Monday, June 7, 2010

Ideas Galore in the Idea Garden

I am happy to report that I am no longer as cranky as I was in my last post.  We have had a beautiful day today with cooler temperatures, so I have been able to get most of my plants into the ground finally and all the containers are finished.  Of course, there is still weeding and trimming to do as well as numerous other chores to attend to, but the mad rush of planting is virtually over.  Despite the harried feelings of last week, when best friend Beckie called that her cousin Tena was coming for the weekend and would I like to give them a "tour" of the Idea Garden on Saturday, I didn't hesitate for a second.  Some of you Chicago Spring Flingers may remember the genial Tena who accompanied her sister Lisa to join our gardening exploits last May.

Thunder rumbled in the distance, and the skies threatened to let loose with another downpour at any time, but we three intrepid gardeners were prepared and enjoyed a thorough inspection of the whole garden.  I had to show off the Sensory Garden area first, as this is where I have spent much of my volunteer time.

The Sensory Garden is meant to be just what its name implies.   But it also serves another purpose: it is specifically directed at people with disabilities. Those who have lost their sight can stop to smell the Bourbon rose in the first photo, the Meyer lilac which bloomed in May, or the heliotrope in the island planting above.  A visitor can rub the fuzzy Lamb's Ears or the silken grasses throughout this area. Plant tags in this area also feature names in Braille. The raised bed above provides easy access for those who are physically handicapped, and the new pavers which will soon be put down on the path will make it even easier for handicapped accessibility.  And of course, there are plenty of visual delights like the giant allium blooming in the second photo for everyone to enjoy.

The threat of rain meant we had the Garden almost to ourselves and time to enjoy it at our own pace.  Beckie and Tena check out the tag on a plant they liked.


The other area I have helped with is the Annual Color Garden, which is assigned to all the new interns.  This is just the west end of the Color Garden, which goes all around the potting shed, but this was the area where I spent most of my time on two hot Saturdays.  I was so pleased to see how much it had filled out in such a short time.  We were told during classes that the Color Garden got the leftover plants, but we must have been given 50 flats of "leftovers"!  In fact, on the second Saturday we worked, three of us filled in the original planting with even more annuals just to use them all up.

The annuals are trial plants from Proven Winners, so one of our duties is to see how well these new varieties do in central Illinois.  I wasn't able to volunteer in the greenhouse when these were planted, but I believe  that seed plugs are sent from Proven Winners which are then grown in one of the greenhouses on the U of  I campus. 

Many of the cultivars are new ones that you won't be able to find in most nurseries this year, but I was happy to find this starflower, 'Beth's Blue,' at one of our local nurseries.

The Idea Garden is divided into twelve sections, with co-chairs and additional MG volunteers for each part.  This is the North Border, which forms part of the perimeter planting around the fence.


Each year new annuals and some perennials are added, while some non-performers are relegated to the give-away pile.  This oakleaf hydrangea no doubt will be a permanent fixture.

The West Border faces the main street and is the first impression that visitors and passersby see of the Garden.

Although I've spent quite a few hours working here this spring, most days I stick to one little area and the task at hand, whether pruning, dividing, or weeding.  This was the first time this spring I was able to leisurely stroll around the Garden and see it all.

The Children's Garden is always a popular spot to visit with different whimsical touches, including this display of  "The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe."  Many of her "children" pop up in the most unexpected places in this area:)


The Idea Garden is not an especially large garden as public gardens go, but it is jam-packed with a wide variety of plants and so many clever ideas that a gardener can adapt to her own garden.  I always come away with a note for a new plant to add to my garden or a new combination of plantings to try.  As lovely as this milkweed looks here and although I know it will attract so many butterflies, this is one plant that won't find its way into my garden, however . . . unless I hide it from my husband.


The three of us lingered the longest in the Rose Garden, where the roses were all in full bloom.  A favorite of all of us was this multi-hued rose, "Love and Peace."  Isn't she beautiful?

After our tour of the Idea Garden, Beckie treated us to lunch, and then we showed off our favorite garden center to Tena.  She and I discovered some more plants that neither of us had realized how much we needed.  It's a good thing we both showed restraint, because we filled Beckie's trunk to the brim.  

Thanks to Beckie for giving me this early birthday present of a day out.  And thanks to Tena for the beautiful Echinacea I've wanted for so long,'Big Sky Sundown,' as well as being such a good sport--I guess I had some kind of brain fog because I must have called her "Lisa" twenty times during the day:)  Thanks, ladies, for a special day!


  1. Rose, Love and Peace is gorgeous! Everything looks so lush. Actually, the whole garden is absolutely beautiful - thank you for the wonderful tour!

  2. You called her Lisa because I was with you in spirit. I hated it becasue I had to work Saturday. I would have driven over to accompany you for the walking tour. I love that rose. It looks like one Tena said she liked best this year in her garden. What a wonderful place you volunteer to work in. It must make going to work easy.

  3. Well a Happy Birthday to you! The idea garden is wonderful. I truly like that north border. Is it a garden put together solely by master gardeners? And maintained by them or are there other organizations? We don't have this in my town but it would be neat.

  4. Your garden is very exciting and lovely

  5. That looks so lovely, it reminded me of a lovely garden here in the UK in Devon.I love those full borders.

    That Rose is so perfect, I miss having roses in the garden, I love to pick them. Ones you buy never have a scent.

    Thanks for the tour, as always


  6. Rose girl that was a lovely tour !
    I can't imagine you being cranky .. I will have to go backwards and search out those posts ? haha
    I have been non stop in my own garden because it has become a jungle .. thus not posting .. but the butterfly-kids-in-the-making are eating and growing BIGGER and I planted Bloodgood Japanese Maple yesterday where I can see him (his name is Frank .. a cousin of Fred's) .. so I am HAPPY : )
    I love the sensory garden .. that is pure magic : )
    ... and good for you girl !! I love that echinacea too : )

  7. P.S. Is it yor birthday Rose ? I just saw Tina's comment !
    Joy : )

  8. Hi Rose, Happy birthday!! I do remember Tena, of course. I loved the Idea Garden when Beckie took us. It looks like a wonderful place to volunteer. I've been a little cranky myself lately; it happens. We're human. I always laugh when I volunteer somewhere when my own garden could keep me busy all day, every day. But when I volunteer, I'm giving one specific area, one or two specific tasks, and I can finish it and then not worry about it for a while. (Did I already rant about this? I've not been getting a lot of sleep and I'm kind of... stupid.. these days!)

  9. Looks like you girls had a wonderful day. I enjoy seeing gardens on misty, cloudy days.

    Thanks for taking us on the tour.

  10. Amy, It really is a beautiful garden, and I wish I could grow roses like this. Of course, it helps to have a horde of people working in it:)

    Lisa, It would have been so much fun to have you join us! I don't know why I kept calling Tena "Lisa"--I must have thought you should have been here:)

    Tina, Thank you! The Idea Garden is planted and maintained solely by the local MG group. I should look up its history and find out when it began.

    Gloria, I wish this were my garden!:)

    Suburbia, This garden does have a cottage style, which I think of with UK gardens. We stopped to smell every rose:)

    Joy, Oh yes, I can be cranky:) Looks like you have some excitement going on in your garden with all the catts. And I'm sure Fred appreciates having a buddy:) Thanks for the birthday wishes!

    Monica, Thank you! I have the same feeling every time I work in this garden or one of the other volunteer opportunities. And yes, you did mention this before, but don't feel bad; I have been known to repeat myself, too, again ...and again. Get some rest, girl!

    Susie, We did have fun, and actually a cloudy day is the best for taking photos anyway.

  11. What a beautiful garden. Hope I get a chance to visit it someday. I liked the idea garden best but the children's garden was awfully cute.

    Please let us know your impressions of the trial garden results. It's always good to know which new plants do well in this area.

  12. Marnie, It's hard not to smile in the Children's Garden, no matter your age. I will make notes of the plants in the annual garden--sounds like a good idea for a post this fall.

  13. What an exceptionally beautiful garden!

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  15. I'm glad your mood has improved Rose and that you were finally able to catch up with some planting. Didn't you have this same issue last summer? lol Your Idea Garden is beautiful, love how they have made it accessible to everyone including the disabled. Very nice! We have a similar garden here called the Learning Garden that our Master Gardeners tend to, everything is labeled which is nice when you see something you don't recognize. Glad you were able to take the tour with some friends. :)

  16. Happy Birthday, Rose! I can't think of a better way to spend a birthday weekend--or better gifts than plants. I had to laugh when you said you couldn't grow Milkweed unless you could hide one from your husband. I don't think you could hide one that big! My hubby is the same way about dandelions--go figure. For a non-gardener, he sure has strong views on them. ;-)

  17. Happy Birthday, Rose! Of course we remember Tena, and the ride of a lifetime, non stop laughter, good memories. How funny for you to call her Lisa as well, she was there in spirit obviously. The Idea garden was a wonderful place for you to show off your MG skills, it looks great, especially your areas. What a treat to have so many annuals to jam into a space. It will look marvelous. That Echinacea is one of my favorite named varieties, and so sweet that it will remind you of a special day and friend. :-)

  18. Whata tour of a fantastic garden.

  19. Rose....such a lovely garden, very charming. I love the fact it caters for all, including the children. What a wonderful idea.
    It must be great working there and seeing the garden develope as the season progresses.

    Milkweed......the host plant of the Monarch, is it not? Shame on Mr P. I will have to have a chat with him!!lol
    Mine are doing well and are now planted out in the garden. I keep my fingers crossed each night. I am always worried the rabbits may have eaten them overnight. Tku for sending them.
    The prairie clover is not doing so well, rabbits adore it. I am hoping they may just miss some.
    Let you know about the lovely climber (can't remember the name)....won't say too much but looking good at the moment.

    Glad you had such a lovely birthday treat.....

  20. Happy Birthday! I think an idea garden is a wonderful concept. I'm glad Beckie brought Tena over so that you could actually enjoy the garden, instead of just working in it.
    And now, sounding a cautionary note - do not, under any circumstances, bring that big milkweed home. It looks like A. syricaca, which I had the misfortune to allow to get a foothold in my front garden. It's a super-vigorous, aggressive thing, best suited to prairies. I'm still trying to get rid of it, but it keeps popping up from very deep, very long runners.

  21. I just love this garden and the idea seat is fantastic. I would be sitting in it all day long.
    Everything is so neat and tidy and appealing. You put me to shame.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  22. Hello Rose, beautiful photos of a lovely garden. The long border would is excellent, and I am especially fond of what was done with the children's garden! How fun, and one would find me there exploring.

    The sensory section is a wonderful idea, and I think for the children as well: to touch, smell... is a great learning experience for the wee ones. Thanks for the tour.
    P.S. I have never found you cranky. ;)

  23. The gardens look wonderful, and happy birthday! What a great way to celebrate, with good friends and beautiful flowers!

  24. How lovely, Rose. Glad to see Thelma and Louise have taken it back on the road :) Happy Birthday!

  25. Rose, it was a wonderful day spent with two of my favorite people. I always enjoy the Idea Garden(even in the rain!)and you captured the highlights beautifully.

    Hope your birthday was as special as you!

  26. Nancy, It is beautiful; I wish mine looked this good:)

    Racquel, You're right--I think every May finds me frazzled:) Is this the same Learning Garden that Janet writes about? It does sound very similar.

    MG, Thank you! My husband farmed for many years, so a milkweed to him is a WEED:)

    Frances, I knew you would remember Tena. She won't forget me either, I'm sure, after my calling her the wrong name so many times:) The Idea Garden is a wonderful place to work--an endless supply of compost and mulch, perfect soil, and lots of gardening help! All of these would be appreciated in my own garden:)

    Pat, Thanks! It's a great place to visit.

    Cheryl, I'm so glad most of the prairie seed we sent you is doing well. I know our growing conditions must be very different, so I wasn't sure if they would thrive in your garden. The milkweed...well, what can I say...they are a nuisance in the corn and beanfields here, so I don't dare encourage them. I'm trying to stick to less invasive butterfly host plants.

    MMG, I have cut down enough milkweeds out of bean fields to know how aggressive they can become! I'll admire them in others' gardens, but I'm going to stick to less invasive plants in my own.

    Maggie May, I do hope you realized this isn't my garden:) Mine might look almost this good, too, if I had 50 volunteers helping me:)

    Di, You must have missed my cranky post:) The Idea Garden does draw lots of visitors, including children. One day when I was there, a family was even having their little one's photos taken by a photographer.

    Rose, Thank you, and yes, the perfect way to celebrate!

    Joey, Thelma and Louise haven't traveled much lately, so this little jaunt was a treat:)

    Beckie, Thank you. I had a great day with you and Tena/Lisa:)

  27. Beautiful garden and I especially like the picture of the west border!

  28. Many Happy Birthday Wishes Rose :)

    What a beautiful place it is and I'm sure you have had much pleasure volunteering there.

    The Annual Colour Garden was lovely and I always think sensory gardens are a wonderful idea but being an eternal child at heart I liked the Children's Garden best, so sweet!

    I'm so glad the weather didn't spoil your tour. A lovely early Birthday present :)

    I nearly forgot...what a beauty 'Love and Peace' is!

  29. Wow Rose your labors are all paid off now, as they are starting to bloom and be happy! I still remember you and partners planting in this site and look at them now, showing their beauties. I love the idea of the Sensory Garden, what a very kind idea for the deprived. If only i have lots of money and i can make a garden resort, i will be doing that too. Oh i will just dream! thanks. I am inviting you also to see my Mountain post.

  30. Rose, I can see I need to come visit you, too!! This is a beautiful garden - I can see how easy it would be to find inspiration there. :-) And what a fun place to work! Thanks for the virtual tour!!

  31. Rose I love the idea of a sensory garden!I can just imagine the delight for those who have lost their sight and step into this sensory bliss!
    It is wonderful for you I'm sure to walk through and enjoy this garden and enjoy the fruits of your labor!Nothing better than strolling through a garden with friends!I enjoyed my time here!hugs

  32. How can anyone be cranky when faced with that breathtaking love and peace rose? :) Just teasing a bit. I have been feeling the same way. Just too much on the to-do list to relax and enjoy the flowers.

  33. Cranky? You? Never! And believe me, it takes one to know one:) I haven't been able to volunteer for a couple of weeks now, and I'm getting antsy as the year continues to slip away. I've been waiting for word on whether/when I can transfer my hours over to a new county since we just moved to the Tallahassee area. You volunteers are doing a great job up there on the windswept prairie.

  34. I almost forgot to say Happy Birthday!

  35. Happy Happy Birthday Rose! What a wonderful way to spend your birthday (even if it wasn't the actual day).

    That multihued rose is gorgeous!! And those gardens just beautiful. You must have worked very hard to get them into shape.

    I do like the idea of the sensory garden, particularly for handicapped people.

    So nice to come here - it soothes the soul.

  36. I adore that final image of the rose – it seems to glow. I’m glad to hear you are in a better mood. I’m sure this gorgeous garden and company cheered you up.

    It’s nice that the garden has Braille tags. I have a blind character in “as u like it” and he made me experience the world from a different perspective.

  37. You have got a nice garden out there. I think a connection with plants means a connection with the nature itself.


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