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Inspiring work

It all began with a trellis. Mary Ann Krempel needed a structure sturdy enough to support a hydrangea vine she wanted to grow up a bare stucco wall by her garage. She asked her husband, Jim, if he could fashion something. Up until this time, Jim had only worked with wood, but he had an inkling that metal might be better for this project. And so he put together his first piece of ornamental ironwork that was so successful it led to a new hobby.
Jim Krempel puts the finishing touches on a piece of ornamental ironwork for the yard.
Both Jim and Mary Ann like to find new uses for old things, as in this cast-off chair she found and planted with summer petunias and bacopa.
The sunburst is a pattern that Jim often repeats in his designs.

A Yard of Intrerest

It all began with a trellis. Mary Ann Krempel needed a structure sturdy enough to support a hydrangea vine she wanted to grow up a bare stucco wall by her garage. She asked her husband, Jim, if he could fashion something. Up until this time, Jim had only worked with wood, but he had an inkling that metal might be better for this project. And so he put together his first piece of ornamental ironwork that was so successful it led to a new hobby.

A yard of interest

Now, a walk around the Krempels' yard reveals many other wonderful iron projects Jim has built, from an iron-fenced circular garden with an ornate arbor and gate to a gazebo with a decorative sunburst design on the patio.

The Krempels moved to their secluded wooded lot 14 years ago. They had grown up and spent their early married years in Chicago. But when they started a family, Jim decided he wanted to move to the country and remodel an old barn into a home. The time spent there hooked them on country life. So when it was time to downsize after the children moved out, they found a ranch-style home in the trees at the end of a road about 50 miles west of Chicago near St. Charles, Illinois. It was love at first sight for Mary Ann.

"As soon as I got out of the car and saw this house, I knew I had to live here," says Mary Ann, "because the house was 'in the land,' it just seemed to flow from the ground and had windows facing everywhere. Nature was all around me, and I knew this was it."

Although the 2-acre yard was bordered on two sides by forest preserve and had a path that led down to a nearby creek, it was pretty neglected and overgrown, with garlic mustard and buckthorn overtaking the woods.

"The first year I did a burn and the next spring was incredible," she says. "I had no clue that there were so many ephemerals here. The seeds have been here in the ground for years and years, and if they can get light, they'll grow."

Now there are Virginia bluebells, trout lilies, bloodroot, wild columbines, and May apples, among others.

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