June 24, 2008

Greener Way to Garden

By Phyllis Coulter

By Phyllis [email protected]

NORMAL - The soothing sounds of a little waterfall and chirping birds might not be as noticeable on Saturday when dozens of people visit the environmentally friendly yard of Sue Arnold and Dennis Maze.

Native plants, no-mow grass, towering trees and a relaxing, natural atmosphere certainly will be noticed on the Candle Ridge Road property in the Indian Hills subdivision property north of Towanda. It's a stop on the Ecology Action Center's sixth annual Yard Smart Garden Walk, designed to highlight a sustainable and healthier approach to lawn and garden maintenance.

The event "helps change the perception of what a beautiful lawn is," said DeAnna Belz, the center's assistant director.

The tour begins and ends at the Illinois State University Horticulture Center, with cars driving in a convoy. Demonstrations, a native plant sale and lunch will be offered at the end of the tour.


It's a garden party

What: Ecology Action Center's sixth annual Yard Smart Garden Walk

When: 9 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday

Where: Starts at Illinois State University Horticulture Center on Raab Road west of Lincoln College, across the road from Heartland Community College. Car convoy stops at Ironwood Country Club, Indian Creek subdivision and Lake Bloomington.

Why: Tour highlights reduced use of chemicals, native plantings, and wildlife habitat friendly practices.

What else: Tour ends at ISU Horticulture Center with a demonstration of rain barrels, storm water runoff exhibit and native plant sale.

Cost: Tour is free; recommended $5 donation for the optional lunch.

Advance registration: Call (309) 454-3169 or e-mail [email protected]

Info: www.ecologyactioncenter.org/yard-smart/

The tour, which includes stops at Ironwood Country Club and Lake Bloomington properties, features the yards of people who have reduced chemical use, planted or nurtured native vegetation, and encourage wildlife habitats.

Arnold's property has it all. The home blends in with natural wooded surroundings. Although the front lawn has traditional grass, much of the property is filled with native plants.

As well as being natural, the yards are "culturally acceptable," said Laurine Brown, a founder of the Yard Smart walk and an associate professor of health and environmental studies at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.

Golf course-like lawns so popular today are a fairly new phenomena, Brown said. Previously, clover lawns were popular and required less water and fertilizer.

Arnold's backyard no-mow grass doesn't need fertilizer, watering or mowing. Maze jokingly described the windblown, natural appearance as a "bad comb over."

Arnold is happy with the results of the lawn she has developed over the last two years. "We love it. I think it looks nice," she said.

In the areas of the yard devoted to native plants, for the most part, Arnold goes with what nature gives her. She removes some non- native plants. Her yard includes a water feature, a prairie garden and a seating area.

Arnold, a data processor for State Farm Insurance Cos., did a lot of research and consulted with members of the Audubon Society and other experts.

Arnold thinks about water quality, and chooses to avoid "cosmetic pesticides" in favor of more environmentally friendly choices.

Her property backs up to Money Creek, which in turn flows into Lake Bloomington, a source of drinking water for the community.

In the subdivision where she lives, houses have a mix of finely manicured grass lawns and others that blend into the natural setting.

As for response from her neighbors, Arnold said, "I've only heard good comments."


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