Garden Photo of the Day

John and Betsy’s garden in Illinois

Today's photos are from John and Betsy Sullivan in Plainfield, Illinois. They say, "Welcome to Sully's Secret Garden! We started this garden in 2000 after our four children grew up. In 2007 we started Timmy's Garden Walk to benefit Hospice Pediatric program in honor of our grandson. In 2015 we will have our 9th annual walk. We built our home in 1974 and completely rebuild all our gardens. We have a koi pond, trails thru the spruces I grew from seedlings, and dozens of rooms to sit and relax in while dreaming of what next to plant. In 2015 we will add a log cabin tree house and a kitchen pavilion. I hope you enjoy my pictures of my favorite views." John and Betsy, this truly looks like a garden you could live in! You obviously enjoy it to the fullest! So, so nice. And those dogs are gorgeous! Thanks so much for sharing.

Speaking of Seattle, it's just about time to decide where we'll all meet up! For those of you attending the Northwest Flower & Garden Show next week, what do you think of meeting in the lobby bar of the Sheraton right after my talk at 3:15 on Wednesday? Maybe 4:30? I'll be the one holding nametags and a pen….

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  1. Nurserynotnordstroms 02/03/2015

    John and Betsy it sounds like you went through some difficult times but it's so wonderful you started Timmy's garden walk to benefit the Hospice Pediatric program in honor of your Grandson. Nine years of doing something so special must be completely rewarding and fulfilling at the same time. Your garden plans for this year sound fun a"log cabin tree house"Did you make your own plans for your tree house?is your kitchen pavilion a covered structure with a fireplace and a working kitchen? It is nice to enjoy the outdoors in a way we haven't done before with all of the "garden room" ideas popping up everywhere. Have fun with you new plans and I'll look forward to seeing them when you have them completed.

    1. user-7007382 02/04/2015

      All of the gardens ideas came from me sitting in the garden and thinking what to do next. The plans for the tree house were made as i built it. the kitchen pavilion is up and is covered with a blue ceiling like the Charleston porches. When spring arrives we will finish the patio flooring under the pavilion and I am still planning the cooking layout. I need to have everything finished by June 20 the day of the walk. I will continue to post updates.

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 02/04/2015

        Love your somewhat improvisational approach to turning ideas into reality, John. Sometimes the process of doing opens up possibilities that no amount of thoughtful planning on paper could have revealed. My husband and I take that approach to pretty much all our garden projects and feel fortunate that we can be as hands on as we are. Really looking forward to whatever future photo sharings you bring our way.

      2. Nurserynotnordstroms 02/04/2015

        We just came from Charleston and I hadn't realized the reason for the blue ceilings until we went. Blue is so significant in the South and it was believed it would ward off evil spirits(Hanks)the color is often called Hank Blue,or Haint blue. It was originally made from buttermilk and the indigo dye they were known for producing. It also extends daylight at dusk & keeps bees and wasps from nesting on the ceiling of the porticos. I can't wait to see your next set of photos John. I to love to sit and design our next project.

        1. user-1020932 02/05/2015

          hope you got to visit Middleton Place and Angel Oak on Johns Island while you were there

          1. Nurserynotnordstroms 02/05/2015

            Hi Jeff we got to Middleton place but not Angel Oak. We were very busy taking walking tours each day,Some days two and some days three each two hours. Lots and lots of walking,but we always do that its so fun and we get a real feeling for each city. This trip one morning it was 19degrees and everyone else canceled so we had a private tour,in fact almost all of our tours were private because everyone else cancelled because it was so cold. It was nice because I could linger and peek at the gardens and the tour guide would have to wait for me since we were the only ones. I loved the creeping fig,I would love to grow it here in Wa state not so sure if it will grow here.

          2. user-7007382 02/07/2015

            We went to Charleston in 2011 and when we returned home I made covered porch next to the pool. Ceiling in Blue. Last Oct we visited P Allen Smith;s Moss Mountain Farm Home and again when we returned home i painted our inside pool sunroom's bead-board ceiling blue like Alan did. That trip also inspired my kitchen pavilion. Now after reading about Middleton we are going back to Savannah and Charleston next month. We are also going back to P Allen;s home to view the daffodils. I had to bypass Gibbs Garden to go to Middleton. Thanks for the ideas.

          3. Nurserynotnordstroms 02/08/2015

            John I had not heard of Moss Mountain Farm until you just spoke of it. My bucket list is to visit every state in our great nation so this will be a must see when we go to Arkansas. I just looked at their video and it is so beautiful I will definetly be visiting one day. I saw the daffodils on the video and you can't get more spectacular than that. You are going to have a great trip,my only regret when we went last month was the gardens were nice but not in bloom. If we would have been there when the gardens were blooming I would have done the gate and gardens walking tour. Please send your new photos when you have your projects completed,you and Betsy are very creative and I thourally have enjoyed seeing your gardens. Have a safe trip.

          4. user-7007382 02/08/2015

            I have been watching P Allen Smith Garden shows for more than 10 years. I watched him plan the house and garden and the build it all. It took 2 years to build and it is now 8 years old but looks like it is 100 years old. We took a tour of the garden and home. He opens up his home and you can go thru the whole house and all the gardens. We drove 10 hrs just to go there. You should try and watch his show on PBS station. Gibbs garden is another gym I found on PBS show Garden Smart. We will be going on a 2 week trip viewing gardens and finishing up at the Biltmore in Asheville NC. Put these on your bucket list. Happy Gardening.

        2. user-7007140 02/11/2015

          This is fascinating. We have trouble with nesting bees and wasps in our porch, so will try your remedy.

          1. Nurserynotnordstroms 02/12/2015

            Hope the paint color does the trick for you,I too found it very fascinating.

          2. user-7007140 02/12/2015

            I will be sure and let you know later in the year. I love a new project and one which does good work,too, just can't resist!
            Great to see your happy face from the show. Lucky girl.

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/04/2015

    Talk about a money shot..that glorious curving line of yellow daylilies in full and abundant bloom would put a smile on anyone's face. Your different garden areas all have their own unique appeal and I'm sure your visitors through the years have really appreciated the opportunity to walk those pathways and look up, down and all around at so many fun ideas. As Nurserynotnordstrom so perceptively observed, you took a reason for personal sadness and chose to use it as inspiration to do good.
    I sure hope you will treat us to pictures of your upcoming projects when they are done.

    1. user-7007382 02/04/2015

      Thank You for the kind words

  3. perenniallycrazy 02/04/2015

    Thank you for inspiring us all to garden with a cause. I am still swooning over the 2nd photo with the curvilinear bed of golden daylilies - what a sight! Can't wait to see your next project.

    1. user-7007382 02/04/2015

      I will keep the pictures coming. Thanks

  4. VikkiVA 02/04/2015

    Dear John and Betsy, I spotted the branch of your Gingko tree above your beautiful Stella Dora (?) daylilies. Yes I did..I absolutely love a Gingko tree. In addition to your drool worthy variety of plants I also love all of your walk ways. Did you lay the pavers yourself? What a beautiful job. What is the shrub with the white blooms on the left in the photo with the pool? Look how well behaved your Labs (?) are ~ staying right on the pathway as they traverse the garden! I will be sharing this post with my friend who lives in New Lenox. I'm sure she will want to take part in this years walk. Please share photos of your next projects. Vikki in VA.

    1. user-7007382 02/04/2015

      The day lilies are Happy Returns, a little lighter yellow than the Stella Dora. I planted the Gingko 4 years ago after seeing one on a garden walk. I planned all the walkways but had a landscaper install them. the Labs love to help in the garden. If you are talking about the overview of the yard the shrub is a hydrangea. I have to look up variety. Thanks for your thoughts.

    2. user-7007382 02/04/2015

      Vikki, let your friend in New Lenox know we will have 13 gardens this year and 2 are in New Lenox

  5. user-1020932 02/04/2015

    nice, nice and nice! i'm with Mike and Cherry, that border of daylilies is something to behold . i also freely admit that i covet the greenhouse

  6. jagardener 02/04/2015

    Just love everything but especially the yellow flow of day lilly. I 'envy' it all especially as they would not thrive in my zone.

    1. user-7007382 02/04/2015

      Thanks, I used to do 4000 impatience, switched to daylily Happy returns and I love the results.

  7. user-7007381 02/04/2015

    Love your garden beds!

    1. user-7007382 02/04/2015


  8. GrannyMay 02/04/2015

    John and Betsy, your Sully's Secret Garden surely cannot be a secret to anyone who is in your area! You have something for everyone, adults and children, birds and animals, to enjoy! That is a lot to accomplish in 14 years! I would love to see more photos of the other features that you mention. What a wonderful border of daylillies! The glimpses of the bridge, stream and waterfall are an invitation to come and linger. I wish you great success in this year's Timmy's Garden Walk.

    1. user-7007382 02/04/2015

      Thank You

  9. granitestategardener 02/04/2015

    Your gardens are gorgeous! I love seeing all the yellow daylilies; it accentuates the curves of the beds beautifully. I'm glad you took a photo from above to give us a nice perspective of your entire garden. Looking forward to seeing additional posts on your additions!

  10. User avater
    HelloFromMD 02/04/2015

    Beautiful gardens with so many special features! Daylilies look so elegant with their foliage draping forward. Shows how spectacular massing can be.

  11. GrannyCC 02/04/2015

    Wow those daylilies, as everyone has said are amazing.I love all your different rooms and admire the work you have done for the Hospice in honour of your Grandson.Those pink phlox look like they are in a butterfly garden and they look so full and healthy. I can see you have a lot of sun. How large is your property?

    1. user-7007382 02/04/2015

      the phlox are in my butterfly garden and we have 3/4 acre. Thanks for your thoughts.

  12. greengenes 02/04/2015

    You have a beautiful place, John and Betsy. And what it is used for, stands for is even more so! I enjoy hearing about how your garden evolves as you had shared in one of your replies. That's pretty much how my gardens grow! Every picture is so inviting and I would so enjoy seeing more! Those pink phlox are gorgeous! And the pool...well lets just say you are fortunate that I wasn't there the day you took the picture! So inviting! We all hope to see more as it "grows". Thanks

  13. user-7007327 02/04/2015

    I love the balance and curves. What a wonderful way to honor your grandson. Do your two garden helpers use the pool? Thank you for the treat.

    1. user-7007382 02/04/2015

      No the labs stay out of the pool and pond. The pool has a vinyl liner

  14. schatzi 02/04/2015

    With a gorgeous oasis like this you would never have to leave home! Except maybe to shop. Awesome accomplishment and a worthy cause. You have done a lot with 3/4 acre.

  15. Meelianthus 02/04/2015

    Hello John & Betsy ~ I really enjoyed the stroll thru your gardens and would certainly love to live close enough to attend your Hospice tour. What a beautiful job you have done over the years with all of your gardens. Gardens can be so warm and healing, more so then most realize. I can't imagine life without gardening and I have so enjoyed viewing yours. Thank you.

  16. Cenepk10 02/04/2015

    What they all said !!!! Is that lirope edging the daffodils ? Wow ! Stunning place you have there. Love it all !!!

    1. user-7007382 02/04/2015

      That is the green stems from the daylily's. Thanks

  17. kimberlyweigner 02/05/2015

    Hi from another Marylander. John and Betsy, I admire your garden on so many counts, but mostly with the hospice walk. My beautiful son passd away this past May after more than 3 years of treatment for neuroblastoma, a pediatric cancer. We have planted several trees in his honor. He was very fond of bonsai and conifers in general. One of the last places we visited was the National Arboretum so could visit the bonsai collection. Anyway. I would be interested in the particulars of your hospice walk. So other than that... I'm so envious of your mildew free phlox. The humidity is rough on a lot of plants (and people) here. My plant lust knows no end and since I work at a nursery I indulge frequently. Gardening is my solace. God keep you, Kim

    1. user-7007382 02/05/2015

      email me @ [email protected] annd I will send you information on what we do

  18. betsycarrsullivan 02/06/2015

    Thank you all for your kind words about our garden. John has made our garden/yard a little bit of heaven on earth. And our grandchildren have many wonderful places to entertain themselves in. Thank you!

  19. user-7007140 02/11/2015

    John and Betsy, your garden is absolutely beautiful - so full of interest with all the little nooks and destinations tempting one to explore. Just what a garden should be.
    Congratulations on all you have achieved and I cannot wait to see what you will do next.
    Now I want to redo my own entire garden- well almost all!

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