Every resting spot in Walkabout Gardens is surrounded with views of unique trees, an array of shrubs and perennials, and whimsical statuary

Nan and Merwyn Ripley, Nevada, Iowa
Reviewed by: Donna Schouweiler, Bismarck, ND

I could have spent an entire day exploring Nan and Merwyn Ripley’s expansive rural garden near Nevada and still felt as though more time was needed to do it justice. The diversity of plant materials found at Walkabout Gardens is a treat for passionate gardeners of all types, featuring a mix of shade and sun lovers, wonderful clematis and majestic trumpet and orienpet lilies, shrubs and trees. Whimsical plant combinations, garden art such as a cobalt blue painted tree, and shaded seating spots for contemplation, can be found throughout the garden.

Nan’s collection of dwarf conifers is enchanting. My first stop off the bus was at a new bed dotted with variegated plants and fairy art. A gold-splashed false cypress, chamaecyparis ‘Gold Dust’, was the centerpiece of this bed, accompanied by a ‘Gold Sword’ yucca, zebra grass and the mounded dwarf spruce, picea ‘Little Gem’. Elsewhere in the garden I took notes on her golden larch and gave her ‘Green Mound’ juniper four stars. Nearby, a meandering path took me through a large bed filled with fragrant daylilies. Two of Nan’s daylily seedlings caught my eye, including 2005-KE022, a lavender purple with yellow-white looping edges. My favorite seedling was 2005-KE025, a striking, large raspberry-red flower with a deep red eye, ruffles and yellow-green throat. Four well-spaced, recurved flowers, measuring at least six inches each, were open on the plant, which had three-way branching. I have my fingers crossed that these two will measure up to her standards and be introduced in the future.

Among other daylilies of note were Nan’s H. ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ (Ripley, 2007), showing off its ten-inch garnet red flowers in several locations; and H. ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ (Wilkerson, 2007), an eight-inch rose-pink unusual form. Nan does a wonderful job with combining daylilies with other perennials, sometimes unexpected, such as H. ‘Lime Frost’ (Stamile, 1990) accompanied by a rudbeckia.

Nan also loves true lilies, and many of the late-blooming varieties were perfuming the air. My favorites were Robina, a bright pink orienpet; and Kentucky, a cantaloupe-colored LA lily with deep maroon speckles. Kudos, Nan, for sharing your garden with us! Next time I’m in the area, expect a call, begging for a much longer visit.