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Ava Heap
Program Coordinator, Horticulture
University of Illinois Extension
801 North Country Fair Drive
Suite D
Champaign, IL 61821
Phone: 217-333-7672
FAX: 217-333-7683
carmien2@illinois.edu

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator
University of Illinois Extension
801 North Country Fair Drive
Suite D
Champaign, IL 61821
Phone: 217-333-7672
FAX: 217-333-7683
slmason@illinois.edu

Champaign County Master Gardeners

Champaign County Master Gardeners

Community Projects - Idea Garden

The Idea Garden, located on the University of Illinois Arboretum in Urbana, is 15,000 square feet of planted space. Volunteers work more than 2,500 hours each year in the garden to provide a source of inspiration, relaxation, and continuing education for our community and its visitors. Since 1997, the Idea Garden has been maintained as an educational tool to demonstrate garden design and maintenance ideas, to encourage novice and experienced gardeners to experiment with new plants and techniques, and as a site for public workshops.

Click here to learn more about the Idea Garden.

Click on the following links to learn more about each section: 

Borders:

Interior Gardens:

Outlying Gardens:

Current Tri-Chairs are Julie Steele, Debbie Nelson, and Anne Hudson.

The Idea Garden is currently under construction! Keep reading to learn about this exciting project:

In 2009, a grassroots effort emerged among Master Gardeners and community members to address a concern at the Idea Garden – that this highly successful educational garden located on a campus recognized as a pioneer in advancing accessibility and situated adjacent to the University President’s House and Grounds has remained inaccessible for many students and community members. 

Visitors to the Idea Garden typically park on Lincoln Avenue and then walk about 115 feet across a bumpy lawn. For many people this is not a long distance, but for those using wheelchairs or those that shuffle when they walk, this is a formidable task. Since the highly trafficked Lincoln Avenue does not lend itself to designated disability parking, a person requiring such parking must park in the Arboretum/Japan House parking lot to the south. Then the distance to the garden is much greater across the rough, uneven lawn – closer to 300 feet in an area with no shade or benches. Once a visitor with disabilities reaches the garden, the inside of the garden has excellent surface for moving around independently; however, the outside four garden borders and rose garden have the challenge of walking or wheeling in grass.

The goal was to create a plan that assures full accessibility regardless of mobility level and that aligns well with the campus master plan and future directions for that area of campus. Capital Planning and Space Management created a conceptual plan making the garden accessible with the construction of an accessibility parking lot immediately adjacent to the west entrance and adding a concrete walk around the full perimeter of the garden. Champaign County Extension Education Foundation endorsed the project with a pledge of more than $63,000 (50% of the estimated cost); in addition, the Urbana Rotary Club has given $2,000 to the project. UI campus has pledged up to $63,000 toward the project.

This conceptual plan aligns very well with the campus master plan and future directions for that area of campus. Having a disability parking lot adjacent to the Idea Garden assures safe and easy access from vehicle to garden. It is important to note that many garden visitors with mobility issues do not use wheelchairs, but rather walk with the use of assisted devices such as canes, walkers, or personal aides and family. Expanding the Japan House/Arboretum parking lot and asking visitors with such mobility issues to access the Idea Garden via a long paved walk is not accessibility friendly.

This project sponsored by the UI Extension Master Gardeners of Champaign County and benefiting students, faculty and the community at large, will serve to further draw visitors to campus and University of Illinois Arboretum.