As a person drives up to the Dennis and Barb Mashek’sfarm in rural Calmar, it takes your breath away! The farm place definitely has the “wow factor.” With many new buildings including a state of the art dairy setup, and many, many flowers beds and gardens, the place has got to be one of the prettiest farms in Iowa.
“With our dairy business, having Registered Brown Swiss cattle, we have many tours throughout the year on the farm (many foreign visitors as well). We are very fussy about how our farm looks as people drive in. First appearance is very important to us,” explains Barb.
As you drive into their farm, you will see two of their biggest rock gardens. The one on the north side is 14 X 70 long – that has dappled willow, weigela bush, yarrow, roses, sedum, day lilies, white lilac tree, and black eyed Susan’s, On the south side, is a two-tied rock bed that is 8 X 80 that has a rose tree, black eyed Susan, lilies, wishing well, flocks, lilac bush, carnations, lavender and more. In front of their house there is roses, sedum, day lilies, and flowers all the way around the house are more miniature roses, mums, thrift, lilac bush, hostas, hydrangeas, astilbies and many garden statures in between that add whimsy to the gardens.
When Barb and Dennis were first married, they lived in a mobile home on Dennis’s home farm of John and Dorothy Mashek’s. “We needed to do some landscaping in front of the mobile home, and the flowers came. I started off with mums from his mom and it went from there,” explained Barb.
“The huge rock garden all started in 2000. That is when Dennis and I decided to sell the mobile home. With having the base there, I thought it would be an awesome spot for a rock garden. I designed how and what I wanted planted and it all took off from there. We laid down plastic and a water way cloth and covered it with pea rock. We also used cement blocks around the area to keep the rocks from moving around and out of the rock garden. We purchased many of the flowers and shrubs from local nursery's (Fort Nursery, Henzlers, Lady Bug, Decorah Greenhouse, Wal-Mart, Monona Nursery and some friends) to fill in what we wanted. I only will plant perennials. They come back every year and are very easy to care for. The only annuals I buy are hanging baskets,” explained Barb.
Over the years, Barb has dug out some plants that she decided she did not like and added a few more to fill in bare spots. The garden is full at this time with clever garden decorations to add to the beauty of the garden and bluebirds and hummingbirds living there too. At one time they had a pond in the front but due to up keep and cleaning, Barb took it out and purchased a wishing well water fountain, making it much easier to keep clean and maintain. Someday, she would love to have a three tier cement water fountain. Cement is a good choice for the Mashek’s because with the winds that they have on the farm, she can't use plastic items, since they will either blow over or away.
“I would suggest perennials for gardeners. They are very easy to work with and are cheaper in the end. You don't have to worry about watering them as much as annuals either. I would also suggest using pea rock as it's much easier to move around than larger rock. Using mulch is okay, but again, you always have to keep adding to it. Also, using cement blocks to edge the garden works well. It makes the rock beds look a lot more attractive than using grass or railroad ties,” advices Barb.
Dennis and Barb worked together to make the gardens without outside help. Laying the bricks, designing, putting in the plastic, rocks, and planting the flowers has taken time, but it is well worth the effort. Dennis helps Barb with spring cut off and clean up and anything big that needs to be done. “Over the years, our two sons, Joshua and Tanner have made several items for my rock gardens. Some were made from 4-H or school projects. Josh has made "sunflowers" from old farm machinery, bird houses and Tanner has made "hose" holder from an old tire and just this year, made my new ‘Arbor’. These items to me are priceless!”
The love that Barb has for flowers shows on their farm. “I'm proud of what Dennis and I have accomplished over the years and how beautiful our farm looks. This is my real enjoyment and stress reliever!”
Barb is always working on new ideas. She has some ideas already planned for next spring. But living on a farm means she needs to find out if a certain area would be a problem for the machinery that may need to be a parking spot!
We hope giving you a peek in the Mashek’s garden will give you some gardening inspiration. Happy gardening!