A home owner mixes art with flowers to make his backyard come alive.
By Karen L. Kirsch, Louisville, Ohio
When artist Russ Hench moved into his home 3 years ago, it was similar to others in the area. It was stately and handsome, with mature trees and a manicured lawn, but there was very little in the way of flowers and color.
As a professional landscape designer for more than 25 years, Russ was eager to work on his own yard for a change. In just 2 years, he transformed his ho-hum expanse of grass and overgrown plantings into a series of dramatic outside rooms.
"I wanted to bring the indoors outside," Russ says. "I designed my backyard to be a place where people can relax and feel at home."
Russ' neighborhood in Canton, Ohio is known for its elegant Tudor-style homes built in the 1920s and '30s, each with its own unique character. Unfortunately, the landscaping didn't match the house, so Russ set out to give the space the elegance it deserved.
To kick things off, Russ removed most of the existing shrubbery around the house. He knew it would be better to start from scratch.
"Fifty years ago, we didn't have the variety of plants we have today," Russ says. "People used to plant rhododendrons that grew 20 feet high or more. Now, we have plants that are more manageable."
After he started getting the plants in place, Russ moved on to the bigger picture. He needed to design a pergola for a local home and garden show, so he offered to pay for the materials so he could keep it for his own yard. Following the show, he dismantled the piece and reinstalled it at his home.
"It was a win-win arrangement," Russ says. "The pergola made my patio complete, and then I planted silver lace vine to cover the area and add some shade. Silver lace was perfect. It's a wonderfully rampant vine without being destructive."
The Right Accessories
Russ enjoys incorporating his artistic side into his garden. One of the most impressive areas in his garden is a wall just beyond the patio filled with artful metal suns (far left), some of which he created himself. Above the pergola are hand-blown glass globes suspended over a table (above), adding whimsical tranquility to the area.
Pathways of brick and gravel meander through the entire garden, which Russ ties together through repeated colors and textures. For instance, a cedar fence flows naturally from the weathered cedar wood shingles of the house.
While plants like shrub roses, black-eyed Susans, viburnums and sweet potato vines are common elements throughout Russ' garden, it's the artwork that makes the space unique.
Formal with a Twist
"It's the theme of my garden from front to back," Russ says. "It's important for me to have artwork on the outside as well as inside at my home. My backyard has a sense of formality, but with a twist."
Russ mostly uses common plants, especially annuals, to make a statement in his own garden. So what accounts for his showy results?
"I'm not one of those less-is-more people," Russ says. "I like abundance. I may use ordinary flowers, but I use a lot of them, and the results speak for themselves."