Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

How to grow a fairytale house of leaves and vines

By Stephanie Earls Updated: October 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm 0

Once upon a time in the '90s, in a stately neighborhood near The Broadmoor, Sherri Wehrer began growing a fairy tale.

First came the chicken wire, yards and yards of it that Wehrer's son affixed to the stucco on each side of the Tudor-style manor.

Then, the climbing vines to lace through and hide the chicken wire.

Finally - patience being a handy character trait for a fairy-tale heroine - the wait, which wasn't really that bad in the scheme of things.

"At first, when we put the plants in, some were just stretching out on the ground," as if they weren't sure where to go, said Wehrer. "But within six to seven years the house was completely covered. My neighbor up the street calls it the fairy-tale cottage, even though it isn't exactly a cottage."

Now the home's exterior is a near- solid wall of vines. Their leafy arabesques scribble the hard edges of doors and windows, seemingly the only gaps in foliage.

"I imagine that one of these days the house will just be solid green," Wehrer said.

There's something about an old, vine-covered building that can stir the imagination, she knows. It's a little bit history and mystery, and, for Wehrer at least, plain old good aesthetics.

"I've always admired homes covered with vines," she said. "I find them really attractive."

Inspiration for the live-in landscaping project, however, lies with Wehrer's late husband, Art Herzberger, a Colorado Springs veterinarian, state senator and El Paso County commissioner who passed away in 1997.

"He loved the yard so much, and I thought he would like this because it's green," Wehrer said. As Wehrer understands the history, the home was built in 1939 by Broadmoor founder Spencer Penrose for his wife Julie's sister, who suffered from tuberculosis. In the 23 years she's lived there, Wehrer has completely renovated the interior and built an addition with a home art studio and vast, open sleeping porch.

"Each year, we try to add something," she said.

In the fall, when the leaves rust a deep and vivid red, Wehrer starts to notice the looky-lous - stopping to take photos, sometimes even nosing into the driveway to get a better look.

For the best leaf peeping around, Wehrer needs only to step outside her door.

"I go out and sit in the swing and look at the house. The north side turns red later, so I get to enjoy that color at a later time," she said. "It's absolutely gorgeous."

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Contact Stephanie Earls: 636-0364

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