Garden post provides clue to Susan's ongoing literary venture

Susan Manzke
Susan is joined by Swanstone Gardens owner David Calhoon as she proudly displays her garden post.

Months ago, my daughter Rebecca signed us up for a class at Swanstone Gardens. Since 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 spot for three to paint Mosaic Garden Posts. After putting the July date on my calendar, I forgot all about the class. It wasn’t until the day before attending that I decided to take a look at the class in the catalogue again.

It read: 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 free-form post.

The part of the class description that had eluded me was the design part. I, along with Andy and Rebecca were to have a plan for our own garden posts. I didn’t have an inkling what to do. Rebecca was the only one who had thought ahead and had a couple of sayings she might use.

Rebecca and Andy were giving me this class as a special treat. They even picked me up so I wouldn’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 ( Birds were chirping as we gathered in the art studio adjacent to David’s home. Since we were the first to arrive, we three had first choice of the primed posts. Two sides were painted with colors. Two were white. We would eventually paint the other sides as we worked our way through the project. My post had a pink side and a green side.

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

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

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

Before knowing exactly what I was going to design, I started painting the third side a royal blue. Maybe 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 that I’m involved in a big project this summer. I’m self-publishing a picture book called All the Queen’s Crowns which is in production and should be for sale later this summer.

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

I’ve been writing this book for 30 years. Honestly, 30 years! It won the Wisconsin Writers Association’s Jade ring one year and earned me a scholarship to a Highlights Foundation seminar, yet no traditional publisher has given me a contract for this funny book so I decided to invest in illustrations and publish it myself.

Since the title has four words and the post had 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 a yellow gold.

There were stencils for lettering, but I charged ahead and painted the book title on free-hand. That should be free-shaking-hand.

Of course, I needed more on my post. There’s a building that could be considered a castle and if you look closely at the wood post you’ll find my rendition of my late dog, Sunny. Oh, yeah, I also sprinkled daisies all over. Those are in memory of Bob, my husband who would mow around those wildflowers for me.

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

Susan shows off her garden post progress.

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

Future news about my picture book will pop up here now and then. Just remember the title: All the Queen’s Crowns.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;;