The first year that Batavia's Plain Dirt Gardeners participated in the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, many of the other participants had never heard of them.
After winning top awards three years in a row, Batavia's garden club now enjoys a national reputation for excellence in landscaping and garden design.
If you goWhat: Batavia Plain Dirt Gardeners' 2013 garden walk, "Gardens of De-Light and Shade"
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 22
Tickets: $13 in advance or $15 the day of the event
Details: Call (630) 879-9638 or visit the Batavia Plain Dirt Gardeners on Facebook
Throughout the year, the club holds informational meetings for gardeners and participates in community garden projects. Its members have been instrumental in restoring the wildflower sanctuary at Batavia's Riverwalk using funding from the club's annual plant sale.
Another fundraiser is the club's garden walk, held every other year in the month of June.
The theme of this year's walk, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 22, is "Gardens of De-Light and Shade." Gardens that flourish with and without sun will be featured.
When Mary Ann and Ron Gilkerson started gardening over 25 years ago, they were blessed with two-and-a-half acres of riverfront property with mature trees. They also had to deal with invasive buckthorn and Japanese honeysuckle.
"We spent the first few years just trying to clear out the overgrowth, then we had to deal with all the shade from the large trees on the property," said Gilkerson.
The shade limits the amount of color in the garden but the lush beauty comes through in varying shades of green with 35 different hostas and many plants native to the area.
The garden also features a number of decorative birdhouses that Ron Gilkerson, a woodworker, made to attract birds to the garden.
In the French-inspired garden of Sandi and David Leeming, the star attraction is the water feature. Two streams flow over waterfalls and come together in a large koi pond nestled along the patio. Look for the large Dracula plants (also known as devil's tongue), with their huge pods that open to a very smelly flower for only three days out of the year.
"The garden is a sanctuary in such a hectic world, " said Sandi Leeming.
Susan Barry-Banker and Randy Banker enjoy sun in the front garden and shade in the back. Barry-Banker, a professional horticulturist and landscape designer, has also incorporated a water feature into the design. This is a chemical-free garden, controlled by hand pulling, mulching and cultivating a blanket of ground covers.
Deborah and Keith Riddell have a large deck and pool incorporated into their landscape design. Scattered all around are intimate seating areas accented by statues, planters, water features and other garden art, including Saint Fiacre, the patron saint of gardeners. If Saint Fiacre is watching over the garden, you know the garden is truly blessed.
Pre-sale tickets are $13. On the day of the event, tickets will be available for $15 at the Holmstad, 700 West Fabyan Parkway, Batavia. After the walk, participants are invited to return to the Holmstad to enjoy complimentary tea in the new Ahlstrand Cultural Center. For details, call (630) 879-9638 or visit the club's Facebook page.