Gardens of Kansas City (Part One in a Series )

I had the pleasure of visiting some of Kansas City’s most outstanding gardens and landscaping sites. I was so enamored by the gardens that I visited, that I went home with more photographs than I could reasonably use in one article. As a result we will post Gardens of Kansas City in three parts.

Written and Photographed by Ingrid Keizer

I must extend a huge thanks to Curtis Stroud of Rosehill Gardens for a personal tour, to designer Gary Lueckenotto for a gardening and landscape toutorial and to the McElliotts who allowed me the honor of photographing their beautiful gardens.

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No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.

Thomas Jefferson

When I speak to friends in France they refer to what we call our yard as a “garden”. In Paris, yard space is at a premium and a relatively small patch of grass beside a tiny patio space is nearly unheard of. Naturally when I tell my Parisian friends that I have a garden big enough for two large dogs to romp and play, they imagine something grand. They of course, don’t see the bald patches or the stubborn crop of wild strawberry that has taken over the back quarter of the yard.

In Kansas City we have the luxury of space and while some of us regard our yards as a place to put the dogs when their energy exceeds our house, there are many Kansas Citians whose yards are a beautiful extension of their homes.

The way that Americans define a yard has actually changed a lot over the last few centuries. A yard was likely an outdoor space with boundaries that defined property. The yard might have housed livestock and served as a commercial workspace. Sometimes yards were paved with bricks or shells.

As the American upper class emerged, gardens became more decorative and ornamental. The Victorian Era brought about lavish, rich looking gardens with plantings that bordered grassy spaces. Victorian gardeners also began the practice of placing planting close to the foundations of their homes.

Evert Asjes, came to the US from the village of Nieuwerkerk in the Netherlands.  When he arrived in Kansas City he began mowing lawns and providing lawn care. In 1914 he established Rosehill Gardens and over time the business grew, adding services and covering more area and spanning four generations of Asjes. Sadly, in 2007 Steve Asjes lost his battle to cancer. The Asjes family sold the business to former employees Curtis Stroud and to Gary Weidenbach. Rosehill Gardens provides residential and commercial landscaping, landscape design and maintenance as well as providing a retail nursery.  Rosehill’s beautiful work can be found all over the Greater Kansas City area.

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The first garden and landscaping project that I visited was this beautiful home owned by the McElliott family. Upon arriving I was immediately captured by the perfectly groomed and landscaped yard. I hardly knew where to point my camera. Everywhere I turned offered a breathtaking scene. Co-owner of Rosehill Garden’s, Curtis Stroud served as my very patient guide as I attempted to capture everything I saw.

These tiers of plantings create a perfect palate of color and texture. The Hydrangea quercifolia or Oakleaf Hydrangea is one of the few Hydrangea varieties that is native to the US. The Oakleaf Hydrangea serves as a perfect planting for the top of the tier as it can reach heights of up to 13 feet. Gary Luekckenotto the Landscape designer for the McElliott Home advises that while hydrangeas need ample water, over watering could serve as a detriment. Most importantly hydrangeas need loose, rich soil that drains well. Hydrangeas do best when planted close to your home.

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The  tightly sculpted Boxwood Hedge give the landscaping a more formal look  while complimenting the other plantings. Boxwood Hedge offer flexibility in terms of its use as it can serve as ornamental when sculpted, to designate borders or as an excellent focal point in landscaping.

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The McElliotts spared very little in creating a backyard space that served their family’s needs while also creating the perfect space for entertaining. Designer, Gary Lueckenotto did an absolutely outstanding job of complimenting the fabulous masonry and pool with the perfect combination of plantings. Lueckenotto introduced the use of tropical plants to this project which very simply creates another level of beautiful complexity. Though tropicals thrive Kansas City summers, they must be removed and taken indoors during colder months.

RH 9Lueckenotto discussed the evolution of landscaping that has occurred over time. While we might have fond memories of the roses that our parents and grandparents painstakingly pampered, today’s gardens offer  a whole new visual expereince. “We’ve learned so much more about the plants that are best suited for our soil and climate” Lueckenotto said, “We are also more knowledgeable about preparing soil and planting in a way that requires less maintenance”.

RH 8This bronze sculpture by artist Charles Strain serves as the perfect backyard centerpiece. Strain, a Missouri native studied art at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, MO but most certainly developed his vision throughout his experiences in travel as the child of a Navy man. Strain’s appreciation for life and the world around him can be seen in the elegant movement of his work.

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The McElliott’s outdoor kitchen is certainly the envy of many guests who come to enjoy this beautiful space. Outdoor Kitchens have become much sought after in current garden design. Not only does it complete an outdoor living space, it serves as practical. Heating up the house with indoor cooking can be miserable experience during the Kansas City heat. It also saves money on the cooling bill.

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I have to admit that I really longed to see this space in the darkness of night. The fire pit, the lighted gardens and fire columns at poolside left me dreaming of the beautiful evenings that the McElliotts have in store.

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Challenged by a small hill in the backyard space, the contractor made use of the challenge by designing a waterfall that would flow into the swimming pool. The natural looking waterfall is a gorgeous and functional addition.

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Bravo to Gary Lueckenotto for the gorgeous design that brought this beautiful space to life. Stay tuned, in part three we will visit the McElliott’s area lake home garden also designed by Gary Lueckenotto.

“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”

Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

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  1. Ann Miller

    This is so lovely. I have been an admirer of Gary’s work for a long time. I am looking forward to seeing the photos of the lake house next.
    Thank you for this gorgeous article.

    1. Author

      Thank you. Gary is a talented designer! It’s been a pleasure to see Rosehill’s work!

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