Oliver: McHenry County Garden Walk sure to plant seeds of inspiration

Novices, experienced gardeners alike sure to find some ideas to use during daylong event

With the increase in vaccinations for COVID-19 and the decrease in the number of infections in the area, more and more events and gatherings are being scheduled. And who isn’t happy about that?

Among the many returning events this year is one of my favorites: the McHenry County Garden Walk. Like a lot of things, it was canceled last year because of the pandemic.

Being that it is held outdoors, there was some hope that it still could have been put on last year. However, out of an abundance of caution, it was canceled. As hard as that decision must have been for organizers, no doubt it was the right one.

This year’s walk is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 10. Advanced tickets can be purchased online for $12 through July 1. After that, you’ll have to get them the day of the event for $17.

The event will feature nine gardens in the southeastern portion of the county. The organizers – the University of Illinois Extension McHenry County Master Gardeners and McHenry County College – like to rotate where the gardens are featured, so you’ll see something new each year.

The one constant is where it all starts: the MCC Demonstration Garden, which is located off parking lot C behind the college.

That’s where you’ll be able to pick up your ticket. You’ll need to do that because they aren’t going to be mailed out. And you’ll need that ticket at each of the gardens you visit.

All the years I’ve gone, the map and directions have been easy to follow and there’s always signage to direct you to each of the residential gardens. The tour is self-directed, so you can go to the gardens in the order they are laid out or you can do them in whatever order strikes your fancy. Since you have all day to get to all the gardens, you’ll probably want to consider a stop for a bite to eat, too.

At each stop, master gardeners are always on hand to answer any and all questions. The gardens also usually feature a lot of plant labels so that you’ll know what you’re looking at.

Since I’m a bit of a novice gardener and continue to be despite all the walks I’ve been on, I tend to ask a lot of questions. You’re encouraged to do that. I also take a lot of notes. You can do that, too. Photos? They allow that, so it’s a great excuse to work on your photography skills.

Needless to say, a lot of great ideas are just waiting to be gleaned. I particularly like the gardens that have whimsical touches. However, there’s really something for everyone.

Featured this year will be a vine garden, a shade garden, theme gardens, as well as displays of perennials and annuals that do well in the area.

Also not to be missed is the Hoffman Park garden in Cary, which is cared for by the Extension master gardeners. It has demonstration gardens, community plots and educational materials.

For those of us who are still a little hesitant about COVID-19, the organizers assure us that they are going to be following the University of Illinois and McHenry County College protocols for social distancing and masks. That means masks are required while touring the gardens. It’s also outdoors, so that should help as well.

Proceeds of the walk help to support the educational efforts of MCC and the McHenry County Extension.

To buy tickets in advance, call 815-455-8588 or go to Remember, you can do that through July 1. After that, you’ll have to get your ticket the day of the event.

For additional information, call 815-479-7570, visit or email

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.