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Datebook: Green Thumb Or No, Garden Festival Is For Everyone

Breanna Grow
Flowers bloom in Sarah's Garden at the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington.

The David Davis Mansion marks 25 years of sharing the best of gardens and gardening in McLean County with the Glorious Gardens Festival on July 16-17.

The garden walk returns with a ticketed tour of 11 private gardens, including seven never-before-seen properties.

David Davis Mansion Foundation Program Coordinator Adrienne Huffman said volunteers spent the last year scouting unique and interesting additions to the garden walk lineup.

Ticket Details

What: 25th Annual Glorious Garden Festival
When: Garden Walk 1-7 p.m. July 16 & 9 a.m.-3 p.m. July 17; free activities at the Mansion 1-5 p.m. July 16 & 9 a.m.-noon July 17
Where: David Davis Mansion, Bloomington and various private gardens
Tickets: Non-refundable. Advanced tickets $18 for adults, $10 for children 13-17; $20 at the David Davis Mansion July 16. Buy online or at AB Hatchery & Garden Center, Casey’s Garden Shop & Florist, Growing Grounds Lawn & Garden Center and Wendell Niepagen Greenhouses & Garden Center

“When you go on the walk you can be sure that you’re surprised by something at every garden that you visit,” Huffman said. Tour-goers can expect to see an aerial garden, a fairy garden, produce gardens and more.

“There’s something for everybody, and I think that even if you don’t have an innate interest in gardening, that coming on the garden walk can actually create a new interest for you,” Huffman said.

Garden walk ticket sales directly support education, restoration and publication projects through the David Davis Mansion Foundation.

All festival activities at the Bloomington mansion are free, including tours of Sarah’s Garden led by Illinois Master Gardeners.

“So Sarah Davis was the wife of David Davis, and she had a historic 1872 garden,” Huffman said. “It was extremely important to her, she spent a lot of time here, and spent a lot of time cultivating her flowers and plants in this particular area.”

Sarah Davis sought refuge and reflection in her private garden, writing in 1879 that cultivating flowers helped her “bear the fatigue and labor of life.”

Surrounded by busy roads and modern homes, it can be hard to imagine Victorian life at the David Davis Mansion. But stepping into Sarah’s Garden is about as close as you can get to stepping back in time: nearly all of the flowers found in the garden today were growing there at one time while Sarah was alive, including 18 original plants.

The tour also includes a new children’s story walk, featuring “Plant the Tiny Seed” by Christie Matheson, sponsored by the Bloomington Public Library.

Huffman said there’s no cost for children ages 12 and under to attend the full garden walk that also features a scavenger hunt this year.

She said the foundation made a concerted effort to include more kid-friendly activities this year.

“I think a lot of times people are like, ‘Oh I don’t want my kids to go to the mansion because they might mess something up.’” On the contrary, Huffman said, “We want them to dance on the lawn and explore Sarah’s Garden or take a tour. Most kids don’t know that David Davis and Abraham Lincoln were buddies, and all kids love Lincoln, right? So we just want people to come and bring their kids.”

The foundation also hopes to draw a crowd for the artists and vendors at this year’s Garden Fair on the mansion lawn, she said.

“Over the last couple of years, which have been difficult during COVID-19, artists and craftspeople have taken a real financial hit to their livelihood,” she said.

Vendors this year include two local garden centers with plants and décor for sale, stained and reclaimed glass artists, soap and candle makers, and a wreath maker.

“We have just everything, anything and everything you could possibly need for your house or your garden that is outdoor or garden-inspired,” Huffman said.

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Breanna Grow is a correspondent for GLT. She joined the station in September 2018.
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