A decade has passed since Rosanne and Steven Malevich lost the elm that had long shaded their Edina backyard with branches that easily spread 100 feet across the sky. It was a sad time, but it was also a chance to start over. And they have.
A woodcarver turned the stump of that stately old elm into a curvy couch where the couple likes to take gardening breaks. They also got serious about creating a landscape plan, transforming a hodgepodge of shade gardens and a budding collection of moss into what they often think of as “an enchanted forest.”
Being believers in the oft-heard advice to build the bones of a landscape first, they started by designing the hardscape. Steven, who became a dry-stone mason after retiring from his corporate job, built all of the retaining walls. He also laid the flagstone paths that start in the front of the house and wind their way around the side before branching off into various areas in the back. “We like the natural flagstone because it works well with our Tudor-style house,” Rosanne explains, adding that it seemed “right” to fill in the gaps between the stones with Irish moss. She tried it—and a full-fledged moss obsession was born.
While the landscape is anchored by mature trees, including a towering cedar that was already huge when they moved in, a ‘Fat Albert’ Colorado blue spruce, ‘Yellow Ribbon’ and ‘Holmstrup’ arborvitae, and northern catalpa, it’s the weeping trees that lend the enchanted feel. Rosanne loves the look of unusual weeping plants, and she and Steven have added several to their landscape over the years. Favorites include the weeping white pine near the elm couch, a weeping mulberry, and a ‘Louisa’ crab apple paired with a blue-hued ‘Procumbens’ spruce. And there are several weeping larches and hemlocks, too. “You wouldn’t expect a lot of perfectly symmetrical trees in an enchanted forest,” Rosanne says, laughing.
You would, however, expect the charming potting shed that’s tucked into a corner of the backyard and surrounded by gardens. To come up with the design, which mirrors the steep roof and stucco pattern of their house, Steven and Rosanne pored over library books and magazines looking for inspiration for what she envisioned as “the cutest little shed in the world.” As a result, the two buildings match so well visitors often assume they were built at the same time.
Designing garden beds is no less exacting. Rosanne thinks of each one as a puzzle that requires plants chosen for their differing textures, colors, and heights. “We start with a bird’s-eye view as if you’re envisioning a garden from above,” Steven explains. People won’t see the landscape that way, but that vantage point helps make clear where the hardscape should be.
Inspiration often comes from vacations that always include a visit to local gardens. When the Maleviches see something they like, they delve deeper to understand why. “We’re always asking ourselves: ‘What is the appeal here?’ and ‘Why do we like this and not that?’ You have to ask questions like that so you can develop your own taste,” Steven says.
Back home, after a long day of gardening, they ponder similar questions while resting on the elm couch, Rosanne says. “We work hard, but it’s nice to sit down and relax sometimes and feel the breeze and admire the way things are turning out—and think about what to do next.”
The organized potting shed gives Rosanne and Steven easy access to all their tools and pots.