OCONOMOWOC — A walk around the lake will take you past Fowler Lake Village, a newer five-story condominium building with lovely landscaping decorating the space between the first floor businesses and the sidewalk. What isn’t as easily visible, but just as lovely, is the community garden created by residents in a formerly open space behind the building located at the intersection of East Pleasant Street and St. Paul Street.
Resident Lisa Ridolfi is one of the volunteers involved in the Fowler Lake Village landscaping and flower committee, and is perhaps one of the group’s biggest cheerleaders.
She said she and other residents often hear the question, “who did your landscaping,” to which they can proudly answer it was them.
“We wanted to beautify and enhance the community, but honestly also our building,” Ridolfi said.
Ridolfi, who started the shared garden and supported the planting of the landscaping, said an invitation was sent out to the 46 residential units to become involved if they wanted. She said the response was enthusiastic with a majority of residents wanting to play a part, often because they missed gardening, including Gunar Gruenke, Frank Dorsey, Karen Young Dorsey and Jackie Someah, who created the planning committee with Ridolfi.
The outside landscaping began with spreading mulch and then planting an array of colorful flowers along the building to create layers, such as hydrangea, lilies and pinnacle hydrangea trees. While most are perennials, there are a few annuals.
From there, the gardeners turned their eyes to an empty space that held much potential for a shared urban garden. Ridolfi organized a “Stake Your Claim” gathering during which the participants could take a garden stake, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers or an herb. After sharing food and grabbing a stake (or more than one), they headed to the raised garden beds and planted their stakes. As the plants grew, the residents cared for them. Garden chairs and other decorations were placed so the space could also relax there.
“Everyone staked their claim. We wanted to make this a shared garden. If you want a vegetable, take a vegetable,” Ridolfi said. “It has become a really positive experience. We live in the city, but to do this in the city is a lot of fun.”
A couple of weeks ago, the Fowler Lake Village residents hosted a farm-to-table event with an Italian theme in their rooftop space because their garden yielded so many tomatoes.
The community garden is just one example of how the condo residents support each other.
“I am very proud of this place. It is a unique place,” Ridolfi said.