McHENRY – Filling the empty yard of her Emerald Drive house became Jackie Homa’s project.
She planted all sorts of plants, gravitating to weeping trees, shrubbery with unusual shapes and flowering trees and bushes. Two islands were built along the Fox Lake and filled with more plants.
Then in October she came home and found a little letter on her door.
It was from the McHenry Garden Club, which had chosen her yard as its garden of the month.
“I was absolutely thrilled,” Homa said. “It was just so nice for me to think that these people who are garden experts like our yard.”
Two signs went up in her yard – one on the street side and one on the river – and Homa decided to join the McHenry Garden Club, something she had thought about doing before but never thought she was qualified for, and now serves on the committee that picks future garden of the month winners.
“I’ve really enjoyed it so far,” she said. “I look at it as a place to learn because I am certainly not an expert.”
Over the 10 years the garden club has existed, it has grown beyond its monthly meetings, during which guest speakers tackle different topics.
Its members plant and maintain the vegetable gardens and other landscaping at Petersen Farm, club President Judy Walter said. A lot of the bushes around the house came from members’ gardens.
They also maintain some of the landscaping at city parks, in particular around the entrance signs.
They landscaped and built four raised beds for a vegetable garden for the veterans housed at New Horizons transitional living facility in Hebron, showing them how to plant, what to plant and what to watch for, Walter said.
They also put together flower arrangements to take over to the hospice patients at Alden Terrace of McHenry each month.
They host educational programs at the McHenry Public Library and donate books, mostly on gardening, to the library.
But as a former high school math teacher, Walter’s favorite is the two to four scholarships they provide each year to McHenry students majoring in horticulture.
“It feels like this club goes overboard gardenwise to benefit the community,” said Walter, who joined in 2008, a couple of years after she moved to McHenry.
The club is a “wonderful mixture of women,” both young and old.
“We are not – I repeat we are not – old ladies sitting around eating crumpets,” Walter said. “We get our hands dirty.”