Crystal Lake resident Gail Johnson has grown accustomed to other people admiring her backyard gardens.
Her red, historic three-bedroom farmhouse at 102 Pomeroy Avenue has been featured twice on the McHenry County College Master Gardeners’ Walk, on a local Butterfly Garden Walk, and Pond Walk. It also had been showcased in Chicagoland Gardening Magazine, she said.
It’s no surprise the circa-1900s house is the “Welcome to My Garden, Patch” garden of the week.
When Johnson, who grew up in western Massachusetts, moved to Crystal Lake 18 years ago the two-story house on Pomeroy had an ordinary backyard.
The corner of the yard, near the barn-style garage, was taken over by a large dog pen and a few “junk trees," she said. The house had been a rental for some years.
The garden enthusiast, a nurse anesthetist by trade, got to work right away bringing her backyard to life.
First, Johnson hired a professional landscaping company to outline garden beds with brick pavers. Then she began adding a variety of textured plants, shrubs and trees. The "junk trees," as she called them, were removed.
“I don’t just focus on perennials,” Johnson said. “I like to mix different textures and colors. You don’t have to plant things just by short and tall. I mix it up. The odd rule of groupings things by three, five, seven and nine works well.”
Johnson’s gardens are filled with many shades of green, which grow brilliantly throughout the season. She likes to pot her annuals, and sprinkles perennials throughout the yard.
She created a visually dynamic rock garden filled with pebbles and succulent plants in an old fountain base that had been damaged. She picked it up on the cheap at a Woodstock landscaping company, and it now sits near the spot of the former dog pen.
Amongst the blue and white salvia, pink roses, beige hydrangeas, royal blue lobelia, fruitless Mulberry tree and abundance of other plants stand quaint garden accents – decorative bird houses, stone bird baths, a Martin house, gazing globe, and statues.
A pond filled with goldfish gently trickles next to a wrought iron gazebo draped by an Aunt Dee Wisteria plant that recently finished blooming purple and white flowers.
Johnson’s garden is her passion, and she at times spends up to 16 hours per day pruning, deadheading, planting and planning, she said. Springtime requires the longest days of labor, said Johnson, now semi-retired.
“I read a lot of garden literature,” she said. “A lot of this has just been done by trial and error.”
The result of Johnson’s 18 years of hard work is a backyard that resembles a botanic garden setting rather than someone's backyard. In fact, many of Johnson’s friends and acquaintances frequently request to visit the backyard, sometimes to just sit and appreciate its beauty.
“Oh, people stop by to sit all the time,” she said.