The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Ideas from the Idea Garden

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

I'm quite lucky to work in a subject I love: horticulture, it's a great organization: University of Illinois, and I get to work with some of the best people in the world: gardeners. After all, who else but gardeners could look at a pile of horse manure and envision voluptuous tomatoes and beguiling begonias. Now there is someone with vision.

Master Gardener volunteers are the best of the best. Most of them are quite humble and don't consider themselves Master Gardeners.They are always eager to learn more and don't feel like they have mastered gardening. However, they are a wealth of information and we learn from each other every day. They also continue to help their communities with their dedication and hard work.

In Champaign County one of our main projects is the Idea Garden, now in its eighth year. Master Gardeners continue to sacrifice time from their own gardens to bring this wonderful resource to campus and the community. The Idea Garden is a delightful place to walk and bring your friends. You can get ideas for your own garden or just relax in the gazebo.

The Idea Garden is located within University of Illinois Arboretum on south Lincoln Avenue in Urbana, just south of the corner of Florida and Lincoln Avenues. The Arboretum is a great place to tour. It includes the Hartley Trial Gardens and the Japanese Garden.

The Idea Garden is divided into specialized areas. Master Gardeners work in committees to design, plant and maintain each area. In addition all the operating expenses come from Master Gardener fund raisers, mainly the Garden Walk (Saturday June 25, 2005). It is always a work in progress. It changes each year and through the seasons.

In the main garden the specialty areas include vegetables, theme, strolling and children. The gazebo is in the center where the window boxes explode with color. Surrounding the gazebo is the dwarf conifer and crevice rock garden.

The purpose of the garden is to demonstrate growing methods useful for home gardeners, highlight new plants, show design principles and provide a relaxing place to stroll.

The garden is surrounded by a picket fence and a mixed shrub, ornamental grass and flower border. Bring your pad and paper because you will surely want to jot down some plants that catch your eye in this area.

The rose garden overflows with lovely roses of all types. Blueberries, grapes, strawberries and raspberries are showcased in the berry patch.

Of course every garden needs a compost area. Here Master Gardeners turn landscape waste into black gold.

The gardens are used for tours, as a teaching tool for U of I classes and a learning place for Master Gardeners.

You will find Master Gardeners working in the garden just about anytime. The main workday is Saturday morning. Stop by, say hello, maybe ask a question or two and let them know how you feel about the garden.

We have a visitor register book in the gazebo. We get comments from visitors from all over the world. Here is just a sample:

  • "Fantastic variety; great asset to the campus and community." Russ and Elaine, Champaign
  • "Inspired us to go home and plant." Carol and Tom, Indiana
  • "Beautiful! I could spend hours here! Thank you." Jane, Roanoke, Virginia.
  • "One of the most beautiful places I visited." Ella, Uzbekistan
  • "I can breathe here! Thanks." Holly, Missouri.

That says it all.

Gardener's Chats at the Idea Garden

Come to the Idea Garden on the last Saturday of each month at 11:00 am. No fee or registration required.

April 30, Body Mechanics – Mark Mammen of Safeworks Illinois teachesproper ways to garden to reduce injury.

May 28, Bug-Geta –Raymond Cloyd, U of I Extension specialist tells how to effectively deal with insects in the garden.

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