Natural wonders

Sunday, April 25, 2004

If you listen carefully you'll hear the deep-throated call of the bullfrog late in the afternoon and the buzz of a bumblebee near one of the banks of blooming azaleas. Koi fish splash in the pond, and birds chirp overhead in the gardens of Joe and Marie Haupt of Jackson.

They should charge admission for a grand tour of their 2 1/3-acre gardens near Berchman and Highland streets in Jackson, but the Haupts, both well past 80, will gladly walk you around for free. Their gardens are just as pristine and picturesque as any botanical park in the nation -- and just as well admired.

Since their lot is bordered on three sides by streets, Marie likes to make sure there's a nicely landscaped view from every angle. There are crepe myrtles, weeping Japanese maples, dozens of azaleas and blooms of dogwoods throughout the lot. Every turn creates a different, and colorful, view.

Though the daffodil blooms are already spent, lilies and water iris will pop out as summer arrives. Joe's Canadian white and wild purple violets cascade down one hillside like a refreshing stream of color. This is a garden that is transformed by the seasons and has taken decades to create.

The Haupts bought the lot in the early 1950s because it was one of the few near the town square that also had plenty of large oak and maple trees. The couple operated a photography studio in Jackson from 1949 to 1980 when they retired. And just as they photographed beautiful faces and settings, they've created a picturesque landscape around their home.

They worked for several years to clear the lot of brush and bramble and began selecting the plants they wanted to grow. "We left the land as it was," Joe said of the rolling hillsides and valleys.

Azaleas were somewhat uncommon at the time, and hard to find, but Marie was diligent. "I chose mostly what I wanted but wasn't impossible to grow here," she said. And she admits that she pushed the limits of hardiness at times but has a gorgeous garden to show for it.

Already, Marie is planning to change some of the beds in her 50-year-old garden. She wants to move some plants near the pond that interfere with the reflection on the water. She's still trying to fill holes and find permanent spots for a clump of azaleas that rest down by the pond.

There aren't any garden plans or drawings on paper -- Marie knows her landscape like a mother knows her children. She can tell you when an azalea was planted, where it was purchased and how it's been producing over the years.

"They're like my children," she says of the many plants in her yard. As she walks through the back yard, she points out the first azaleas she planted, noting how they've cascaded down the hillside. Nearby is a viburnum tree whose branches hung so low they finally rooted and started a new tree.

Marie tends to leave her gardens just as Mother Nature provides them. Sure, she's made changes and additions, but overall she lets the plants grow without fussing over them. A weeping cherry tree that was smashed by a larger tree years ago in a storm now grows a bit crooked but still continues to produce blooms and leaves, so Marie doesn't complain.

The Haupts know from years of experience that the garden will continue to blossom each year. They work daily tending to the beds. Both take turns with mowing -- Joe riding a mower and Marie pushing one into the smaller spaces.

This time of year is a busy one for the Haupts. "You have to clean up when it rains and see what needs pruning," Marie said.

She doesn't get outdoors as much as she'd like because "it depends on the weather, whether it's windy or cold." As she walks through the garden beds on a clear April afternoon, she picks up twigs or breaks off a dead branch. She notes which bushes need pruning after the blooms are spent and which ones will get her fertilizing dose of Epsom salts.

"In the garden you can't look up all the time," she said. There are some days when she's so busy looking down at the soil that she seldom gets a chance to admire her flowers.

But Marie does enjoy seeing her gardens from the house she and Joe built in 1951. Before placing a new plant in the garden, she makes sure it's going to be seen from the street and from her picture windows. She's already planning new additions to her beds -- and removing some unwanted plantings -- to make sure that the blooms last all season.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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