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Christiansen creates retreat-like calm with her garden - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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Christiansen creates retreat-like calm with her garden

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Posted: Friday, July 12, 2019 2:15 pm

The vast expanse of sky -- that's what 95-year-old Audrey Christiansen likes about her garden. She can sit in one of the carefully crafted seating areas and look at the sky.

"I'm into interior decorating more than gardening," she confessed.

That is the sensibility Christiansen has brought to her exterior space. Since she and her husband Paul bought their house at 926 N. Maplewood Dr. 12 years ago, she has added little more than decorative touches to the existing garden.

However, by doing so, she has created a retreat-like setting where she can look at the clouds and find shapes hidden in them, just as she did when she was a girl.

"I'm a real dreamer," she said with a smile.

On July 20, her garden will be one of four that can be viewed as part of the annual PEO Garden Walk 'N' Talk. The others are the gardens of Gene and Patty Philips at 6210 N. Lakeside Drive, Wilmer and Pat Burton at 712 N. Summit Ave., and Sirje Kiin at 618 N. Blanche Ave.

The Christiansen home is welcoming from the street, with day lilies and a large hydrangea plant adding personality to a lawn shaded by maple trees. However, the backyard sanctuary shows the touch of a woman who uses space in the same way an artist uses canvas -- to create beauty.

A wide deck has been transformed into an outdoor living room with wicker furniture arranged for comfort and convivial conversation. It is one of seven seating areas -- each with its own character -- in the wide lot.

Christiansen said a bench fashioned from a pickup tailgate inspired her to begin using the space in this way. Her husband had received it as a gift from his son-in-law.

"I thought, 'What am I going to do with that?'" she recalled.

She ended up putting it under a tree in the backyard. Now she also has a sunny yellow wooden bench near the south fence, and a mint green iron bench along the east fence, as well as a patio table with chairs near the deck and a garden swing along the east side of the house.

"It's Paul's daughter who's taught me everything I know about gardening. I don't know dandelions from violets," Christiansen admitted, looking over the expanse of lawn with gravel borders and shrubs that were in place when they moved into the house.

Her hand at work is evident, though. Resting beside the deck, weathered children's toys lay as though abandoned -- a red wagon that belonged to her son, an old metal lawn chair that belonged to her daughter, and a wheelbarrow she found in the attic of a house she bought. They are obviously decorative.

Similarly, large rocks are nestled beneath a couple of shrubs.

"I am a farm girl. I love rocks," Christiansen explained.

Strewn among the shrubs and bushes are garden ornaments and a variety of white garden urns and pots. Many are planted with geraniums, but some are planted with petunias.

"I have as many as 30 pots," she said. "It's a big job to keep them really going."

She has learned to pinch them back and deadhead them -- remove the flowers that have wilted and turned brown. If she does this, she has learned, they will bloom all summer, unlike the peonies and lilacs which bloomed earlier for a short period of time.

One corner of the yard has a different ambience, less groomed and more effusive. In that area, Christiansen has planted grasses and shade plants around an iron trellis approached by flagstones. Garden gnomes add a playful touch.

"I call that my secret garden," she said.

The glory of the garden, though, is the retreat-like calm. Surrounded by a high fence and mature trees, the manicured yard, with places to rest, invites quiet contemplation and reflection. Christiansen draws attention to this.

"I want you to notice how quiet it is out here," she said.

She is looking forward to sharing what she has created.

The garden tour will be held from 8 a.m. to noon on July 20. Should it rain that day, the tour will be held from 12-4 p.m. on July 21.

Tickets for the Garden Walk are $10 each and are available at Grapevines and Madison Nursery. Tickets will also be available on the day of the event at any of the gardens.

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