Garden Photo of the Day

Bill’s Illinois Garden

A garden evolving over 25 years

wide view of the garden with pink flowering shrub in the foreground

Today’s offering is from Bill Marvin, a landscape designer living in Skokie, Illinois.

My background is graphic design, and I don’t consider myself a master gardener. I think I’ve just scratched the surface of what there is to know about plants. The landscaping for my yard was never designed. It just evolved over 25 years between needing a garden and bringing home struggling orphans from my projects. The color from flowering plants still amazes me.

spring garden full of yellow and purple bulbsDaffodils (Narcissus hybrids, Zones 3–9), hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis, Zones 4–8), and azaleas (Rhododendron hybrids, Zones 5–10) light up the springtime front yard.

This is a summertime view from my studio. Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea, Zones 3–8) and ‘Pink Diamond’ hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pink Diamond’, Zones 3–8), and rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus, Zones 5–8) get ready to bloom.

close up of light purple rhododendron flowersThese ‘PJM’ rhododendrons (Rhododendron ‘PJM’, Zones 4–8) are delightful under my studio window.

close up of blue rose of Sharon flowerThis blossom is a Blue Chiffon rose of Sharon and one of my favorites.

small garden pond surrounded by ornamental grassI have turned the backyard into a wildlife habitat, and one of the essential features is running water. The large and small birds that come to the feeders love taking baths in the stream.

hostas under a bird feeder with flowering shrubs behindLots of hostas (Hosta hybrids, Zones 3–9), with a backdrop of ‘My Monet’ and ‘Wine and Roses’ weigela (Weigela florida, Zones 4–8)

wide view of the garden with pink flowering shrub in the foregroundI replaced some dying white pines (Pinus strobus, Zones 3–8) with a ‘Baby Blue’ blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘Baby Blue’, Zone 2–7) and a ‘Fat Albert’ spruce (Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’, Zones 2–7). They are both over 15 feet tall now and a pleasure to watch grow and change every year. The ‘Karens’ azalea (Rhododendron ‘Karens’, Zones 5–8) in front adds spectacular color every spring.

six mallard ducks on the lawnThese young mallards were hatched and incubated at home before being released in the yard. They were very friendly with my dog and cat. I released them into the wild after three months.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    user-7007816 01/27/2023

    Bill, you have put together some beautiful combinations of plants and colors. I enjoy how you have also welcomed wildlife into your garden.

  2. User avater
    simplesue 01/27/2023

    You're my kind of garden designer- a graphic designer applying your design sensibilities to the garden.

    You’ve made beautiful plant choices & combinations, all arranged beautifully, with an obvious a love & respect for nature.

    Also it's so refreshing that you’re so humble about your garden knowledge and admitting that even after 25 years of being a gardener- there is still always something to learn. A real gardener knows they’re never a master gardener after a few paid lessons.

    So true about a garden evolving over time, I can tell you truly have “hands on” gardening knowledge.

    I just love that large group of Purple Cone Flowers, and your grouping of shrubs and Hostas surrounding the bird feeder.
    The plantings around the natural water feature really work well!

  3. fromvirginia 01/27/2023

    Everything is lovely. Thanks for sharing. What gardening Zone are you in?

  4. btucker9675 01/27/2023

    Everything is just wonderful - your artistic eye is evident in every part. And DUCKS!!

  5. Tz_Garden 01/27/2023

    Beautiful colors, especially love the stream in the back garden.

  6. User avater
    treasuresmom 01/27/2023


  7. jos29803 01/27/2023

    Your innate sense of design makes your random feel beautifully well planned. I don't think a master gardener could have done any better, plus you can almost feel the love in this garden. Well done!

  8. User avater
    cynthia2020 01/30/2023

    Loved seeing what does well in your Chicago area garden!

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