Three Sisters Inn wins ‘Yard of th e Week’
"Welcome to Baldwin City." This is what the Three Sisters Inn, 1035 Ames St., a Victorian home and yard, seems to say as people drive through our town.
This lovely home looks as if it was originally built on the corner of Ames and 11th streets. But it wasn't always there. In fact it was the talk of the town as it was moved down the highway only five years ago and placed in an empty lot filled with stately old timber trees. In just a short time, Jim and Diane Niehoff have created a Victorian landscape befitting the time period of the home.
Kansas post rock, ornamental grass and Victorian ironwork are at the corner of 11th and Ames. Post rock and iron are also on each side of the driveway entry that leads to old-fashioned rugosa roses, a clump of White Spiral birch and spirea bushes. Under the tree we see the first of Diane's angel collection, an angel resting on a bubbling birdbath. The front corner of the house has another angel with a stepping stone that tells us, "There are angels among us," as we soon see in the form of numerous small and large statuary throughout the yard. This corner has iris, mums, several daylilies and petunias.
A rhododendron bush is next to the house. A gazing ball on a white pedestal reflects the rose colored lythrum (Loosestrife.) Surrounding the house between the curved brick sidewalk and the long graceful front porch are plantings of Anthony Waterer spirea, rhododendron, iris, phlox, daylilies, with a globe blue spruce on each side of the front steps. The plantings continue with more spirea, boxwood, holly bushes and climbing roses.
On the east side of the house, there is a Japanese maple tree nestled among barberry bushes. This and a variety of other bushes add height and texture to the side area. The front porch has several baskets of Boston fern hanging gracefully above the wicker furniture. There are chairs, a sittee and porch swing in green or white wicker and a plant stand of pink begonias in the corner. On the wall, there are silk flowers circling a grapevine wreath. Another large silk arrangement of summer flowers is placed on a table beside a chair.
We then walked back toward the door on the east side of the house. This more casual entry greets guests with an antique washtub overflowing with verbena, an ornamental sweet potato vine, dusty miller, licorice plant, ageratum and a vining geranium. Beside the door are several clematis, which are through blooming but for now still have interesting seedpods. There are asters growing that will have lavender blooms in the fall.
White hollyhocks, phlox, a healthy rhubarb plant and several herbs lead down the path to the back screened-in breakfast porch and a water garden. There is a white picket fence which makes a lovely background for the pink roses that are in bloom. Hanging above the waterfall is a bird feeder and a hanging basket of geraniums. The waterfall gently spills water into a three tiered pool that is laid with natural limestone and has plantings on all sides. We could hear the tranquil sound of water bubbling from a large rock. Hostas, ivy, a lilac bush, a spruce tree, a smoke tree, impatiens and mums are mulched in along the stream. Large gold fish are swimming lazily in the water among the arrowhead, water iris, water celery and other water plants.
There is a large stone bridge crossing the lower, deepest level of the pool. Crape Myrtle bushes are blooming with rose colored blooms. An angel wing begonia sits on a large post rock beside the pool. Overlooking the pool is a wooden bench. Slightly to the south, there is another bench. A shepherd's crook near this bench holds a basket of cascading petunias. Both benches are favorite spots for guests to rest and enjoy the water garden.
We followed the path along the water garden back up past the breakfast porch. Near the kitchen door, opposite the picket fence, is a kitchen herb garden. The fragrance from this wonderful mixture of herbs mingled in the evening air as we strolled down the path to the gazebo through a wisteria arbor. The creeping thyme was blooming. We could see nasturtiums and pansies next to a sign that said, "To cultivate a garden is to walk with God." Another sign advised, "You have to eat a lot of parsley to be an old Sage."
The birds were beginning their evening songs. A robin flew into the water and splashed about. It then sat on a rock to straighten its feathers. It was peaceful walking under the shade of the large timber trees. Hostas, phlox and begonias are among the plants grouped around the trees. Wooden benches and one made of natural stone entice visitors to stop and look around a minute. Hibiscus are on each side of the gazebo. The fragrance of petunias fills the air. It seems many fragrances are strongest early in the morning or in the evening.
The parking lot has three new hard maple trees planted along its side. There are several young Colorado blue spruce, a dogwood, a magnolia and a catalpa tree planted throughout the yard. Several Victorian globe streetlights add an ambiance to the yard at night.
As we left the yard on the side that borders 11th Street, we saw two wooden rocking chairs, a wooden "Welcome" crow and planters, all with sunflower dr on the side porch. The plantings of bushes continue along the railing of the porch. As we started walking home, we saw an assortment of old fashioned flowers such as larkspur, astible, veronica, cransbill and lilies under trees leading to the street. Another clematis is planted where it climbs up a utility pole. Two pussy willows are growing next to the parking area. A white picket fence covers the refuse cans and another fence marks the farthest parking lot where there are three roses planted.
Although this home is a business, it is an overnight home to many Baldwin City visitors. Its warm welcome and inviting appearance has been an inspiration to many Baldwin gardeners.