Stoughton’s Secret Garden

By Shelby Rowe Moyer | Photography by Shanna Wolf

You couldn’t get much closer to downtown Stoughton than if you plopped Jay Hatheway and Jim Ottney’s home right on the main drag.

The 114-year old Victorian-style home is just a couple blocks from downtown and backs up to the Yahara River. The property, with its lush backyard garden, has brought forth descriptions from onlookers such as “magical” or “a secret garden,” says Hatheway. Although, it’s not so secret anymore.

Longtime couple Hatheway and Ottney’s retreat-like property has been a stop on countless garden tours, including the 2019 Olbrich Garden Tour, which brought 900 people to their dead-end street over two days.

While some gardens are prized for their prim and formal design, the Hatheway-Ottney garden has drawn attention because of its untamed tranquility. Ottney described the aesthetic as eclectic. Its exuberant foliage brings to mind an English cottage garden, and theirs is filled with 99 percent perennials packed together, divided only by a stone path that winds around the space.

“When we got here, the lot was essentially a junkyard,” when the property was purchased roughly 30 years ago, Ottney says. “And there were appliances and tires and an old oil change pit.”

It slowly transformed from a traditional lawn with grass and a few plants to a shady jungle that caters to all kinds of fauna, including a pair of mated ducks that summer in their pond and a rainbow array of birdlife.

View more from our August 2020 Gardens feature here.

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