Take a 1900s farmstead, remove the animals, then plant the whole 2½ acres in flowers, trees, shrubs and grass, using the farm buildings as backdrops, and accenting with bejeweled bowling balls and pieces of farm equipment.
That, in a nutshell, is what Jean Moffit has done at her farm west of DeWitt, Iowa, turning her yard into a park.
You're invited to wander the property on Sunday, June 25, when it will be among six gardens on a tour sponsored by the Clinton County Master Gardeners of Iowa State University Extension.
In 2012, Our Iowa magazine picked the Moffit farmstead for one of its "Prettiest Farm in Iowa" features.
Moffit had done some gardening most of her life, but activities kicked into high gear after she retired in 1993 from Ford Motor Co., working in its Bettendorf office, arranging buyer financing.
Plantings began, as they often do, "along the edges," she said.
She created borders that outline the boundaries of the yard, planted around the foundations of the buildings — house, machine shed, barn, corncrib and hog house — and under trees.
She uses a mix of perennials and annuals, and everywhere there are "found objects" or items that she has crafted into accents for the plantings.
Here are five "don't miss" features.
Garden art. Moffit is without a doubt the only gardener on the tour to use an airplane as a focal point for a planting. The Verize "pusher plane" — so-called because the motor is in the back — is positioned on a concrete pad where the chicken house used to be. (Her first husband, Glenn Printy, and her current spouse, John Moffit, shared an interest in planes and flying.) Next to the plane is an American Gasoline pump.
Also scattered about the property are bottle trees, a bottle ladder, chicken figurines in an area heavily planted with hens and chicks sempervivums, china plates affixed to the side of the corn crib, and a teapot birdhouse.
The farm buildings will be open, too, so don't miss the machine shed where Moffit's crafting abilities shine with numerous barn quilts and projects inspired by Pinterest.
"I've always got something to tinker with, a little project going," she said.
Trees. Because tree canopies generally are above eye level, they often go unnoticed in garden walks, but you'll want to admire the wind break installed on the back, or north side, of the property. It consists of three successive rows of conifers — Norway pine, white pine and fraser fir — with a fourth row of Australian willows.
The goal in planting a mix of evergreens was that if one got a disease and died, there would be backups, Moffit said.
Behind the willows is John Moffit's grass airplane runway that he uses in his hobby of flying small planes.
Hundreds of hostas. The west side of the property is bordered in a grand alle', or walkway, of blue spruce trees. But because the trees are dying from the bottom up (as often happens in the Midwest), Moffit has begun trimming them, then planting the ground beneath with hostas.
A friend counted more than 300 individual plants (some with what seems to be the footprint of a small car) and about 70 varieties.
On either end of the walkway are signposts bearing the names of places Moffit has visited, as she loves to travel. And she's visited a wide swath of the globe — Paris, Budapest, Beijing, Moscow, Tangier, Cairo, and Copenhagen. Also included is Bellevue, Iowa, where she grew up.
The hosta planting, as well as all of her flower beds, are edged with gravel and brick pavers. "That way I don't have to trim when I mow," she said.
Flowers. Of course there are lots of blooming perennials, as well as annuals filling in. The perennials include clusters of self-seeding bachelor buttons and spreading native yarrow. The latter provides a soft, green filler for bouquets and blooms with tiny yellow flowers in fall, Moffit said.
Patio. A shady sitting area north of the house is home to many container plantings. The patio itself is made of poured concrete that was stamped, lined and colored in a combination of grays to look like cut stone.
"It's a job to keep everything trimmed," Moffit said of her yard, but she enjoys it. She works mainly in the early morning and late afternoon. And, with the exception of the annuals, does no extra watering.