The backyard at the home of Les and Cathy Hohenstein is the epitome of “beauty on a budget,” thanks mostly to Les’ resourceful ways. If a landscape item wasn’t dug out of a trash bin, retrieved from someone’s trash or bought at a reduced price, it’s probably not part of the Hohensteins’ English garden-influenced backyard.
The backyard at the home of Les and Cathy Hohenstein is the epitome of “beauty on a budget,” thanks mostly to Les’ resourceful ways.
If a landscape item wasn’t dug out of a Dumpster, retrieved from someone’s trash or bought at a reduced price, it’s probably not part of the Hohensteins’ English garden-influenced backyard.
The yard includes a fern Les found in an alley, concrete chunks that look like stone that he retrieved from refuse piles from new housing construction, and a fountain that he bought and repaired after negotiating the price down.
“I talked to the guy, ‘How much you want for it?’ He said such and such a price,” Les said. But Les pointed out that the fountain was taking up space and had pesky cracks.
Perhaps no one would offer him money for it, he hinted.
“I got the thing for a song,” Les said.
While growing up in Mount Auburn, Les was raised in a family in which members “always made something from nothing,” he said. He had a landscape nursery business in Shelbyville for 10 years and retired after five years as superintendent of schools at Tri-City.
Born and raised in Ladue, a suburb of St. Louis, Cathy is a retired teacher at New Berlin High School. She currently teaches piano to 45 students.
The Hohensteins have lived in their Springfield home for six years. They have two children, Heidi and Erik, and a granddaughter, Lilly. When not working on their yard, they serve as ushers at the University of Illinois Springfield, teach adult Sunday school, sing in a church contemporary choir and dance in a ballroom dance club.
Having a backyard influenced by an English garden was Cathy’s idea.
“First of all, I do nothing in the yard ... it’s totally his. I do absolutely nothing out here, but I eat here and have fun here. I also tell him what looks pretty. I find things that I like,” Cathy said.
Cathy found the back yard’s design theme by snooping around a few years ago with a girlfriend who was getting married and looking for houses.
“There was a house for sale, so we went snooping in the backyard. I fell in love with her English garden,” Cathy said.
“I took Les back that night, which was probably major-league trespassing. I said, ‘Look at this ... This is the look I want.’”
The Hohensteins’ garden look includes topiaries fashioned out of inexpensive arborvitae and limestone found in a Dumpster.
Les is always in the market for a good deal — even on a Sunday after services at First United Methodist Church.
“A lot of times we take separate cars ’cause I’m running later,” Cathy said.
“On the way home, he’ll always be a little later. I’m like, ‘Where are you, Les?’ and he’s like, ‘Well, I’ll be there in a few minutes.’ And then he’s got a trunkful of stuff ...
“He actually likes it better than if I would go buy him a present if he finds a piece of junk. He can spend the next week and have this wonderful project.”
Les said he’s helping people get rid of trash they’re paying to remove.
“But you’ve got to have permission,” he said.
Les avoids paying full price for plants whenever he can. But occasionally, buying at full price may be the best thing to do if you want a specialty plant that might not be available at the end of the season.
“Like a Japanese maple, for example ... if you want a Japanese maple, you’re probably going to have to pay full price for it,” said Les, a former teacher and principal.
“You might wait until the end of the season and say, ‘Ah, I’m going to wait until the price comes down.’ Then you look, and it’s gone.”
Tamara Browning can be reached at (217) 788-1534 or email@example.com.
Other landscaping tips from Les and Cathy Hohenstein:
_Be prudent with money. Sales are everywhere because of the economy.
_Be patient with landscape plans, but do plan. Things can be done in stages. “When you’re doing landscape, you want your trees first. Then you want a lawn. Then you want your pretties, the foundation plantings,” Les said.
_Have your landscaping style fit your home’s style. “If your home is more formal, it would look silly to have a really country backyard. There should be a good fit between the formality or informality of your garden and the home,” Cathy said.
_Mix evergreens and flowers. Be careful to place species appropriately.
_Do research. Consult a nursery expert. Read books and magazines.
_Get free plants. People who divide plants such as day lilies and irises might be willing to give you some.
_Buy plants, trees, shrubs and flowers at clearance or sale prices. Ask for the refuse pile, find something with life in it and give it tender loving care. Go to plant sales put on by organizations.
_Mix in native species for beauty and hardiness when possible. “God’s blessed us with this beauty that God made here. I really enjoy it,” Les said.