1. Fairies in the Garden
Pat started working on her garden in earnest 12 years ago when her first granddaughter was born. Before that she was too busy raising children and working to have much time to garden. Having a grandchild brought back memories of her own grandmother teaching her a song about fairies and the magic that can happen in the garden. Now Pat has 6 granddaughters and 2 grandsons. She opted for a low maintenance garden the children can enjoy, but nothing is so precious that a child will do much damage.
The west side of the house is flanked by large evergreens. In front of these is a mixture of sun perennials: phlox, sedum, and coneflowers. Tucked into the corner is the children’s veggie garden with a sign that reminds them to eat their vegetables. The older kids help plant, and they all enjoy eating fresh produce. It is more fun to eat a tomato you picked yourself in the garden.
A small white picket fence to the right of the driveway has more sun lovers such as shrub roses, iris, salvia and alliums. In front of the fence on the left side of the driveway, there is strawberry groundcover that produces delicious fruit enjoyed by the grandchildren and an occasional yard maintenance man! An arbor frames the entrance to the backyard garden. A sign overhead sums up Pat’s view of the seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer….pumpkins. When you pass under the arbor, you enter fairy land.
The garden is filled with rustic whimsical garden art and signs with inspirational messages that have great meaning for Pat. Two large Maple trees ensure this backyard has cool shade during the summer on the spacious wooden deck. The entire garden is framed by stone paver edging that helps accent many perennials such as hostas, spirea, and euonymus. To the right of the entrance is a large clematis and series of fairy villages. Two gnomes are included to satisfy her grandsons. At the back of the garden there is a section that gets at least 4 hours of sun a day. Pat is using this area to experiment with a mixture of cottage flowers to bring in butterflies. A small house to the right of this area was used by Pat’s children 30 years ago. Now her grandchildren use it for tea parties, and they insist Grandma join them inside. What little girl doesn’t want a she-shed?
Pat has 8 lucky grandchildren.
2. A Riot of Color and Texture
Some of the plants that came with this house may go back as many as 70 years, but Shelley didn’t start shaping and editing the garden herself until 10 years ago when she retired. There are garden plantings circling the entire house. Be sure not to miss anything. Shelley describes her garden style as random…the plants included here are favorites with whom she has fallen in love over the years.
The front yard used to be a shade garden until a large tree died 3 years ago. Shelley is rethinking this area now that she has a new palette of plants available to her. Sun loving perennials such as iris, rozanne geraniums, and a yellow false cypress live happily alongside shade loving hostas. When the hosta leaves start to scorch, Shelley cuts them back and they fill out again with fresh growth. A feathery red ornamental Japanese maple is on the right side of the driveway. The left side is flanked by some very old burning bush shrubs.
A red brick walkway leads you to the back garden which has a mature Silver Maple tree in the center. This peaceful shade garden is punctuated throughout by pots for bursts of color and various stone statues. The entire yard is bordered by mature shrubs such as honeysuckle, lilac, rose of sharon, and red twig dogwood. Groups of perennials flow through the garden: cana lilly, shasta daisy, lambs ear. There are too many to name.
At the back of the garden a stone statue of a girl perched on half shell was gifted to Shelley by a friend. Shelley christened her "Our Lady of the Weeds" although she is really surrounded by a sea heucheras and geraniums that have been on the property a very long time. Shelley's favorite place in the world is the screened in porch next to the patio. Feel free to take a seat and enjoy the view. We could all use more random in our lives.
3. A Poet's Garden
This garden is 16 years old. Bill does most of the work and his wife Diana "encourages" him. Bill has been inspired by his neighbor two doors down who has influenced him and many of the neighbors on his block to embrace conifers and evergreens. Bill is a former high school teacher who takes his inspiration from poetry. He feels building a garden is like creating a poem. There are different layers and repeated plants in this garden like the layers and repetition of a poem. Bill's favorite haiku sums up his view of his garden:
forget Mt. Fuji
on the brow of this hillside
I build my garden
The front yard of this house is in full sun. There is a circular planting bed with a bird bath surrounded by a Spruce tree, Siberian Maple, cana lillies, and another tree that flames out in yellow in the fall. Circle shapes are repeated throughout the garden.
Behind the circle bed are Korean Pines, hostas, barberry, birds nest spruce and verbena. A flagstone path to the right of the house takes you to the backyard. Along this path you can enjoy more evergreens, wolf's eye dogwood, pine, and a Redbud tree and many more.
The backyard is filled with texture and color from evergreen trees and perennials such as yellow Japanese grass, and iris. The left side of the yard is sunny and the right side has more shade. A circle of grass in the center is surrounded by a small stand of hicks yews, Japanese maple, and cypress trees and spirea. Bill and Diana enjoy sitting in front of the fire pit with a glass of wine. They also enjoy the borrowed views of the neighbor’s mature maple and Sycamore trees. This backyard is green all winter thanks to the help of his neighbor and her love of evergreens. When Bill moved in there was nothing in the backyard…he started with a blank slate except for an azalea that he repositioned from elsewhere on the property. Look for a rustic sculpture named in honor of the poet Horace. This sculpture head resembles the head of a steer and will be featured somewhere new in the garden this year.
Follow another paver path to the north isde on the house on your way out. Bill found the pavers on the property and reused them. This side of the house has a lemon colored hydrangea, peonies, holy bush, another hicks yew.
Bill wanted to give a shout out to his neighbor on the corner who has shared her love and knowledge of conifers, and evergreens. He says his garden would not be what it is today if not for her.
4. Retirement Doesn’t Mean We Stop Gardening
A white wooden fence surrounds 100 plots that are planted and tended by the residents of The Moorings Retirement Community of Arlington Heights. Michael, the landscape coordinator, spread 8 yards of compost this spring to get the plots ready for planting. The residents are responsible for the planting and the watering. They can plant whatever they choose. A Garden committee has a lottery to see who will receive a plot and they keep the plot for as long as they wish. There is a charming sign on the gate that reads “If You Didn’t Plant It, Don’t Pick It!”.
Across the street from the garden is a large white barn built in 1909. Originally this was farmland; now the barn is used to store landscaping equipment and tables and chairs used for events. There is a well under the barn. Five hoses are located throughout the garden to make it easy for residents to water. A small tool shed at the entrance of the garden has everything a gardener could need. Plot sizes vary from 10’ X 10’, and 5’ x 5’. A few plots have been raised to allow residents who have trouble bending over to continue gardening. In the center of the garden, is a circular area devoted to a cutting garden. There are a few benches scattered around for resting and socializing. Another section has an herb garden used by the kitchen staff for meals.
Each year in August The Moorings has a garden party for all its residents. People who might not otherwise come to the garden are invited to attend and enjoy the beauty of the garden in its full glory. They also have a contest for some friendly competition to see who can grow the biggest vegetable.”
Some of the residents will be here today to answer questions about their plots. A table and tent will also be set up with people to answer questions from visitors. Everyone takes great pride and pleasure with their gardens. For example, Bill planted rhubarb from his grandfather’s 1912 garden. Other residents have rhubarb plants from their homes in Minnesota and Iowa. When they moved, their treasured rhubarb moved with them. Outside of the west fence is a row of rhubarb that belonged to residents who have passed away. Their rhubarb was moved here and continues to thrive and be enjoyed by their neighbors.
A plot near the center is now community owned and tended. It is a butterfly garden started by one of the residents in years past. Some of the herbs for the herb garden are specifically chosen to compliment this garden as they are also attractive to butterflies and pollinators.
You can see an example of everything in is this garden from vegetables and herbs to flowers such as anemone, clematis, and peonies. Please walk through and admire every plant because a lot of love and effort by many people went into this garden.
In addition to the lovely garden that is joyfully tended, they are showcasing the talents of several of the residents at The Moorings. Vibrant watercolors, intricate drawings, finely stitched quilts, compelling photographs, delicately placed flower arrangements and much more will be displayed for all to appreciate.
5. A Native Plant Paradise
The front yard of this house has a beautiful garden bed filled with heuchera, hosta, ferns, ninebark and Mountain Pine. This part shade-part sun bed blends in seamlessly with the neighbor’s border. This is Rick’s garden, but it is not the focal point of the garden tour. Step to the right of the driveway and follow the sidewalk to enter Judy’s domain.
A sign at the entrance proclaims that this yard is part of the Conservation@Home program under the Cook County Forest Preserve and University of Illinois Extension. Her backyard had to undergo a certification process by meeting criteria pertaining to 1) native plants and shrubs 2) water conservation 3) composting 4) limiting the use of chemicals. Judy points out that the yard is not 100% native; familiar faces of hosta and peonies are included.
Along the sidewalk leading to the backyard there are hostas, Canada anemone, and a trellis with a wild vine of native yam. The backyard opens up into native plant beds intersected with mulch paths. There is a vegetable garden, 2 compost bins, a birdbath and a seating area with a fire pit. This garden contains native honeysuckle, New England asters, Joe Pye weed and blue indigo. There is also common milkweed which is a host plant for the Monarch butterfly and golden alexander which is a host plant for the Swallowtail butterfly.
Judy’s career was in the insurance business, but many years ago she became fascinated with wildlife and native plants. She took many classes to be certified as a Master Naturalist through the University of Illinois extension program. The goals of a Master Naturalist are sustainability, wildlife, conservation and education.
When Judy started her garden in 1996, she did the planting, but now she lets mother nature decide where plants are the happiest. Because many of these plants have 15 foot long root systems, she seldom has to water. There are very few weeds as they have been crowded out by the natives, and plant debris is left on the ground to support insects and wildlife.
One could almost say this yard takes care of itself! This leaves Judy time to concentrate on her vegetable garden and enjoy the insect and wildlife paradise that she created.