Retter Garden

Photo by Diane Guthrie Photography

In 2012, Cassidy and Alicia Retter purchased The Iris Place.  Situated atop a hill southeast of Lawrence, the property was established as a commercial enterprise in 1979 when rare peonies and iris were planted for resale.  The remnants of the plant business are seen as you approach the home where old Iris beds, created from  railroad ties, cascade down the front lawn. 

By 2012, when the Retters purchased the home and gardens, much of original plants had been sold off.   Cassidy and Alicia saved the few small remaining rhizomes and peonies, nurturing the plants while enjoying the beauty they provide each spring.  The couple expanded their landscape design and introduced a vast array of cut flowers, fruits and vegetables.  They were so successful that for several years they participated as vendors for the Lawrence Farmer’s Market, providing customers with beautiful flower arrangements, baked goods, and organically grown vegetables and fruits.  Since “retiring” from the market, Cassidy and Alicia have focused on enhancing their gardens.  

Several years ago the couple hauled in soil and concrete and created an outdoor living space with a feel of the Colorado Rockies. The stamped concrete patio is surrounded by latana and petunias.  Low maintenance rock gardens, dotted with shrubs, perennials and colorful annuals surround the space, while a pollinator garden filled with tropical milkweed supports monarchs and swallowtails.      

Photo by Diane Guthrie Photography

Perhaps one of the most captivating additions to the outdoor living area is a magnificent Koi pond featuring a 3 foot cascading waterfall with a view of the old Sibleyville Hills.  Hyacinth, water willow, hibiscus, iris, and water forget-me nots engulf the pond.  The adjacent Fat Albert and Blue Atlas cedar trees support the mountain feel. 

Photo by Diane Guthrie Photography
Photo by Diane Guthrie Photography

As you venture past the water feature and continue behind the home the pathway opens to the peony field, where over 200 peonies reside adjacent to the organic blueberry and strawberry patches and multiple fruit trees.  

Sustainable garden practices are evident throughout.  The vegetable garden is a no-till zone and a drip irrigation system delivers well water to thirsty plants. Leaf mulch and grass clippings help the soil retain its moisture while providing a weed barrier and soil conditioner. Sustainability is not limited to plants. Cassidy and Alicia recently constructed a chicken coup that is home to their brood of Rhode Island Red chickens. The chickens provide an endless supply of eggs for the family! 

Favorite Plants

  • Evergreen Trees. Stout Albert Blue Spruce and Blue Atlas Cedar 
  • Blueberry bush. Vaccinium elliotti. (“Elliot” or “Duke”) 
  • Tropical milkweed. Asclepias tuberosa.
  • Water hyacinth. Eichhornia crassipes.
  • Peoney. Paeonia officinalis.  “Bartzella” 

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