North Suburban Pond and Garden Walk returns this weekend

Gardening enthusiasts can indulge their passion this weekend during the 2014 annual North Suburban Pond and Garden Walk, a self-guided tour of 17 residential gardens in seven north shore-area communities.

Now in its sixth year since the annual walk began in 2008, the garden walk typically draws hundreds of people, who follow a map to the homes of gardeners who have agreed to open up their yards to the public for two days.

This year’s event, held on July 26 and 27, will feature gardens at homes throughout Des Plaines, Glenview, Highland Park, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook and Wilmette.

Glenview resident and nature lover Esther Palace started the garden walk as a social gathering to bring north shore-area gardeners together each summer to talk about all things gardening.

Palace said the event has expanded over the years after the first year began with just five homeowners opening up their yards. This year is the largest event yet, with nearly 20 gardens being featured in the open house-style walk.

“It’s fun because people like to talk about the hard work they’ve put into their yards, and others like to admire peoples’ yards because they know a lot about gardening,” Palace said. “You meet a lot of people with similar interests.”

Some homeowners were hesitant to participate in the beginning, Palace said, because they feared their gardens fell short of the standard of perfection associated with professional gardening.

But after the annual event began to grow through word of mouth around the gardening community, Palace said people with less-than-perfect yards began signing up.

“Some people are nervous about showing their yards because they think everything has to look perfect,” Palace said. “Some people are trying to go very natural with indigenous plants, and others go with the formal look — everyone has their own style and all [the gardens] are gorgeous.”

As an avid gardener herself, the backyard of the Glenview home she shares with her husband Ken is its own little outdoor sanctuary, complete with three separate ponds filled with koi fish, goldfish and frogs.

A giant tortoise named “Gump” patrols the backyard haven of gardens, which is filled with a blend of wildflowers, perennials, groundcovers, vines and grasses.

Palace said her backyard, which is covered with weeds (Gump’s meal of choice) encases the notion that a beautiful garden doesn’t have to be perfect.

She describes the style of her yard as “controlled wild with a touch of whimsy, but mostly manipulated by Gump the tortoise.”

Another Glenview home featured on this year’s garden walk map promises native gardens graced with a certified bird and butterfly sanctuary and a pollinator-friendly garden.

The garden walk is free and open to the public, but donations are accepted. All donations support two nature-driven charities, the Wetlands Initiative and Pollinator Partnership.

For a map of participating homes, go to www.northsuburbanpond.com.

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