Friday, November 4, 2011

A Visit to Christopher Tidrick's Illinois Garden

Blogging has brought some unexpected and wonderful opportunities into my life and just one of those has been meeting some people that share my passion for growing a garden. I've met many over the course of the last five years that I've been writing Our Little Acre, and for all the criticism the internet has been given, I would not have had the chance to meet these people, whom I now count as friends, any other way.

Two years ago, I met Chris Tidrick, from Champaign, Ill., when we both blogged about our witch hazel shrubs (his is a tree). Being in the same USDA Zone 5b, we were soon in a race to see whose would be the first to bloom. I don't even remember who won (I think it was me *wink*), but it forged a friendship that has grown over the months and now years.

Chris and his beautiful wife, Mindy, traveled to our home in June of this year and we had a great time attending the Peony Festival and touring area gardens. Just spending time together, talking about plants, writing, garden shows and other things was the best part though. Chris and Mindy were celebrating their wedding anniversary that weekend, too, so it was an honor that they chose to spend it with us.

Last month, we headed west and spent two days at Chris and Mindy's home, as Chris celebrated his 40th birthday. There was a party where we met many of their friends and I had the pleasure of seeing Chris's co-worker, Laura (Durable Gardening), again.

This was our first visit to Champaign, home of the University of Illinois. We spent some time on Sunday at the gardens there and walked through the arboretum, which I'll show and tell in another post. But most of all I enjoyed getting to see Chris's gardens, which weren't in the height of their glory (it was October, after all), but still lovely, nonetheless. Their structure showed me that Chris has an artistic talent for garden design.

Urban backyards are notoriously small and generally square in shape. The Tidrick backyard is no different. However, decks and curves, stone walls and raised beds, strategically placed give Chris's backyard space a warm and inviting feel, no matter what the season.

Paths on both sides of the home wound their way back to areas where you wanted to spend time just exploring and seeing what else there was.


Unexpected were the banana plants, which added a bit of tropical flair to the gardens.

Chris enjoys putting containers together - something he noted an absence of in my own garden - and many of them were still providing blooms to go along with the falling leaves.

I was envious of the honey locust (Gleditsia tricanthos) tree, which had just dropped thousands of little yellow pieces of sunshine over the entire backyard. I said to Chris, "What great winter mulch!" They're just the right size, not needing to be raked away nor chopped into smaller pieces, as our oak and maple leaves require.

Probably my favorite corner of the garden was the vignette of coleus, stunning against the backdrop of the white picket fence and the conifer that provided a different color and texture. Chris takes cuttings of his coleus in fall and grows them on over the winter so that he has plenty for the next year, without having to buy them again.

My favorite is 'Twist and Twirl', shown at the top.

It's always fun to get to see a friend's garden, which serves to bring blog posts to life for me, allowing me to picture things in my mind as they are described. I'll be able to see beyond the confines of the frames of the photos; I've got visual context.

Zinnia Zahara® 'Starlight Rose'
Chris challenges me horticulturally and I continue to learn from him. I liken our relationship to the famous pas de deux between Elizabeth Lawrence and Professor Krippendorf, as told in The Little Bulbs: A Tale of Two Gardens. In fact, I gave Chris my copy of a first edition of the book (1957, which just happens to be the year I was born) as a birthday gift. And though it wasn't my birthday, Chris gifted me with a potted agave plant (he knows I love them) and some Allium christophii bulbs. (Get it?)

Perhaps in a future visit, we can travel to Cincinnati and visit Lob's Wood, where Mr. Krippendorf lived and Ms. Lawrence met him for the first time.

Be sure to visit Chris's blog at From the Soil.


Daricia said...

i hope you do get to meet at lob's wood. i enjoyed reading about your visit to both that garden and chris's. sounds like good times. that amazon pop-up when you hover over the book title is pretty awesome, too. i haven't seen that before.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What fun to get to meet another blogging friend and even better to tour his garden. I will have to check out his blog.

Shawna Lee Coronado said...

Love, love, love Chris - he's wonderful and I'm glad you have seen that wonderfulness up close.



Anonymous said...

Awesome garden! Great tour...

Benjamin Vogt said...

I thought you were born in 1972! :)

Kylee Baumle said...

Daricia ~ That pop-up is something Amazon puts in their code when you link to their page. Clever, eh? Yes, Lob's Wood is an awesome place!

Lisa ~ Chris and I first met in real life at the Chicago Home and Garden Show earlier this year, and then we spent some time together at IGC and GWA, too. I think you'll like his blog, Lisa!

Shawna ~ Yes, he is. Glad we've all come together the way we have! :-)

redneckrosarian ~ It was fun!

Ben ~ Okay, what is it you want? No way did you think I was born in 1972!! I graduated from high school in 1974!!

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