Metro-East Living

This garden is 30-plus years in the making and you can see it Saturday

See a garden 30 years in the making this weekend in Edwardsville

Mary and Bob LaRose are participating in the 2017 Edwardsville Garden Tour.
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Mary and Bob LaRose are participating in the 2017 Edwardsville Garden Tour.

Their garden’s calm woodland yard could hold many secrets if Mary and Bob LaRose weren’t so quick to spill them.

The garden is among the seven, plus the Watershed Nature Center, taking part in the 2017 Garden Tour of the Edwardsville area. The self-guided tour is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are available Saturday for $15 at the Watershed Nature Center, 1591 Tower Ave. in Edwardsville. Advance tickets are $12 and can be purchased at Creekside Gardens or Naturescapes, both in Collinsville; the Edwardsville Public Library; Glen Carbon Centennial Library; Market Basket in Edwardsville, Godfrey and Troy; and the University of Illinois Extension offices in Waterloo and Collinsville.

The tour’s brochure touts the LaRose garden as “a slow cultivation of progress” over more than 30 years.

For me it’s a garden that’s easy to be in. It’s not stuffy.

Mary LaRose

“That had a cistern, and I was always concerned the kids would pull off the cover and drop into it. So we covered it up,” Bob said of one planting area in his backyard, which now has hostas and other shade perennials nestled in deep mulch among the mature trees. His children are now grown, and the LaRoses’ six grandchildren are still safe from that cistern.

A large area of the front yard features liriope, which looked “like hair plugs” at first, Mary said, but are now full and lush.

“Mary always thought (the liriope) looked like waves,” Bob said.

So they commissioned a metal Loch Ness Monster to rise from the plants. That sculpture is now known as “Jelly Beans Bert,” whose name is formed from grandchildren’s initials, explained 7-year-old Josie LaRose.

Mary has modest expectations of her garden, saying she thinks that, “If my garden makes it to the Fourth of July, it’s a success.”

The garden’s dominant shade is green — an array of color and texture await every turn. Oak leaf hydrangea anchor several of the flower beds, with several varieties of hosta filling in. Coneflowers, not yet blooming, pop up around the backyard — volunteers that Mary decided not to pull.

061317DH hostas
Unique statues, decorations and ornaments are scattered around the property of Mary LaRose and Bob LaRose. They are participating in the 2017 Garden Tour, featuring seven Edwardsville private gardens and the Watershed Nature Center. Derik Holtmann dholtmann@bnd.com

“Mine’s a little more wild and wooly,” she said, comparing her yard to her friend’s across the street, which is also on the tour. “For me, it’s a garden that’s easy to be in. It’s not stuffy.”

Easy maintenance is important to the couple, especially because they enjoy traveling during the summer.

Being on the garden tour is a departure from her usual gardening style.

“Here’s what you do when you’re on the tour,” she says, snapping off a dead branch from a tree. “You see these all the time.

“It spurs you on to get done what normally doesn’t get done.”

Those on the garden tour may notice that the LaRose garden has few potted annuals, and all the flowers in the beds are perennial.

“I used to go crazy with pots everywhere … I can’t keep them alive. I’m not very good at it,” Mary said.

Mary Cooley: 618-239-2535, @MaryCooleyBND

2017 Garden Tour of the Edwardsville Area

  • Gardens: Includes seven home gardens and the Watershed Nature Center, which features native plants and restored habitats.
  • When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday
  • Tickets: Advance tickets are $12 and are available at Creekside Gardens or Naturescapes, both in Collinsville; the Edwardsville Public Library; Glen Carbon Centennial Library; Market Basket in Edwardsville, Godfrey and Troy; and the University of Illinois Extension offices in Waterloo and Collinsville.
  • Day-of-tour tickets are $15 and are available at Watershed Nature Center, 1591 Tower Ave. in Edwardsville.
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