Woerth’s Gardens Offer Extensive Variety to Nature Lovers
“This is not a weed free landscape and we make no apologizes for that fact.”
Those are the words that welcome visitors as they begin to explore the garden rooms on Steve and Marilyn Woerth’s family acreage located in the hills between Brownville and Peru.
Nestled behind a row of cedar trees, visitors will discover eight` unique garden rooms the couple have worked on together for several years. The couple has done the majority of the work on their gardens themselves, with the help of family and friends.
On Thursday, April 8 – a cold, wet day, Marilyn shared her family’s garden with this reporter.
The Woerth’s yard is comprised of eight garden areas, including a moon garden, a pond area, a children’s garden and a woodland area.
With the helpful ideas of thousands of books, catalogues and magazines, each garden has been masterfully designed and laid out to the couple’s liking.
In the couple’s basement are filing cabinets and boxes filled with descriptive details about individual plants and the unique gardens. As well as detailed diagrams of how each area has been planted.
Marilyn said she likes to keep pictures and often times the individual seed package of every flower she has ordered. She also keeps the invoices of everything she has ordered. She said she does this because often times visitors ask her where she bought a particular plant or flower.
“It’s another checks and balance system,” Marilyn said.
In the very beginning a few years ago, Marilyn said she started scrapbooking her gardens. She said she recommends to anyone who is starting a garden to take before and after photos of the area.
“They remind you how much work you’ve put in to it...gives you more pride,” she said.
In May of 2004, Marilyn obtained her Master Gardener certification from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. It took her three months to earn the certificate.
Since then, she has been a guest speaker at several group meetings and she has entertained numerous clubs and friends at her home. Last year, members of the Omaha Garden Council brought down 89 people on two buses to tour the Woerth’s gardens.
The garden areas have also served as the background for high school senior portraits and the couple’s son, Eric and his wife Stephanie (Rohrs) were married on the island in the pond garden.
Marilyn said she has always enjoyed gardening in large part because of her grandfather, Leo Kinzer.
Marilyn and Steve are both natives of Columbus and moved to their home on 731 Road west of Brownville about 24 years ago.
Her grandfather, Marilyn said, was in charge of maintaining Pawnee Park in Columbus and he always had a large vegetable garden at home.
She said she remembered how his home and his gardens were always well maintained. She added her parents did not have a garden and she eventually approached her father to ask if she could have a small plot of land to start her own garden. He eventually agreed and then her garden began to grow.
Marilyn, a retired day care provider, would eventually take a break from gardening after marrying Steve and the two traveled the world while he served in the United States Navy for eight years.
And, 24 years ago, the couple relocated to their current home after Steve landed a job at Cooper Nuclear Station.
The couple fell in love with their acreage because of the land, Marilyn said.
“We love this land and enjoy that it’s not flat,” Marilyn said. “The house was secondary.”
The couple, after purchasing the property, planted many trees. Marilyn did not that the woodland area was already established but the property was primarily bare.
It wasn’t until she retired from the day care business that Marilyn and Steve were able to devote lots of hours to their acreage. On average, beginning in the spring, Marilyn spends about 60 hours a week tending to the garden rooms. Steve contributes many hours as well.
One of the most recent projects the couple has undergone is the completion of their Japanese teahouse and their Zen Garden. The teahouse features a propane fire ring and sitting chairs, which allows for viewing of the couple’s pond and waterfall.
And, if guests to the Woerth family gardens don’t get enough of nature and its beauty, there’s always the next visit. Already, Steve has a new envision for an area on the west edge of their property.
Marilyn said it is probably a matter of time before the couple take on a new project to add to their garden room collection.
If You Go
The Woerth’s love to entertain guests at their home and welcome visitors to stop by or call to get a tour of the garden rooms. And, if you go, the following information about each of the garden rooms is provided by Steve and Marilyn:
Pond Area and
Off the driveway follow the flagstone path to the xeriscape garden (plants requiring little moisture such as Russian sage, purple coneflower and sedums) and then meet our friend raccoon and frog. Moving on down the path you will encounter our Zen Garden with a Woerth-style Japanese teahouse. The propane fire-ring and the view of the pond blend two important elements together fire and water. We have designed and built our own landscape and hardscape features except for the electrical components.
The star attraction of the yard is the water garden. The island is filled with roses, dianthus and a weeping mulberry tree. On the north end of the pond you will find water lotus, cattail, koi and some goldfish. Occupying the south end of the pond there are three colors of water lilies and more goldfish.
The outer edges of the pond are landscaped with tall grasses, fairy roses and an assortment of perennials. The Woerth’s have tried to use many Great Plains plants from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. The couple are members of that organization.
Southwest of the pond is an area where native grasses grow, in the spring globe alliums are featured with Black-eyed Susans and asters later in the season. Bluebird houses are also a highlight.
Star Patio and Butterfly/Hummingbird Garden
To the east of the shed and above the kitchen garden is the star patio where Steve sets up his telescope on clear nights. The telescope is a Mead ten-inch reflector with an equatorial mount. Chinese trumpet vine winds around the split-wood fence.
Just south of the patio are two flower beds. The upper bed features two tree peonies, wiegela and summersweet shrubs and perennial geranium (cranesbill). The lower bed is filled with daffodil blooms in the spring and daylilies during the summer.
The east side of the upper/lower bed is a butterfly/hummingbird garden. Here, visitors will find a yellow butterfly bush, honeysuckle, penstemon, hyssop and salvia and other perennials to entice the wee creatures.
Kitchen Garden and
The roses surrounding the garden are pink rugosa roses. The portage has a perennial bed of asparagus and strawberries. Eight raised beds hold heirloom tomatoes, salad greens, corn, cucumbers, peas, squash, peppers and onion. Above the portage, behind the shed is the herb garden featuring sage, chives, thyme, rosemary, tarragon and basil.
Follow the mowed paths down to the woodland area. There are three main entrances to the area. On the west side enter through the wooden arbor. Along this path visitors will find several planting areas, at the center of the woodland visitors will find many prized shade loving plants both wild and planned. Steve has created a room for himself with a stain glass window hung between the trees and a tractor seat.
From the center of the woodland take the lower east path, which will lead the visitor to the copper arbor into the campfire area.
Campfire Area and
A bricked-in fire pit with a drainage pipe is the center piece of the area where many family and international sing-a-longs have ended with s’mores. Heading north, follow the path up to the main yard and enjoy the shade-loving varieties under the ash trees. Featured in this area are hostas, columbines, corabells, Japanese painted ferns, daylilies, ‘Little Henry’ spireas and a couple of cimicifugas. Three tamarisks are off to the east – their rosy lavendar tops are brilliant in the early summer. The kidney shaped bed to the west is filled with 400 daffodils, then peonies and then coneflower in the spring.
Pink Box, Children’s Garden and Mary’s Garden
In the backyard visitors will find the pink box. The box is filled with all pink flowers – polyanthus roses and annual zonal geraniums.
Further west on the edge of the slop is the children’s garde, “Kindergarten,” where forsythia bushes enclose the area and help give the feeling of a secret garden. Lost toys populate the small garden and the oval path in the middle of the bushes passes by a birdbath, a fairy tea party, whiskey barrel where wizards and dragons battle and a small slide that goes down the hill ending in a small sandbox. The area surrounding the sandbox is terraced for more play.
Below the terraced area is a shrub garden with phlox and ajuga ground cover. Just west of the Kindergarten area is a tree house, with a rock climbing wall, tube slide, fire pole, spider web that dumps into a large sandbox.
In front of the tree house is a take down “princess pavilion” that Marilyn made from sheer drapes. In the tree house are several lengths of polyester materials that the Woerth’s grandchildren make into hammocks and canopies.
Turning north towards the Woerth home is Mary’s garden, Prairie Princess, filled with climbing rose, clematis, Stella D’Oro daylilies, columbines, coralbells, balloon flowers and a few annuals grace her feet.
Hosta Staircase and
Turning the corner to the west of the Woerth home, the hosta staircase starts with two miniature hostas and a butterfly bush the staircase proceeds from large to smaller hostas following the sloper. Move up the incline past the resting doe to the moon garden.
Moon gardens are traditionally all white flower gardens. The most fragrant flowers in a garden are often the white ones and the color white actually shimmers in the moonlight. Two white clematis outline the entry way and Sweet Autumn jumps it’s trellis, White Madonna lilies, phlox, obedient pant, iris, hosta, geranium, rugosa rose, azaleas and other white flowering plants and shrubs populate the enchanting area.
Front of the House and
the Daisy Garden
In the front of the Woerth home are varieties of shade-loving plants, including astilbes, Lady’s mantle, coral bells, columbine and a clematis ‘Blue Moon,’ as well as an almond bush.
Other perennials planted in front are groundcover vinca, lychnis, balloon flower, azaleas and a lace cap hydrangea. Across from the black wrought iron bench is a white arbor, one climbing rose and two kinds of clematis grace its side.
The daisy garden forms an edge of the front yard that is a gardener’s retreat. Visitors will often find Marilyn there during a break. While sitting on the bench, visitors will gaze out across what Marilyn calls her savannah. Daisy-types of flowers – day lilies, bee balm and oak leaf hyrangea ‘Snow Queen’ are the headlines in this corner of the yard.