After sharing my modest yard, it dawned on me that the yard I should really be celebrating doesn't belong to me at all. It is my mother's. If I have any sort of green thumb, or artistic bone in my body, it is all due to Mom.

Growing up we lived in a typical 70's ranch in a family-friendly neighborhood development. All of our homes looked alike. But our yard stood out even then. The back had a three-tiered garden, constructed from railroad ties, full of vegetables, flowers and trees. The front housed a Wishing Well built from a wine barrel. It was so fun for us kids. Then, once we all fled the nest, my parents did too and bought their then-dream home. Currently they are considering an even bigger move to Montana! But until then, they are most happy to live on a cliff above the Rock River in a rustic house with vaulted ceilings and a fireplace. It's a hidden gem on the edge of town.

And so in my mother's words (with interjections from me in italics because I can't help myself):

This garden started out as vast sections of open grass area, surrounded by mature Oak, Walnut, Maple and Pine trees. Under those trees are the ever encroaching Mulberry bushes. I set out to make beds to compliment the natural landscaping and began planting.  

{The house is surrounded by natural woods on three sides and open to the river on the fourth. It's situated on a busy street and the woods serve as much-needed privacy and sound barrier.}

The perennial plants in my garden all came from my previous home. One plant for each species. Each year they have been divided to fill in the flower beds. The pine trees were transplanted from the forest line into areas where they could reach more sun. I made the mistake of planting them too close together and will one day have to decide which tree will have to go, so the other can continue to thrive. Opening up the forest floor allowed for sleeping wildflowers to come to life.

{This entire area was grass when they first moved in. My mother is a gardening BEAST! At one point she relentlessly gathered grape vine from the woods and made a border around all of these beds, even edging a trail to the neighbor's house.}

This is the Southwest corner. It gets mostly filtered sun so anything grows well here. I planted all of these pine trees as seedlings.

{Mom and Dad love nature in all its forms and as such, have two big dogs and three small cats. There's a Yellow Lab named Norman in this shot.}

Each season brings a different color of the garden to emerge. Right now in mid-summer, splashes of purple, red/orange and white compliment the different shades of green. After 17 years of transplanting, composting and pruning, the garden is now mature enough that my only chore is to keep the wild edge of the tree line at bay. And of course weeding. The rest of the time I can lay in my hammock and enjoy all that I have done.

{This is arguably the best spot of the yard. It's the most sunny, the most open space and the BEST view. You can see Rockford's Fourth of July fireworks from here! To the right is also our little pet cemetary. My childhood cat Sam is here as well as other beloved pets and animals.}
This is the entry into my shade garden, a mixture of ground cover carpets the floor beneath a variety of Walnut, Ash, Oak & Maple trees. I've tried to plant Hostas, but they just seem stunted. Creeping Charlie runs rampant, but at least it covers the ground beneath the Walnut trees, where nothing else will grow. Other natural clumps of Lily of the Valley and Lambs Ear also grow well here. The vine growing on the pole holding the hummingbird feeder is Hops! Maybe I should learn to make my own brewed beer.

{Mom, you should! We harvested Lily of the Valley from this yard to make my wedding bouquet. I love this flower so much and it has meaning to us. It used to line the driveway of my Grandmother's house.}

Ok, I'm taking over from here. Let's head into the woods shall we? If I had one word to describe my parent's yard it would be "meandering." I love the whimsical, organic way you walk through.

There is no identifiable "front" and "back," instead you lean over here because something smells good, or you are drawn over here because, Mom, is that a giant frog?

It perfectly reflects my mother's personality. She is a free-spirit lacking order and rigidity. She just is that way. One idea is born of another, ideas are reactions to what one experiences at the moment, now. Yes, let's put a duck here.

Summer flocks blooming along side soon to bloom, Tiger Lilly. This, and then that.

This year she started a Fairy Garden in some corner of the woods...

...because these scream "umbrella," of course!

She is obsessed with nature and art. One of her biggest blessings, she would say, is that there are eagles in her yard. It has born a passion for photography, birds (which actually, she has always had) and downright eagle activism.

And this is relatively new, the turkeys. They march across the backyard every morning. Where on earth are they going? Show off.

I could go on and on because truly, there is an endless amount of detail we haven't even grazed. This yard is ever-evolving, nontraditional and truly loved. It will be amazing to see what she does next!


  1. I really enjoy your stories and photos. Thank you for taking the time to share.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! Love your Mom to pieces!!