Garden Photo of the Day

Turning a Large Property Into a Multifaceted Garden

Fine Gardening – Issue 205
multifaceted garden

In 1995, Cindy Lindstedt and her husband, John, moved into a newly built log cabin on 142 acres an hour outside Milwaukee. Since then, the pair has turned much of the property—then overrun with buckthorn, honeysuckle, and other invasive plants—into a cultivated paradise. There are approximately 20 separate “themed” gardens, including a rock garden, hosta garden, and even a vegetable garden. There is also a prairie garden, where plants that self-sow and tend to be more rambunctious are placed and allowed to “fight it out on their own,” as Cindy says.

This is why they call their place “Big Sky.”

Garden at a glance

Size: 71 acres cultivated   Location: Southeast Wisconsin.  Zones: 4–5

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; alkaline soil

Age of the garden: 27 years


This gardener has come a long way since her 20s, when she and her husband lived in Navy housing in Connecticut. During that time, Cindy once purchased a flat of marigolds and planted them under a tree in her front yard. A week later they looked awful. She went back to the garden center to complain that something was wrong with the plants. One of the nursery staff smiled and asked, “Did you water them?”

gardener with bucket of cut flowers
A gardening novice turned Master Gardener. Through multiple decades of trial and error, Cindy Lindstedt has created a garden oasis.

Rocks tree peony flowers
A big footprint needs division. With more than 100 acres to work with, this landscape was sectioned off into distinctive garden areas where favorite plants can shine.

Some 50 years and one Master Gardener class later, watering is hardly Cindy’s problem—but the size and breadth of the property is. Cindy turned to hiring a helper, Inga, once or twice a week to assist with planting, weeding, and keeping the garden looking shipshape. Cindy refers to herself as an “H-lady” because of her affinity for hostas, hydrangeas, and heucheras. That said, she cannot live without her peonies, which are plentiful and stunning. Rock’s tree peony (Paeonia rockii, Zones 4–8) is a particular favorite.

A self-proclaimed “hydrangea lady” indeed!

The gardens span about half of the property, while the other half remains untouched and features both wooded areas and pasture, where cattle and horses once roamed. Now, though, the couple is down to “one geriatric horse, three barn kitties, and a dog.” Cindy isn’t complaining though; the cattle barn is now used to house plants that need to be overwintered, and she appreciates that she can focus more on her gardening.

Clematis "Jackmanii"
The two purple clematis on the lampposts flanking the front walk are “Jackmanii’.

'Vanilla Strawberry' hydrangea.
‘Vanilla Strawberry’ hydrangea

'Limelight' hydrangea
‘Limelight’ hydrangea is flanked by thge lower hosta garden.


irises with bear statue
Dave Clarke’s chainsaw creation is the centerpiece of the “Bear Garden.”


Hibiscus “Kopper King” in the foreground is Strawberry Sundae hydrangea
The paniculate hydrangea is Strawberry Sundae. The hardy hibiscus in the foreground is ‘Kopper King’.

Echinacea purpurea with garden sculptures.
Echinacea purpurea with garden sculptures


—Christine Alexander is the digital editor for Fine Gardening.

Photos: courtesy of Cindy Lindstedt

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  1. wadeck82 04/04/2022


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