In the Garden with Barb Socha

After missing this year’s Garden Walk and hearing about all of the magnificently elaborate and precisely landscaped garden patches featured this year, I must admit - I was envious. One in particular caught my attention, though, after my colleague and fellow Modern Prairie Woman contributor Dr. B raved about it in her Garden Walk recap. The photos alone were enough to convince me that I had to see this garden for myself, and speak to the woman who has created such a magical-looking oasis all on her own.

Barb agreed to meet with me on a sunny Thursday morning at her home in Philo, Illinois. It wasn’t long before I spotted the deep red (a beautifully unique color) of her house, which I later learned had originally been the town church - Barb and her then-husband had bought and renovated the church when they moved to Philo years back. The double lot that sits behind it (once a playground for the neighborhood children) provided Barb the perfect setting with which to begin her extensive gardening journey.

I followed Barb around back and was instantly blown away by the lush green escape - it was as if I was no longer in central Illinois. Everywhere I turned there was a new plant looking up (or down) at me, smells of lavender, thyme, and rosemary wafted from the herb patch, and bees and other pollinators buzzed happily throughout the copious varieties of flowers.

Photo by Dr. B

Photo by Dr. B

As Amy described in her tour of Barb’s garden, there are different ‘sections’ throughout based on types of plants and their needs. There is a large patch of towering pine trees providing shade to both the plants below and also to Barb and her guests who wish to sit and enjoy the view out of sunlight. There are flowers and ferns and trees and shrubs of all shapes and sizes, and there are pots of cacti and succulent and flower species dotted throughout. There is a wonderful little gazebo topped with the old church steeple nestled along the path. When I asked how many types of plants are in her garden, Barb replied with a chuckle that she couldn’t even come close to guessing!

Photo by Dr. B

Photo by Dr. B

Disclaimer: I am very new to the world of gardening. It wasn’t until a few years ago that it really began to spark my interest, and even now I face many challenges. Despite Barb’s perfectly orchestrated garden, she explained to me how it took time and patience to get to where she is now, and that everyone has to start somewhere. It begins with a passion for nature and helping things grow, and progresses through experience, trial and error, and reading many many books.

I felt the pressure ease when she described how not everything always works out they way you hope it will. For Barb, that empty double lot gave her the vision she needed to pursue her passion for gardening, and she hasn’t looked back, despite it’s challenges. She reminded me that it isn’t about perfection, it’s about enjoying time outside, loving nature and things that grow, and having fun.