Garden Photo of the Day

READER PHOTOS! Karen’s garden in Illinois

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Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Cherry

Today’s photos are from Karen Cherry in Illinois. She says, “I grew up on a farm with a pragmatic father, who’s mantra was “if you can’t eat it, why grow it?” Yet he indulged my appetite for beauty by building me a flower bed. Even though my early endeavors were not very successful (those pesky weeds were my demise), it was an intoxicating experience.

Life went on, I married and acquired my own plot of land, and in this whole process of learning to grow I picked up a book titled “The Ruth Stout No Work Garden Book” and learned of the miracle of mulch. So began my search for an affordable supply to feed my now insatiable appetite for beauty. Thirty plus years later I have a two acre trial and display garden I use in conjunction with a design business. The garden is located in central Illinois, prairie parkland, embraced by second growth woodland, opening on to fields toward the west. These pictures are from the prairie portion.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Cherry

I believe every area needs a focal point. A bench is a restful option here, an invitation made even more pleasant, especially on a summer day, by the shade cast by a red maple to the southwest and more colorful by the long lasting easy care ‘Goldsturm’ black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, Zones 4-9) and the season extending appeal of ornamental grasses like ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis X acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, Zones 5-9) and miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis var. purpurascens, Zones 4-9), all tried and true, undemanding plants for busy gardeners.  This mixed border is used to mediate between the landscape and the field beyond. Because we are dealing with wide open spaces, great numbers of plants are needed to keep things in scale–another reason to use reliable, readily available plant material.

This creation could not have been possible without my husband, whose support and ceaseless assistance spurred me on through all the agonizing trials as well as the adorable triumphs of gardening, even though he considers himself a confirmed non-plant person.”

Beautiful, Karen, and so great to see it in multiple seasons! Thanks for sharing.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Cherry

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  1. ScottHokunson 03/26/2012

    Beautiful Karen, and the transformation with the cornfield in the background is amazing! Enjoyed your story also, wonderful to have such supportive and nurturing family members.

    All the best Scott!

  2. terieLR 03/26/2012

    You have successfully wet my appetite for more beautiful pictures of the other portions and focal points of your display gardens! Open field spaces can be challenging. You've met those challenges head on by creating the lovely stepping effect of transitional grasses and hardy perennials. I'm sure the birds take advantage of all those Rudbeckia seed heads. I can't wait to see your woodland choices!

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 03/26/2012

    One test for a successful garden is how it fares through the succession of seasons and I give this lovely garden a strong A. And, even though there isn't a picture to show it, I'm sure it holds its appeal blanketed in snow also. There is a restful quality to this area since it is in such harmony with its more natural surroundings. I feel like I can actually hear the gentle and serene rustlings of those gorgeous grasses. I really love the design of the is very striking.

  4. vdewey1 03/26/2012

    So proud of you mom! :)

  5. dukeofargy 03/26/2012

    I love it, Karen. The middle photo is wonderful. I'd love to see more of your gardens.

  6. trashywoman62 03/26/2012

    Congratulations, Karen! We all knew your combinations were magazine worthy! I hear the readers calling for one of my favorites, the dark rudbeckia seedheads In the fall and the snow covered plants in winter!

  7. marymax 03/26/2012

    Beautiful garden and I love the benches, but I often wonder, does the gardener ever sit on the bench??? Usually when I sit, I see something else to do... another weed to pull, something to prune. This garden looks very serene and relaxing.

  8. MizScarlet 03/26/2012

    What a beautiful setting! I'd love to occupy your lovely bench for a few hours just taking in all the scenery. Thanks for sharing your pictures.

  9. Momstulips 03/26/2012

    Congratulations Again Karen! Beautiful landscape makes a peaceful heart! I'm so glad I've had your help in designing mine!!
    Your UofIECCMG Friend!
    Sharron :o)

    Keep up the great work!

  10. egdim 03/26/2012

    Congrats Karen.You are a true MASTER GARDENER. Have seen all your spaces in all thier glory, just BEAUTIFUL ALL SEASONS. have had the opportunity to just sit and relax on one of your nested bench, very calming and serene. Thanks for sharing.

  11. humbleearthgarden 03/26/2012

    Stunningly beautiful!

  12. pattyspencer 03/26/2012

    It's really stunning! Reminds me of a park like setting. The colors of everything are just beautiful!

  13. dadeo1 03/26/2012

    ditto on all the previous comments !! we need to see more ! love the simplicity of the mass plantings...but the woodland setting we gotta see, too.

  14. sheilaschultz 03/26/2012

    Having grown up in central IL, I miss the prairie and farmland. You have brought back wonderful memories with your beautiful and serene gardens. Thanks, Karen.

  15. tractor1 03/26/2012

    So wonderful... my kind of gardening... I love au natural landscape. Karen's meadow looks very much like mine, but I let wildflowers grow rather than lawn. I kind of have to let native plants grow as anything I plant that doesn't belong becomes deer salad. I like that bench but I have to laugh, no one can sit there very long during warm weather lest they get eaten alive. Great job, Karen.

  16. hortiphila 03/26/2012

    Thanks so much for all the accolades, but I really don't deserve the credit, yes I plan, plant, water, mulch and weed, weed, weed, but only God can make it flower so beautifully, He really does make neat stuff. Karen

  17. sheilaschultz 03/27/2012

    Even he needs a bit of amusement once in a while... you have done a fine job making beauty.

  18. barb3 04/03/2012

    Love the pictures. They remind me of my own gardens here in southwest Michigan. But I am wondering if the tall silvery green plant in the foreground of the first picture is the same stuff I had/have in my own gardens. The stuff spreads and chokes out everything in its path. It can be pretty as a small clump, as in your photo, but for me, it has spread out of control.

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