They are gardeners’ gardeners – and these two seasoned plant enthusiasts, who’ve been tending their property and its abundance of plants for the past 53 years or so, aren’t bashful about telling you that, either.
"We are true, real gardeners," said a grinning Yvonne Iuppenlatz, who with her husband, John, have created a veritable paradise that hugs their contemporary home in Bloomfield Hills. Adorned with conifers, azalea, rhododendrons, dwarf beauties, decades-old trees, Japanese maples, hostas and more, the layout has grown into a green slice of heaven.
"I remember once my doctor asked me, 'Are you a true gardener or just someone who enjoys flowers and such?' " Yvonne recalled. "I told him I think we are true gardeners. He then went on to ask me what to do about a wisteria that had been pretty much taking over his home. I told him to cut it back, prune, etc., as it had apparently been putting all its energy into growing." So the doctor heeded her advice, and voila, the wisteria was once again under control.
Successful gardens use patterns, elements
The Iuppenlatzes’ home is one of several stops featured on this year’s Franklin Garden Tour, to be held June 13. Part of the Women’s National Farm & Garden Association, the organization’s theme this year is "Successful Gardens: Patterns and Elements."
"As always, we will feature our popular salad luncheon buffet and our expanded artisan market of handcrafted, Michigan-made items," said Karen Belmonte DeWald, a publicist for the event.
Bloomfield Hills resident Elizabeth Simco is overseeing this year’s boutique and promises a mix of everything from garden-themed greeting cards to garden ornamentation. "Our goal is to feature local, local, local art and not have things that don’t really relate to what we’re about," Simco explained.
Proceeds from the tour help support horticultural, educational and environmental causes on local, state, national and world levels, DeWald added.
Garden takes shape little by little
Back at the Iuppenlatz garden, Yvonne and John recalled how it all began. "I kept receiving roses as gifts from the kids to plant in the garden. I eventually had to tell them no more roses and we moved on from there," Yvonne said laughing. "We’ve been working on this little by little over the years," she added, looking out to her sprawling grounds.
"Some of the big pines, elms, an old locust (it’s now covered with a climbing hydrangea) and a sycamore were here," John said.
The couple recalled days of when the route to their home was a dirt road and their young sons played happily amid towering trees, one of which provided hearty limbs from which hung a favorite swing. “There was an old farmhouse across the street,” John said. “Now it’s all developed and, well, we’ve seen a lot of changes,” he added, glancing at Carpathian walnut trees that were planted in honor of his two sons when they were young.
What’s not changed for these two green-thumb enthusiasts? A passion for most things green. What you won’t find at the Iuppenlatz home are a lot of perennials or annuals, but what you will find are dozens upon dozens of Yvonne’s prized hostas.
In addition, in the past few years, the couple has added several Japanese maples to the layout. As members of the American Rhododendron Society, the Azalea Society of America, the Conifer Society, the American Hosta Society and the North American Rock Garden Society, “we’ve gotten pretty serious about gardening,” John said with a chuckle.
Garden walk patrons will see ornamental grasses, dwarf Hornbeam, Ginko, Oriental spruce (Picea Orientalis, “it first buds out as yellow, then turns darker,” John explained), tree peonies, doublefile Shasta Vibernum, copper beech, an old hemlock, sugar maples, yellow beech, azalea Bixby (“which do really well here,” said John), dawn redwood, umbrella pine, autumn moon maple (“collecting Japanese maples is a disease; you really do get hooked,” said John), dwarf pygmy maple, lemon light azalea (they bloom twice), Solomon’s Seals, dwarf vibernum, and lots of woodland plants along a fence line (to buffer them from the large homes behind).
“We have our own little climate here,” said Yvonne, “because everything surrounds us — we get good results.”
A 100-year-plus elm and a big yew add interest. The elm, by the way, gets injected with a solution every three years to help prevent decay. “I’d hate to lose the elm — our kids grew up swinging on a swing that used to hang from it,” John said.
One of their sons lives in the area and also has become quite a rhodo fan. What John didn’t mind losing was the sprawling Pachysandra that once went on and on. “We had a bunch of it growing everywhere and I wanted to relieve it so I could plant more plants,” John said. “But I had to get approval; she finally let me.”
Just a couple of weeks before the tour and the Iuppenlatzes are pretty much ready to showcase their grounds. “Some people ask: Will you have flowers in bloom during the tour?” John said. “No, I tell them. This isn’t a flower garden. We’re not perennial/annual people. We’re gardeners.”
Tips for success in the garden
Azalea and rhododendron maintenance: “Evergreen azaleas can be pruned heavily; deciduous azaleas don’t require any pruning," John Iuppenlatz said. "For rhodos, I have to deadhead every flower and then fertilize when the bloom is finished. That deadhead routine requires hand-pruning when the flower dies. You twist them off — some come off easily, some don’t. It’s a job! Fertilize after deadheading otherwise if you fertilize before they bloom, you’re giving them nitrogen and they’ll grow a lot of green stuff; you want buds."
About the Franklin Garden Tour
When: June 13, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m.
Admission: $10 presale/$12 day of tour. Tickets are available at The Village Boutique, 32716 Franklin Rd., (248-851-0055) or pre-order tickets by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope with a check payable to “WNF&GA Franklin Branch” to PO Box 250194, Franklin, MI 48025-0194. Include your phone number and preferred luncheon seating (if interested in the lunch, which is an additional $10). Tickets and maps will be available at the Village Green Gazebo, on the west side of Franklin Road between 13 and 14 Mile roads on the day of the tour (32325 Franklin Rd., Franklin, MI 48025) beginning at 9 a.m.
Artisan market: Purchase garden-themed art from some 20 artists. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. This year there are also hands-on demonstrations and activities all conveniently located on the green in historic downtown Franklin.
More information: (248) 851-1066, www.franklingardenclub.org