Garden walk shows off Rochester, town and country


John and Pat Wireman never thought they could own their dream house. But thanks to a son-in-law who’s a builder, the former Southfield residents moved into a new house in northern Rochester Hills in 2002.

The couple, both academics, had been searching for land on a trout stream when they found a 2.5-acre lot on Paint Creek. Their garden, which combines the wild creek landscape with a formal garden closer to the house, is one of seven gardens featured in the 13th annual Rochester Hills Museum Garden Walk June 21. The house will also be open during a Preview Party June 20.

Pat Wireman in her arbor.

Pat Wireman said the garden evolved piece by piece out of necessity. “After we built the house, we kind of ran out of money,” she said.

With their own labor and the help of some talented professionals, they have managed to combine formal and natural areas in pleasing fashion.  A formal garden which includes herbs, a boxwood hedge and espaliered apple trees borders the sunny side of the patio, where a pool and hot tub were added just last year.  A large wooden arbor steps down toward the creek and a young orchard with its own beehives for pollination. A spectacular outdoor room and a decorative iron fence serve as a dividing line of sorts between refined and natural, sun and shade.

Bob Cragg, owner of Cragg’s Construction, was the finish carpenter on their home. He later built the outdoor room and has incorporated unique architectural elements into the garden, such as two old English chimney pipes and 1830 barn beams used in the arbor. He spends a day a week at the house.

“They give you freedom to flow here,” said Cragg, who is affectionately referred to as “Bob the Builder: by the Wiremans.

The interior of the French-country inspired house includes a two-story conservatory filled with plants and a unique indoor pond. There is also a wine cellar and a finished walk-out lower level. All that, plus the opportunity to swim and fish, makes this a house where the grandchildren have “so much to do,” John Wireman said.

The Wireman’s 2.5-acre site is the largest of the seven homes on the walk. Also included are smaller suburban gardens and two neighboring gardens in downtown Rochester that show just how much can be accomplished on a postage-stamp-sized lot. The walk also includes the museum site, where the gardens are planted and maintained by the Rochester Branch of the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association, which cosponsors the walk. The museum’s dairy barn will also be open.

“The Garden Walk provides the perfect opportunity to see the back yards of some of the most beautiful gardens in our community,” said museum supervisor Pat McKay. “It is a terrific community event. It also showcases the museum gardens. Guests can enjoy educational programs and we provide an opportunity to support local artists.”

Tickets for the Preview Party are $30 per person or $50 per couple and include a tour of the house, refreshments served from the wine cellar, music, plein-air painting, a silent auction and informal modeling of garden chic looks from Janet Varner of  Rochester, as well as a ticket for the next day’s walk. Lorrie Ann Minock of Final Touch Designs in Rochester will be offering permanent botanicals, including wreaths and table arrangements. A portion of proceeds will benefit the museum.

On walk day, the museum will host an Open Aire Market from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. offering refreshments, plein-air painting and educational programs. At 1 p.m., Karen Bovio, owner of Specialty Grower’s Nursery in Howell, will present “Cool Plants for the Shade.” At 2:30 p.m. freelance garden writer, plant collector and Plantskyyd representative Julia Hofley will present “Gardening WITH Deer.” Door prizes will be given along with four tickets to the 2013 walk.

Tickets for the walk are $12 in advance ($10 members) or $14 on event day. Advance tickets for the walk are available here or at the museum on Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m.  For more information call (248) 656-4663.

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