The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

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Ideas from the Idea Garden

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Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

I'm quite fortunate 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.

Master Gardener volunteers are the best of the best when it comes to garden ideas. Most are quite humble and don't feel like they have mastered gardening. They are always eager to learn more. 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 our Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion Extension Unit one of our major projects is the Idea Garden in Urbana. Master Gardeners continue to sacrifice time from their own gardens to bring this magnificent resource to campus and community. The Idea Garden is a delightful place to walk and bring your friends. You can glean 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.

Here are a few creative ideas from the Idea Garden:

Need shade for your shade loving plants?

· Hostas can be planted under tall shrubs or in the shadow of tall perennials.

· Make your own shade hut from painted PVC pipe and fencing.

· Upend a plastic laundry basket for quick temporary shade for a newly planted plant or for the "gotta-transplant-now" perennial dislocated during the less-than-ideal July and August.

Plants in need of a good support group?

· Heavy fishing line can be used to help clematis grow up a structure or arbor. String it every 6 inches either horizontally or vertically and the clematis can easily climb without constant attention.

· Need a quick plant tie? Use Siberian iris leaves.

· Plastic "pound in" edging pieces that hook together can be used to contain spreading plants such as yarrow. These also work well to hold up short but floppy plants.

· Use dark green spray paint on inexpensive wire tomato cages for use as peony supports.

Befuddled about design?

· Plants with dark-colored leaves look best backlit with chartreuse-leaved plants, silver-leaved plants or light colored rocks.

· Study the mixed flower and shrub borders for ideas about color. Note how color repetition moves your eyes throughout the garden.

· Hot colors of yellow and red are invigorating, while silver and blue are calming.

· Vegetables can be just as pretty as the ornamental flowers.

Ready for something a bit weird but wonderful?

· When flowers with sturdy stalks such as yarrow, astilbe or allium have dried, enjoy them longer by spray painting the flower an appropriate or riotous color. Protect stalks from spray for a more "realistic" look.

The Idea Garden is divided into specialized areas that offer something for everyone including tropicals, vegetables, roses, rock garden plants, and small fruits. The center gazebo includes window boxes exploding with color. The recently refurbished children's garden includes a "Mini-Me" gazebo for youngsters and oldsters. The garden shed is bordered by trial plants from Proven Winners and Ball horticultural.

Master Gardeners work in committees to design, plant and maintain each area. Operating expenses derive from Master Gardener fund raisers, mainly the June Garden Walk. As with our home gardens, Idea Garden is a work in progress as it changes each year and throughout the seasons.

The Idea Garden is a place for all gardeners, from amateurs to experts, to learn more. UI students visit during their classes as they learn more about horticulture and art.

Master Gardeners work in the garden just about every day. Stop by, say hello, and maybe ask a question or two. Let them know what ideas you appreciated at the Idea Garden.

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