Traverse City Living: Patsy Burkhart's Secret Garden

Traverse City Living: Patsy Burkhart, of the Old Mission peninsula, has a knack for beauty. You first notice it as you park your car in the drive, surrounded by beautiful flowers and trees, small islands in a sea of the thickest, most luscious green grass around.

You’ll think to yourself, “Okay, she knows her way around fertilizer, and definitely invested in a great sprinkler system. This looks pretty nice.” Walking the path up to the front door, gleaming windows give glimpses of her gorgeous home. She greets you, her smile warm and relaxed. Patsy leads you through the dining room, past the kitchen and den, to the “backyard.”

I describe the “backyard” using quotation marks because what you see out Patsy’s back door hardly resembles a backyard at all—it’s much more beautiful. There are no garden hoses, piles of brush, or half-way-started projects that one would normally see. This is something more akin to a decadent oasis.

Using local resources Wheelock & Sons Welding as well as Traverse Outdoor, Burkhart has created a multi-level space for many occasions. Burkhart says she has hosted a wedding, smaller bridal events, as well as small evening soirees for family and friends.

The space is incredibly versatile, thanks to Burkhart’s careful planning, beginning in the fall of 2010. Working closely with Wheelock & Sons, Burkhart developed a unique space and focal point for her garden using an arbor and hand-crafted bench, perfect for a morning cup of coffee or reading in the evening. Traverse Outdoor aided Burkhart in designing the multiple levels of the garden as well as selecting plants and flowers that would color the space best with bright greens and purples above midnight-black mulch.

A few stone steps lead you gently from your arbor seat to the outdoor fireplace, some 10 feet high. Pale stone stretches tall above your head, a mantle simply decorated using a black candelabra. Encircling the fireplace are several chairs and cushioned loveseats for company.

All of this, of course, is beyond the deck itself, upon which classic, wide-board deck chairs, Burkhart’s grilling station and beautiful deep purple flowers reside. But this is all hidden from view—the little oasis of Patsy Burkhart is largely a secret, meant solely for enjoyment by family and friends. Which makes one wonder, how many of these secret gardens are there in Northern Michigan?

We are so lucky to have so many beaches, rivers, lakes and hiking trails that are open to everyone, it’s what makes life Up North so addicting and beautiful. But now, I realize, Northern Michigan possesses more beauty than anyone could ever anticipate. This place is full of secret gardens, beaches, hidden hiking trails, and Patsy Burkhart is keeps just one of them—imagine how many more there are that nobody knows about.