St.Charles Landscape Architects Open Own Backyard to Garden Club Tour, So You Can See How the Pros Do It

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Baruch Yackley

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CORRECTION/date 07-07-2006: An incorrect date was given in a column in some Wednesday Neighbor sections for the Pottawatomie Garden Club's Garden Walk. It is on July 15.

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Take a walk through some of the most lovingly cultivated gardens in the area when Pottawatomie Garden Club hosts its annual Garden Walk on July 15.

Five residential gardens in St. Charles, and one in Wayne, are featured this year, with everything from ponds and waterfalls to garden boxes and arbors. And of course, there are flowers wherever you go.

The garden of Mary and Keith Allen of St. Charles is just one of the magnificent stops. After working on this labor of love for 15 years, these two professional landscape architects have created a wide variety of inspiration for other gardeners, as well as well- designed garden areas for the passing admirer.

Just inside the gated entrance to the backyard is a turtle pond, with an assortment of red-eared sliders, painted yellow-bellies, map turtles and a soft-shelled turtle named Taco.

"I call it the Turtle Hilton, because they have it really good here," said Mary Allen.

A brand-new waterfall was recently installed across from the pond. This is the only structure in the garden not handmade by the Allens. While Mary does most of the planting, Keith has built most of the structures in the garden, including a pergola which holds up a hammock.

Just past these two water features is a newly finished outdoor bar area, complete with a massive grill.

"Keith built the bar. This is a poured concrete top. We can cook here and eat here. It will be wonderful," Allen said.

A wooden bridge just beyond the bar invites visitors to stop and watch the many koi swim back and forth between the blooming waterlilies. (Allen hopes the blue heron who dined here in the past does not return this year.)

Tucked in a corner is a play area for kids which used to house a swing set, but will soon see an outdoor fireplace and ample hangout space for the Allen's three growing children. Another corner of the yard houses a vegetable garden in raised beds, maintained Keith Allen.

But the majority of this large yard, which expands into the yard to the north, behind a house the Allens purchased five years ago and rent out, is Mary Allen's space.

"We bought this house in November of 1985. It was built in 1926, and we are the second owners. …