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Barb Cleary does a little pruning in the garden, (Photo by Devese “Dee” Ursery)
Tim and Barb Cleary’s residential garden will be one of several featured in this year’s Madison County Garden Tour presented by the University of Illinois Extension Service Program
The annual Madison County Garden Tour is a two-day event that will be presented by the University of Illinois Extension service Program this upcoming weekend. The event will feature the Open Gate Garden in Drost Park in Maryville, as well as seven home gardens in the Glen Carbon/Maryville area.
The event will take place 4-8 p.m. Friday, June 23 and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 24, from It is a self-guided tour and visitors, with tickets, can tour the gardens at their own pace, in any order that they prefer.
The Cleary’s garden is labeled Garden F on the tour and features a backyard with a waterfall and reconstructed Koi pond along with a variety of plants and different sculptures. Tim Cleary said the backyard has been a true labor of love for years, but loves to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
“It’s been literally decades in the making,” Tim Cleary said. “It’s a lot of work, I mean we spent a month-and-a-half to two months pulling weeds, every spring before throwing mulch down. It’s work, but I enjoy it.“
The Cleary’s said they were among the first families to move in the subdivision on December 15, 1990. Tim Cleary said the subdivision was mostly a corn field before they moved in and it grew pretty fast after that.
“There were three houses on this street when we moved in,” Tim Cleary said. “This subdivision grew quite a bit shortly after we moved in. All you heard was dump trucks and bulldozers.”
Tim Cleary jokingly said that he’s the mule for his wife’s orders when it comes to the backyard. He said that his wife is really involved, saying that she’ll move plants around, do the pruning and watering.
“She’s the brain behind the organization, in more ways than one,” Tim Cleary said.
“I don’t know about that,” Barb Cleary said. “It’s a joint thing, tell him to plant it and he plants it or I do.”
According to the couple, there were no set plans for the construction of the backyard garden. The garden is centered around the waterfall and pond, but it started out as a blank slate until they decided to install an in-ground pool and fence off the back yard.
Barb Cleary said that she had Kevin Burns put in the waterfall and it just continued to swell from there.
“After we fenced everything in, the rest came after that,” Barb Cleary said. “Each year seems to be just a little tweaking here and there. We moved in 32 years ago and we put the pool in about 25-27 years ago.”
The calm, relaxing garden features a variety of flowers and accessories that attract wildlife like turkeys, raccoons, foxes, squirrels, coyotes and all types of birds. They also have a 60-inch long King Snake, whom they affectionately named Elvis that frequently visits. Barb Clreary said they also spotted a smaller King snake and named it Priscilla.
Besides the wildlife that comes to visit the garden there is a variety of plants and trees sprawling throughout the backyard. Barb Cleary said in regards to plants, they have everything from Hydrangeas, roses, to liriope. As far as trees go, she said they have several Dogwood and Japanese Maple trees.
Barb Cleary said what she really loves about gardening is enjoying the finished product. Taking in the view while sitting out eating lunch with her husband.
“I just like to watch the finished product,” Barb Cleary said. “When I can watch the flowers bloom, it’s peaceful.
The couple really likes the wildlife appeal of the property and the wide open country feel. Barb Cleary said she was raised in the country and likes the fact that their house is backed by woods. “You can’t really tell that you live next door to somebody,” she explained.
Sarah Ruth, horticulture and natural resources program coordinator for the University of Illinois said the tour was established to showcase the lovely gardens hidden throughout the communities. The tour is a communal invite for the public to observe and hopefully become inspired by these residential gardens.
Volunteers from the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners will serve as hosts at the gardens. Tickets for the Madison County Garden Tour are $13 and free for children ages 10 and under. For information, call the University of Illinois Extension office at 618-344-4230.
The Open Gate Demonstration Garden at Drost Park will also be featured in the Madison County Garden Tour. The Demonstration Garden in Drost Park includes several themed flower beds, such as the Meditation Garden, Pollinator Garden and Herb Garden. There is a Daylily Garden that holds over 150 genres in a compact space for easy viewing.
There is also a Vegetable Garden in Drost Park that grows different vegetables in raised beds, that produce gets donated to the Maryville Food Pantry.
“The purpose of the one-acre garden is to demonstrate the growing of a variety of plants, trees, and different gardening techniques,” Ruth said.
Proceeds generated by the event will support the University of Illinois Extension Program including Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists and 4-H. Ruth said the event allows visitors to discover new plants and gardening techniques as well as a chance for neighboring gardeners to learn from each other.
“It is a fun event for anyone who enjoys gardens and plants,” Ruth said. “It is interesting to see how the homeowners have used their space to create their personal haven.”