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updated: 7/12/2011 1:04 PM

Idyllic gardens open to public for one day

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  • A dragonfly rests on a flower in a restored prairie field on the property of Rachel and Aubrey Neville of Elgin.

       A dragonfly rests on a flower in a restored prairie field on the property of Rachel and Aubrey Neville of Elgin.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Milkweed blooms in a prairie field on the property of Rachel and Aubrey Neville of Elgin. Their gardens will be featured in the upcoming Garden Conservancy Open Days program on Saturday, July 16. They have been working on over 50 acres of land for decades.

       Milkweed blooms in a prairie field on the property of Rachel and Aubrey Neville of Elgin. Their gardens will be featured in the upcoming Garden Conservancy Open Days program on Saturday, July 16. They have been working on over 50 acres of land for decades.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • The property of Rachel Neville and her husband, Aubrey, of Elgin will be featured in an upcoming Garden Conservancy Open Days Program on July 16. They have been working on over 50 acres of land for decades. This prairie was transformed from its previous incarnation as a pasture.

       The property of Rachel Neville and her husband, Aubrey, of Elgin will be featured in an upcoming Garden Conservancy Open Days Program on July 16. They have been working on over 50 acres of land for decades. This prairie was transformed from its previous incarnation as a pasture.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • The property of Rachel and Aubrey Neville, of Elgin, will be one of seven featured in a Garden Conservancy Open Days Program on Saturday, July 16. They have been working on over 50 acres of land for decades.

       The property of Rachel and Aubrey Neville, of Elgin, will be one of seven featured in a Garden Conservancy Open Days Program on Saturday, July 16. They have been working on over 50 acres of land for decades.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Rachel and Aubrey Neville, of Elgin, have been working on over 50 acres of land for decades. They think of their garden as a "little piece of paradise." It will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 16.

       Rachel and Aubrey Neville, of Elgin, have been working on over 50 acres of land for decades. They think of their garden as a "little piece of paradise." It will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 16.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

Rachel and Aubrey Neville live on a little piece of paradise. And this weekend, they've agreed to share it.

The couple owns more than 50 acres that, on Saturday, July 16, will be a featured garden stop on the Garden Conservancy Open Days program.

For $5, people are invited to stop in anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 39W714 McDonald Road in Elgin and enjoy the beauty of various types of gardens including prairie, sun, shade and a butterfly garden. The entry fee will go back to the Garden Conservancy for their nationwide programs.

Six other area gardens -- in Bartlett, St. Charles, and Campton Hills -- are also available to tour at $5 apiece. Details are available at opendaysprogram.org.

The Nevilles' gardens are spread throughout the entire property, split at times by Stony Creek or the pond that adds an idyllic touch to their backyard, marked by a waterfall Aubrey Neville built himself.

Rachel Neville is the lifetime gardener. She started young, helping her parents with the flowers they planted in her childhood home -- back when she "didn't know the difference between an annual and a perennial."

Later, with the help of her husband, Neville has been able to transform an old farm into a haven for spring and summer beauty.

"I feel very fortunate to have this place," Neville said. "But with it comes a lot of work."

Years ago, Neville and her husband did all the work themselves. Now, as they settle into retirement, they are welcoming extra hands more than ever.

The couple moved to an old farmhouse at the front of their current property in 1976, moving to the house next door in 1989. Now it's their grandchildren who run through the woods or along the creek instead of their three sons.

Neville said she is the "dig in the dirt" side of the couple's gardening pair. She gives her husband credit as the better planter -- though he calls her the more technical gardener.

"I guess I like the dirt under my nails," Neville said.

Gardening starts for the season as soon as the ground is soft enough to work and that changes every year. Neville said she finds herself planting less and less, relying on perennials to come back on their own.

The two-acre prairie, currently enjoying its yellow phase, completely takes care of itself, shifting to blue or purple depending on which flower dominates. The couple burns the prairie every year, helping birds by providing seed for the winter. With some roots stretching more than 20 feet down, the plants have no trouble recovering by the following spring.

Neville's property is a jewel in the area, spoken of with special praise by fellow Elgin Garden Club members.

Though her gardens have been featured on other Kane County walks in past years, this is the first time she will be opening her property to the National Open Days Program.

Though that means she must have an extra sharp eye this week to eradicate as many weeds as possible from her gardens, Neville was glad to say yes to the program.

"I just feel that we have something unique and it's worth sharing," Neville said.

Visit opendaysprogram.org for a list of all the other gardens participating in Kane County and throughout the region.

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