Family opens garden to the public for two day event
For 364 days of the year, Pleasant View Farm is just that — the working farm and lovingly renovated home of Glenn and Constance McAlpine. However, for one spectacular day (OK, technically two days) each June, they open their gardens for everyone to enjoy in an event called “Whimsy and Blooms.”
“We want people to feel like they can come and stay,” Constance said. “It’s the only day we open our farm up to the public, so we want them to come and enjoy it.”
Gardens and goods
Visitors will have the opportunity to stroll through the extraordinary gardens and ask questions of the Johnson County Garden Club members, who will be stationed throughout the property; however, so much more awaits. More than 70 vendors will offer goods for sale, including plants, flowers, antiques, architectural pieces for the garden, metalwork, clothing, jewelry, goat-milk soap and more from Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois artisans.
Live music, a display of refurbished antique tractors and a selection of food trucks serve as an added bonus. Valet parking, carry-to services for purchases and law-enforcement guided traffic control are just a few more perks for attendees. The McAlpines’ antique lawn furniture provides plenty of places to relax among the flowers, and shaded picnic tables accommodate those who want to enjoy food and a rest.
The McAlpines’ daughter Jennifer Shireman owns and operates Vintage Whimsy in Franklin. She also operates an antique mall at the Johnson County Fairgrounds on the second Saturday of each month. With a background in marketing and advertising, it was her idea to open up the farm.
“I said to my parents, ‘Let’s have this event so that people can come and appreciate all of your hard work,’” she said. “‘I know you’ve just done it for yourselves, but I want others to be inspired and just enjoy the farm.’ I couldn’t believe it, but they let me do it. The hardest part was getting Dad to give up three acres of farmland for parking.”
Shireman and her parents held the first “Whimsy and Blooms” in 2019. Since it had to be canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is its third year.
A storied history
The events that set it in motion, however, began almost two centuries ago. The farmstead home came into Glenn’s family in 1830, and his great-grandfather built the house in 1895.
After Glenn and Constance married in 1973 they were living on another nearby family farm when she became enamored with the home that she says was “condemnable.” Early photographs show a house with its windows gone and looking like it might blow over in a stiff wind. The two began a 20-year renovation project that — except for some help with drywall, flooring and ceiling wallpaper — they did by themselves. Meanwhile, Glenn was working full time at the post office and farming.
Even before they started to work on
the house, Constance started planting gardens and, as a collector at heart, she began gathering the pieces that would lend even more romance and character to the grounds. Today she stores many of her treasures in a large “She Shed” to be brought out each spring when the threat of freezing is over. These include cement ornaments, statuary, birdcages, vases, bird baths, globes and compasses — even a brass bed frame that serves as a “flower bed” when the gardens are up and running. It is the centerpiece of her only “matchy-matchy” garden. The others are more in the traditional English garden style, wherein pathways meander from one bed of flowers and collection of architectural decorations, to the next.
Gardening as a family
The couple do most of the work together, with Jennifer and her husband, Tony Shireman — a plumber and farmer — helping get ready for the big day. Self-taught in every regard, the McAlpines needed to learn how to restore their picture-perfect house, as well as create the gardens.
“I was raised by people who told me you don’t say you can’t do something,” Glenn says. “You just keep trying until you get it done.”
It was Glenn who made most of the paths to define the gardens and tie them all together. Some are brick, others made of various types of stone. Since Constance collects grindstones, one path made of those leads to a flower-covered archway amid another bed of blossoms.
“Connie’s the gardener,” Glenn says, beaming with pride for his wife’s accomplishments.
“And he’s the handyman who makes all of my dreams come true,” she says. “When I get an idea, I know who to go to and he makes it happen.”
Two days before last year’s event, Constance realized she needed one more bottle tree to complete an effect, and Glenn came through.
Constance has been collecting fieldstones and geodes since she and Glenn married, and says she now has hundreds, so they used those to outline and define special areas. When people who owned a garden she loved to visit moved away, she acquired several of her favorite pieces from them, most notable is a weathered copper sculpture of the mythical creature Pan, playing his flute. Another is a concrete statue of an angel that shares the symmetrical garden with the brass bed. Also sharing that space are bright red “flowers” that Glenn made from pieces of farm equipment and painted.
“They bloom all year long,” Constance says, laughing.
She also collects antique lightning rods adorned with colored balls that she refers to as “totems.” Many of the areas are enclosed with rusted antique fences and along the way are wind chimes, flower pots, benches, urns and much more.
One bonus of daughter Jennifer’s vintage shop is that when she and Tony travel throughout the country to look for pieces for the store, they always keep Constance in mind. On one trip they brought back some Victorian fretwork that looks like it might have come from an old screen door. Glenn used it to turn a gate he had recently installed into an archway.
“They are always changing and adding this or that,” Jennifer said. “There is so much beauty here. They have worked together to create such a beautiful thing — a whole other experience outside of the house.”
Some parts of the gardens are restfully green — such as the arborvitaes by the driveway and the patch of hostas under a cedar tree. During this year’s event the house’s three porches will be decked out with wicker furniture, rocking chairs and potted plants.
“I wanted to do something really special,” Jennifer said. “There are lots of farm shows, but there aren’t any like this one where you can come and shop, be on a farm and also experience beautiful gardens. I think it’s the first of its kind, at least locally and maybe in the state.”
She said she and her parents revisit the idea every year to decide if they’re going to hold the event again. By now, it is so popular that people come into Jennifer’s store, and even approach her when she’s on the road, to find out when the next one will be.
“There’s a lot to do to prepare for it,” she said. “Mom is a perfectionist and wants to make sure there are no weeds. But it makes my heart happy that other people get to enjoy it. It’s my parents’ legacy.”
Constance agrees with her daughter about the hard work but adds: “We love it. There’s nothing better than going shopping in your own backyard.”
For a preview of what you’ll see at this year’s “Whimsy and Blooms,” join Constance’s 6,000 other followers on Instagram at @constancesgarden or check out the Vintage Whimsy website for updates.