Inspiration abounds at our 28th Annual Garden Walk

When: Saturday, June 15, 2024, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Where: Champaign & Urbana

Prepare to be inspired at this year’s annual Champaign County Master Gardener Garden Walk, a self-guided tour through the stunning private gardens of five Champaign County homeowners and two public gardens. The event, entitled Garden Gatherings, is set for June 15 from 9 am to 4 pm.

Explore diverse landscapes, from vibrant pollinator pockets to bountiful vegetable patches and tranquil zen-like spaces. Master Gardeners will be on hand at each location to answer your questions, share their expertise, and offer insights into creating your own flourishing garden.

Proceeds from ticket sales benefit Champaign County Master Gardener-sponsored community projects, including gardens at the Champaign County Crisis Nursery, the Idea Garden, and Ying Ying’s Garden.  

Tickets are $10 and free for children ten and under. Advance tickets are sold at Country Arbors Nursery in Urbana (1742 CR 1400 N) and Prairie Gardens in Champaign (3000 W Springfield Ave) by calling the University of Illinois Extension office at UI 217-333-7672 or clicking HERE

Learn About the Gardens On This Year's Walk

Find out about the features of all of the gardens on our walk.

Bookworm's Shady Retreat

Hosts: Rashmi Adaval and Bob Dyer

Tucked away in the State Street neighborhood of Urbana is a gem of a garden. Homeowners Rashmi and Bob feel an instant sense of calm when they are outside enjoying the garden. Even though this garden is not large, there is something about the tall mature evergreen trees and the wind rustling through the branches that leaves you feeling at peace and rejuvenated. Resident cardinals and robins flit and fly about the garden and don’t seem to be worried at all about the human owners.

The garden has undergone quite a transformation with the help of longtime friend and landscaper Kevin Gaddis. When the home was purchased, only a few beds had been established. The entire west side of the property was a mass of impenetrable tall weeds and shrubs. Kevin and his family cleared the weeds and shrubs to make way for a rustic terraced approach that gave the garden a layered look and room for many new plants that could be viewed from the patio. Beds were also created on the north side of the home to incorporate shade-loving perennials including hosta and ferns because grass was impossible to grow in the shade of the tall evergreens.

Rashmi and Bob have very fond memories of a special Garden Gathering that took place just after Bob’s retirement from the University of Illinois. Bob’s students hosted a festschrift for Bob in the garden. The patio was set with food and little gathering areas were created all around in the backyard garden. Citronella tiki torches set the stage for beautiful lighting and kept the bugs at bay as well! Around 20 to 30 guests filled the garden to celebrate Bob.

Advice for novice gardeners includes a willingness to adjust your vision of a particular garden space when the imagined plants for the vision will not grow there in real life. If a plant keeps failing, use the trial and error approach and choose a different one until you find the right plant for the location or move the plant to a new location. If the plant doesn’t like the spot, they will tell you!

Hosta Dreamin'

Hosts: Fritz and Jean Drasgow

If visiting a premiere hosta garden is on your bucket list, get ready to check it off after visiting the “Hosta Dreamin’' garden in rural Urbana. This beautiful wooded setting is home to over 600 varieties of hosta. Special Garden Gatherings have included visits from the Peoria Central Illinois Hosta Society and the local Champaign Urbana Illinois Prairie Hosta Society.

Homeowner and avid hosta gardener Fritz Drasgow loves to teach others about hosta and hybridize new hosta.

The grounds of this garden include open grassy areas and woodland trails. Hostas dot the entire property. Fritz particularly enjoys growing large hosta. His favorites include Blue Angel, Victory, Mikado, and a hosta seedling he created and plans to name Behemoth. A new garden bed was added in the summer of 2023 to make room for more hosta and improve a low lying moist area of the property. For Fritz, a win-win. More hosta. Improved conditions on the property.

Enjoy time at this garden as you stroll the grounds viewing hosta, woodland trails, multiple beds of perennials, and vegetable gardens.

Garden Party

Hosts: Nancy and Casey Dankle

A Garden Party is almost always happening in this beautiful garden located in old Champaign. The Dankles have hosted many pool parties and garden gatherings to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and showers. The surroundings of unique garden beds are the perfect backdrop for entertaining. Garden spaces are truly an extension of the home. A wedding/bridal shower is in the works for this summer.

The backyard gardens haven’t always been a place for hosting gatherings. Many changes have been made over the last 30 years. (photos of the changes are available to view) The original backyard garden beds were all rock and groundcover. Many hours were spent removing rock to make way for new beds and plants. Three Serviceberry trees that were a focal point of the backyard were lost just 3 years ago, so the back garden beds are undergoing changes with new perennials and evergreens. The front garden beds are also evolving to incorporate a border of perennials with various seasonal bloom cycles. Colorful annuals have been added this year for the garden walk. When the Dankles purchased the house in 1995, the front was barely visible because of gigantic yews and 30+ foot tall diseased evergreens so removals were a top priority.

Out back, a potting bench work area is a wonderful new space that was formerly a tired old storage shed. This work area adds space to create and plant seasonal containers for Nancy’s business 2 Girls in the Garden, which she co-owns with Mary Knight. A cottage-style pea gravel pathway connects the potting bench work area to the backyard garden beds. The pathway is home to a shade garden bed with hosta, heuchera, carex, wild geranium, loosestrife, and coleus among other perennials. Tropical plants are brought outdoors after wintering over inside. The herb garden runs along the garage wall facing west and is a favorite of the owners who enjoy cooking.

This garden is a treat with all its garden rooms and charm. The owner’s advice for new gardeners is to consult a professional for a garden design concept and then tackle one area at a time. Choosing the right plant for the right place will save time and money in the long run and give the garden a cohesive look that can be easier to maintain.

The English Tea Garden

Host: Michael Jay

Bringing the gardens of England to Champaign has helped Michael feel at home in Central Illinois. Michael calls England home but has lived in Champaign for a number of years. His garden is a beautiful reflection of his home country with elements of roses, graceful statues, a wisteria vine framing his garage, and English tea parties for friends and family. Many Garden Gatherings happen on Michael’s screened-in porch set for informal dining with an optimal view of the entire garden.

The gardens at Michael’s home have been extensively planted and created by him. Twelve years ago he started from bare garden beds and has planted 95% of all perennials now living in the garden beds. His gardens are an inspiration to others by showing how you can start from scratch and create beautiful beds by taking your time and working with perennials that make the gardens enjoyable and easy to maintain over time. Since joining the local Hosta Society, hostas have become a major source of inspiration for Michael. Be sure to stop by the half-moon bed on the shady north side of the porch to see a collection of over 30 miniature hostas.

Gardening takes patience and this beautiful garden certainly speaks to the patience and care Michael has given to creating it. He carefully and patiently trained a wisteria vine to frame his garage giving the home a very English garden feeling! A bed of red and yellow roses is tended from spring to fall to ensure health and bountiful blooms. Colorful beds of annuals are planted each year that Michael can view from his kitchen window thus bringing the outside garden inside!

A good piece of advice from this seasoned gardener is to “utilize the expertise of experienced gardeners by joining local garden clubs and participating in the University of Illinois Master Gardener program.”


Walk in Harmony

Hosts: Robb and Vicki Patton

As an artist, Vicki looks to the garden for inspiration and views it as a living canvas. As a musician, Robb appreciates the harmony and peace in the garden. The breeze and the birds create melodies all their own. Calm describes the feelings found when you see the vista view of Maynard Lake from the backyard gardens bringing the elements of land, sky and water together. Herons visit often and hummingbirds visit the garden’s colorful flowers lining the sea wall of the garden.

The garden has evolved over the years to achieve Robb and Vicki’s goal of an aesthetic flow from their garden to the lake. They cleared trees and undergrowth, and removed a huge locust tree that had to be taken out of the backyard over their roof! Cumbersome railroad ties installed by the previous owner had to go to make way for a new sea wall. The Pattons added a brick pathway and planted a redbud tree to give a new dimension to the backyard gardens. The most
recent garden addition is the dry creek bed using interesting stone boulders and rocks for a natural look and it lessened the backyard garden maintenance requirement.

With Vicki’s trained artistic eye, she constantly re-evaluates the garden. She uses garden art, wind features, and birdbaths as focal points in and about the plants. A very special daylily which Vicki named in honor of her mother can be found in the gardens. Vicki earned the naming rights when she won a prize while attending a CASA (Champaign County Court Appointed Special Advocate) fundraiser.

A visit to this garden so perfectly named “Walk in Harmony” gives family and friends a welcoming place to gather while enjoying companionship along with nature’s gifts. A garden gathering worth much celebration planned for this June is Robb and Vicki's 50th wedding anniversary.

The Pollinatarium

The University of Illinois Pollinatarium is the first free-standing science center in the nation devoted to flowering plants and their pollinators. Why do plants and pollinators merit such special attention? The ecological interaction between pollinators and plants is vitally important because most terrestrial life on Earth depends in one way or another on pollination for survival. Over 75% of all flowering plant species depend on animal pollinators in order to reproduce, so pollination is a key process that sustains all kinds of communities around the world. And among Earth’s inhabitants depending on pollinators for their existence are humans; about one-third of the diet consumed by people around the world—the part with most of the vitamins and minerals–is the result of the pollinator-plant interaction. Pollination is therefore economically important as well. In the U.S. alone, pollinator efforts contribute close to $20 billion to the economy and worldwide pollinator activities are worth over $200 billion. Because so much depends on pollination, the UI Pollinatarium is dedicated to increasing awareness and appreciation of pollination as a remarkable ecological partnership and an essential ecosystem service.

The Idea Garden

The Idea Garden, located on the University of Illinois Arboretum in Urbana at 2000 S. Lincoln Ave., is 18,000 square feet of planted space. Volunteers work more than 4,500 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.

Hosted by: The Champaign County Master Gardeners