Local history buffs will particularly enjoy visiting the home of Evan Williams and Roger Walter. Nestled in the center of the city, the Williams/Walter garden rests on property that once belonged to Ferdinand Fullers, one of the city’s earliest architects. Fuller designed the original Free State hotel that was burned during the 1856 pro-slavery attack on the city. The current home was likely built in 1861. Evan Williams’ father purchased the property in 1956 and the family has resided there since.
The barn, which now serves as a hosta garden, originally housed cattle and horses until it was converted into a small living cottage. Married KU students resided there in exchange for babysitting the children, who later took their turn living in the cottage while students at KU.
In 1986 a fire destroyed the converted barn prompting Evan’s mother to hire a couple of young female designers from Uptown Garden to salvage the burnt limestone ruins and lay the foundation for the gardens that exist today. The wood trellis roof and two back decks give the garden structure and intimacy.
In 1996 Evan purchased the property from her siblings and began slowly creating a new garden that would require as little work as possible, planting mainly perennials and edible plants that could be used in her catering business. The low maintenance garden currently includes a vast array of perennials including roses, peonies, alliums, hydrangeas, hostas, and coreopsis.
As you walk through the gardens pay particular attention to the mass plantings of salvia that surround the house and repeat in other beds. Wisteria embraces the beams and limestone walls of the former barn.
Another favorite, Bergenia, provides three season delight. In spring, its bright flowers suspend over dark glossy leaves. Summer produces large leaves that serve as a protective ground cover and fall finds the plant turning into a bronze and purple carpet.
The garden is truly a labor of love and a testament to the beauty of preserving history through gardening.
- Salvia. Salvia farinacea. “Rockin, Playing the Blues”
- Japanese Wisteria. Wisteria Floribunda.
- Bergenia. Bergenia cordifolia.
- Hellebore. Helleborus orientalis.