Blog post

The garden post gives a clue to Susan’s ongoing literary adventure

Months ago my daughter Rebecca signed us up for a course at Swanstone Gardens. As Rebecca’s husband, Andy, is a cousin of the owner, David Calhoon, he decided to join us for the event.

There were many classes to choose from. We reserved our place for three to paint the mosaic garden poles. After writing July on my calendar, I forgot all about class. It was only the day before my participation that I decided to review the class in the catalog.

It said: Come design and paint your own whimsical wooden garden posts. David will have stencils and stamps and plenty of ideas to help you create your own freeform message.

The part of the class description that I had missed was the design part. With Andy and Rebecca, I had to have a plan for our own garden posts. I had no idea what to do. Rebecca was the only one who thought ahead and had a few sayings she could use.

Rebecca and Andy gave me this class as a special gift. They even picked me up so I didn’t have to drive the 40 minutes to David’s place alone.

The day couldn’t have been nicer when we arrived at Swanstone Gardens ( The birds chirped as we gathered in the art studio adjacent to David’s house. As we were the first to arrive, the three of us had the first choice of poles primed. Two sides have been painted with colors. Two were white. We would end up painting the other sides as we progressed through the project. My message had a pink side and a green side.

The art room was filled with a rainbow of paints suitable for outdoor use. There were all kinds of brushes, stamps and stencils, enough for everyone and more, but I still had one question. What was I going to paint on my message?

On the tables were printed copies of the other classes’ work. Outside, in David’s enchanted garden, five or six posts were on display.

I could make butterflies or ladybugs. There was a post with a cute snake coiling its length. Leaves decorated with other posts. Some had geometric patterns. But what would be mine?

Before I knew exactly what I was going to design, I started painting the third side royal blue. Perhaps it was the “royal” color that helped me make my decision.

Unless you follow me on Facebook or get my blog, you might not know I’m involved in a big project this summer. I am self-publishing a picture book called All the Queen’s Crowns which is in production and should be on sale later this summer.

Susan working on her garden pole at Swanstone Gardens north of Green Bay, Wis.

I’ve been writing this book for 30 years. Frankly, 30 years! It won the Wisconsin Writers Association jade ring for a year and got me a scholarship to a Highlights Foundation seminar, but no traditional publisher gave me a contract for this fun book, so I decided to invest in illustrations and publish it myself.

Since the title has four words and the message has four sides, I chose to paint my garden post with my future book in mind.

After the royal blue dried on the third side, I painted the fourth in yellow gold.

There were stencils for the lettering, but I went dark and painted the book title freehand. It should be a free hand.

Of course, I needed more on my post. There is a building that could be considered a castle and if you look closely at the wooden post you will find my interpretation of my late dog, Sunny. Oh yeah, I also sprinkled daisies all over it. These are in memory of Bob, my husband who used to mow around these wildflowers for me.

After hours of work I had a unique garden post, but mostly I was pooped.

Susan shows the progress of her garden pole.

My garden post still needs to be sprayed with a coating before it can be exposed to the weather, but I’m sure it will add a bit of whimsy to my garden.

Future news about my picture book will appear here from time to time. Just remember the title: All Queen’s Crowns.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; [email protected]; [email protected];