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Gardenwalk features eight unique gardens

The DeKalb County University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners' annual Gardenwalk and Plant Sale will be held July 13. Eight unique gardens have been chosen for this year’s event.
The DeKalb County University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners' annual Gardenwalk and Plant Sale will be held July 13. Eight unique gardens have been chosen for this year’s event.

The DeKalb County University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners' annual Gardenwalk and Plant Sale will be held July 13. Eight unique gardens have been chosen for this year’s event. The big plant sale will include a Garden Boutique and a Master Gardener Helpdesk.

The featured gardens are all in the DeKalb-Sycamore-Genoa area. They are the gardens of Eileen Herrick of Genoa, Diane and Ron Musilek of DeKalb, Donna and John Larson of Sycamore, Al and Sandy Roloff of Sycamore, Ginny Stokes of Cortland, Tom and Karen Matya of DeKalb, Hallgren Park in DeKalb, and Kishwaukee College in Malta.

Tickets for the Gardenwalk cost $10 in advance or $12 on the day of the event. Admittance to the plant sale is free. The plant sale will be held at the DeKalb County Center for Agriculture (farm bureau building), 1350 W. Prairie Drive in Sycamore.

Tickets are available at the University of Illinois Extension Office, Blumen Gardens, DeKalb Florist, and the Garden Market in Sycamore. Proceeds go to support University of Illinois Extension programs.

For more information, call the Extension office at 815-758-8194.

Following is a brief description of each garden on the walk.

Hallgren Park

The Master Gardeners of the DeKalb County have maintained a garden in Hallgren Park since 1999. In 2005, they proposed to the park district that they expand the garden to half of the park area, and add a pergola and other structural elements to make the park more appealing to residents of the area. The proposal was accepted, and today the park has the pergola, a gazebo, several benches, paths covered by wood chips, shrubs including evergreens to add all-season interest, flower beds, and a rose garden. The Master Gardener group designed all of this and maintains it. The park district has since added play equipment for children.

In the early days, children’s story time was held in the park. It is still a beautiful and tranquil place to visit, although surrounded by the town of DeKalb.

Stokes garden

Ginny Stokes of Cortland has been gardening for 35 or 40 years, and was in the landscape industry for 25 of those years. Her present garden began in 1992. She considers herself a designer and a plant collector, and while many of her plants were castoffs, not good enough to sell or things customers didn’t want, others were sought out specifically to enhance certain spots.

Stokes collects Japanese maples and dwarf conifers and more recently roses. She moves her plants around on a regular basis and says it would be a waste of time to maintain a particular garden style.

There are a number of interesting elements at her property including two large boulders installed by a friend with a backhoe. There are three custom water features and lots of planters. Her husband, who is adamantly not a gardener and would rather not be mentioned, has had a part in it, too: he designed the paver patio and also a timber structure over the spa.

Larson garden

Donna and John Larson of Sycamore, who have been gardening for 30 years, have been working on their present garden since 2009. According to Donna, their yard "is a place of limitless possibilities." Donna's love for roses grew out of watching her grandfather tend “fabulous” roses in their Chicago neighborhood and led to converting a former children's playground into a formal English rose garden in 2010.

"The frustrations of trying to manage roses along with the desire to improve on the previous season are a challenge," Donna said.

A natural fence on the southeast side of the property developed out of a desire to separate the yard from a city park. Although the rose garden is a focal point of the garden, the Larson's yard also features the "Land Before Thyme Garden," an area that incorporates their grown children's plastic dinosaur collection.

Among Donna's favorite plants are Baptisia Australis and Baptisia Solar Flare, as well as Summer Beauty alliums. As an herbalist, Donna enjoys growing the Bevan's variety geraniums, Magnus Echinacea, and yarrows among the non-medicinal irises and panicum. Donna's primary goal is to keep enough healthy plants to keep the weeds away.

Musilek garden

Before Diane and Ron Musilek of DeKalb purchased their current home with 3 1/2 acres of land 10 years ago, that land was used as a horse pasture. The fencing was subsequently removed and Ron installed a par-3 golf hole with tee box, green, bunkers and a pond.

Later, their son and his wife were married on the property, so to prepare for the wedding the Musileks added extensive hardscape around the house and rebuilt the deck and gazebo.

"Easy care" plants in the gardens include Joe Pye weed, sedums, purple coneflowers, rudbeckia, Russian sage, phlox, snowball hydrangea, several varieties of hostas, mums and pink Knock-Out roses.

"Many of my plants have begun as 'starts' from friends and old neighbors so those people are, too, part of my garden," Diane said.

Kishwaukee College gardens

B.J. Miller is responsible for the gardens in the Horticulture Department of Kishwaukee College. Some of the garden areas have been established for more than 15 years, and some are very recent. Included are a demonstration prairie and several courtyard displays associated with some of the buildings.

Between the greenhouses and the building where horticulture classes are held, there is a beaautiful parklike area with a wide brick walk. This is surrounded by an All-American-Selections display garden for annual flower plants, a trial garden area, and a very new sustainable vegetable garden. The college also is a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. There are several of the latest greatest annual varieties, as well as tried and true favorites both in the ground and in containers.

For the convenience of Garden Walk visitors, B.J. has prepared a map of the areas of interest.

Roloff gardens

Al and Sandy Roloff of Sycamore have been gardening for 50 years, more or less, and since 1995 at their current location. The Roloff gardens, spread over 9 acres in a semi-rural setting, are of two types: raised bed vegetable gardens and re-created diverse native plant communities.

The vegetable garden supplies tomatoes, and often jam and pickles, to family and friends, while a quarter-acre vineyard provides primarily wine grape varieties.

The native plant communities offer an opportunity to view prairie, wet prairie, sedge meadow, marsh, savanna and wet woodlands. Some rare native species, most indigenous to DeKalb Country, can be found. All are in various stages of restoration or re-creation. An added attraction is a small bridge over a rustic creek.

Herrick garden

Although Eileen Herrick of Genoa has been gardening "forever," she has been developing her current garden for the past seven years.

Included on her property are a raised vegetable garden, a shade garden, an herb garden and grasses. Of special note are glass insulators, rock tables and boulders.

Among the plants found in Herrick's garden are Gloriosa Rudbeckia, bee balm, roses, trillium, Solomon’s seal, ferns, violets, hostas, tulips and daffodils, moonflower, hydrangea, clematis and honeysuckle.

Matya garden

Tom and Karen Matya of DeKalb have been gardening for more than 35 years, but Karen says she still considers herself an amateur.

Their current garden began 10 years ago. It is relaxed, natural and shady. There is a woodland background and a very large soft maple. The Matyas hosted a wedding there for one of their children, with 300 guests and no back-up plan, and “it turned out beautiful.”

The Matyas' yard features a stone walkway. There is a small vegetable and herb garden, and a shrub and flower bed flanks a kidney-shaped brick patio. Countless daylilies soften the transition from city to woodland.

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