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Master Gardeners across Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion Counties are planning a great line up of Garden Walks in the coming few weeks.  These events offer a wonderful opportunity to observe the diversity and individuality of garden spaces designed by a wide range of area gardeners.  All the gardens included in these events were selected based on their exemplary display and unique features.  Participants are encouraged to ask questions and take pictures as each Garden Walk was designed to inspire new ideas among beginning and avid gardeners alike.  

Each event features about ten gardens with styles that range from text book examples of fine gardening to more abstract or personally inspired arrangements.  Most of these gardens are at private homes, offering visitors a onetime glimpse into these beautiful spaces, along with consultation from the homeowners who designed, installed and maintain them.  

The Vermilion County Master Gardeners have organized the first event of the season, which occurs tomorrow, Sunday June 10th (noon to 5:00pm) and will feature a variety of exceptional gardens in Hoopeston and Rossville.  Along this year’s walk, visitors will have an opportunity to view several examples of outstanding shade gardens as well as plenty of full sun planting arrangements.  Along with beautiful ornamental plantings, several gardens highlight vegetable production areas as well.  Some of the themed gardens along the walk offer unique features such as a fairy garden, barn quilts, antique tools, farm equipment and folk art.  Anyone interested in joining this year’s Vermilion County Garden Walk, may purchase tickets tomorrow at a participating Garden Walk location in Hoopeston or Rossville.

Next Saturday, on June 16th, the Champaign County Master Gardeners will host their 24th annual Garden Walk from 9am-4pm. This year’s theme is “Beauty for All” as many gardens along the walk were designed with accessibility in mind.  Each garden’s accessible features are detailed in the 2018 Garden Walk book.  Tickets are available now at the Champaign County U of I Extension Office or the day-of at any Garden Walk location.

For something else new this year, a garden in the St. Joe community was added which includes a wonderful assortment of “garden rooms” uniquely set apart from the rest of the landscape by cleverly designed hardscapes and well placed plants.  St Joe community businesses have graciously contributed some wonderful prizes which participants may enter a drawing to win upon visiting the St. Joe Garden Walk stop. 

Gardens surrounding the Meadowbrook Park Interpretive Center will be another destination on the 2018 Champaign County Garden Walk.  This lush garden space was planted with pollinators in mind, featuring native plants that are both beautiful and ecologically beneficial.  As an added bonus, the Urbana Park District has a complementary event that will begin at 4:00pm, as the Garden Walk ends.  The “Strawberry Jam” will occur until sunset and offers free strawberries and ice cream (while supplies last) to visitors as they enjoy a great lineup of 3 local bands.

Our Master Gardeners from Ford and Iroquois Counties will hold their annual Garden Walk on Saturday, June 23, 2018 from 9am-4pm.  This year’s event features homes in Cissna Park, IL with registration, vendors, parking and restrooms available at the Cissna Park City Park.  From unique tropical plants such as hibiscus and duranta trees to some of our beautiful ornamental mainstays such as magnolia trees, roses and the hazy, smoke-like puffs of smoketree, this year’s walk offers a wide variety of plant material, both perennial and annual.  Several homes feature vegetable production areas that are nicely integrated into the overall landscape design, providing beauty along with form and function.  A few gardens have an old fashion, country or farm theme including plants characteristic of a traditional central Illinois farm house, such as heirloom irises, just like the ones I remember from my grandmother’s farm.  Tickets are available now at the U of I Extension Office in Onarga or the day-of at the Cissna Park City Park.

All proceeds from Garden Walk events benefit area Master Gardener Programs which host a variety of educational events and community gardens each year.  Please take this wonderful opportunity to slow down, enjoy the summer and meander through an unmatched selection of immaculate local gardens.

Ryan Pankau is Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion Counties.