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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

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
University of Illinois Extension
801 North Country Fair Drive
Suite D
Champaign, IL 61821
Phone: 217-333-7672
FAX: 217-333-7683

Champaign County Master Gardeners

Champaign County Master Gardeners

Accent photo

Idea Garden

The Champaign County Master Gardeners (CCMG) of University of Illinois Extension design, plant and maintain the Idea Garden at the University of Illinois Arboretum at Urbana, Illinois. The garden is located on south Lincoln Avenue, just south of the corner of Florida and Lincoln. Presently the garden is over 15,000 square feet of planted space. Since its beginning in 1997 the garden was conceived as an educational tool to promote environmentally responsible gardening practices, to demonstrate ideas of garden planning and maintenance, to encourage novice and experienced gardeners to experiment with new plants and techniques, as a site for public workshops and to provide continuing education opportunities for the CCMG. To support the Idea Garden programs, the CCMG depend on gifts and donations from individuals and businesses, the proceeds from the annual CCMG Garden Walk, and the many hours of volunteer work by the CCMG and friends.

The Idea Garden offers something new and exciting every year. A committee of CCMG develops the designs. Plants for the garden are propagated by the CCMG from seeds and cuttings, purchased locally or ordered from catalogs.

To learn more about the Idea Garden, view the 2014 Idea Garden Handbook

The Borders

On all four sides of the garden, outside of the fence, is the "mixed border," a combination of shrubs, grasses, perennials, and annuals, both unusual and common. The planting compositions are an intriguing use of color, shape, texture, and all-season interest.

West Border Fact Sheet

North Border Fact Sheet

East Border Fact Sheet

Check out the East Border's Facebook page! It is regularly updated with seasonal photos of the garden.

South Border Fact Sheet

The Trial Garden

The Trial Garden consists of donated annuals from Ball Horticultural Company and Proven Winners. These plants are not released for resale until the following year. Master Gardener volunteers grow most plants at Parkland College and Country Arbors in the winter and planted here in the spring. Master Gardeners than keep track of growth and report back to the plant companies.

This garden is always a source of color and experimentation. It is a great resource to community members to view what plants work for Central Illinois. Please read below for more information regarding this unique section of the Idea Garden:

Trial Garden Fact Sheet

Trial Plants - Best of the Best

Trial Garden - 2012 Winners

The Sensory Garden

This area of the garden is designed to appeal to the five senses: sight, scent, taste, touch and sound. The paths are 5 feet wide with "shorelines" of brick edging, designed to allow easy wheelchair space and to facilitate use of a cane to determine the path's boundaries. Some of the plantings offering interesting scents, tastes, and/or textures are marked with Braille descriptions.

Sensory Garden Fact Sheet

The Vegetable Garden

Luscious vegetables will entice you in the vegetable garden. Ever wondered how peanuts grow? The Vegetable Garden demonstrates how to grow common and unusual vegetables, and techniques in vegetable gardening such as staking, trellising and mulching. This garden answers the questions such as how potatoes grow or how rhubarb is lovely to look at as well as being the main ingredient in a delicious pie.

Vegetable Garden Fact Sheet

Vegetable Garden Plant List - 2014

The Children's Garden

Wake up the child inside you in this garden of exploration and discovery for children of all ages. Explore whimsical uses of plant textures, color and sizes. Recent displays have included a seven-foot wide 3-D butterfly, a crawl-through caterpillar, a butterfly-attracting garden, plant topiaries, sundial stepping stones and a boulder garden. Every nook and cranny delights the imagination in the Children's Garden.

Children's Garden Fact Sheet

Theme Garden

This area is called Theme Garden and over the years a variety of themes have been created. Everything from Topiaries, to herbs in containers to "edibles in the annuals", or a bog garden. We try out a variety of ideas and different types of gardens and these can vary from season to season.

Theme Garden 1 Fact Sheet

Theme Garden 2 Fact Sheet

Tropical Garden

Hot and humid weather and an abundance of rainfall—sound familiar? Illinois in the summer is ideal for tropical plants, and the tropicals in our collection show the spectacular diversity of forms, textures, growing conditions, and colors that account for their unique appeal. For year round enjoyment, many people also grow these showy and versatile beauties as houseplants.

Tropical Garden Fact Sheet

Las Plantas Tropicales en el Jardin de Idea

Rock and Conifer Garden 

On either side of the structure are the dwarf conifers and crevice rock gardens which exhibit miniature conifers and herbaceous plants surrounded by a hand woven fence of pear tree cuttings.

Rock and Conifer Fact Sheet

The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden was designed and planted in the summer of 1998 to evaluate a variety of roses. Enjoy over 70 different rose cultivars from many different classes such as hybrid teas, floribunda, grandiflora, climbers, miniatures, polyantha and shrub.

Rose Garden Fact Sheet

Small Fruits Garden

Fresh, tasty fruit is one of the rewards of the small fruits garden. Even with limited space a few plants can be grown to produce both an attractive and edible landscape. The blueberry bush hedge has attractive flowers in early summer, blueberries in the summer and bright, colorful leaves in the fall. Grapes are trained on a trellis. The fruit varieties in this garden are just a small example of the possibilities for a home garden.

Small Fruit Fact Sheet

The Gazebo

In the center of the garden, the Gazebo offers a shady place to relax and contemplate the lovely view around you. The Gazebo is surrounded by window boxes spilling over with annuals and perennials.

Work in Progress

The Idea Garden is always a work-in-progress. Each year new plants will be featured, gardens and flowerbeds redesigned, and new teaching points will be illustrated. The garden changes with the seasons. Master Gardeners may be found in the garden every Saturday morning during the growing season. You may find a Master Gardener at work in the garden anytime during the daylight hours, seven days a week; please come talk with us while we toil at our labor of love - gardening.

Suggestions and Comments

The Champaign County Master Gardeners thrive on your comments and on your visits to the Idea Garden. Please sign our guest book and let us know what you think of the garden.

Many Thanks

We would like to thank the many supporters of the Idea Garden. The Idea Garden is a success due to the support of area businesses, and the community and the dedication of CCMG.

For More Information

If you would like more information about the Idea Garden, the Master Gardener program or how you can help support the Idea Garden, please contact us.