses, and shrubbery. Early fall brings a shift from flowers and greenery to golden foliage and late blooms. (Barbara O’Brien)

To my right is a shade garden gently corralling a clump of aspens. In the distance is a patch of un-mowed grass dotted with daisies. A rick-rack shade garden trims the woods. At the bottom of a natural bowl is a 230-foot-long crescent filled with flowers, grasses, shrubs, and ground covers in soft blues, greens, yellows, and pinks that blend like water colors on canvas.

The overall effect is serene and natural, as if gardener and nature have made peace. Indeed, Brogren has embraced the natural assets of her property. She is under no illusions about nature, however. She has seen it give and take.

Stillwater Garden Decorations
Her judicious use of lawn ornaments allows for this stately heron. (Barbara O’Brien)

When she and her first husband bought the property more than 40 years ago, it included two ponds; they could canoe from one of them to a lake in a nearby wildlife refuge. On this day, both are dry. As I walk with her, she explains that when several willow trees died, she started a flower garden. I begin to see that for Brogren, gardening is a matter of taking what nature offers—or takes away—and making not just the best of it, but something better. Loss leads to possibility.

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