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Sarah's Garden

"The Upper Garden is a national treasure, and a very rare and fragile artifact. What's incredibly special about the garden is that it is not a reproduction but a real, surviving fragment of the past…"

—Scott Kunst, Landscape Preservation Consultant and Historian.

Sarah Davis's starburst garden was unique in Bloomington and perhaps the Midwest because it was patterned after classical Italian gardens of the 17th century and formal English gardens of the 18th century. It is a unique, original garden that has the same location, design, pathways and beds, and at least seven original plants dating back to its creation in 1872.

McLean County Master Gardeners were honored for their volunteer efforts in the restoration of Sarah's Garden, a unique, 139-year-old garden which is still in its original location on the grounds of the David Davis Mansion State Historic Site in Bloomington. Sarah's Garden was recognized as the McLean County winner in History and Historic Preservation. The McLean County entry was also a Governor's Cup Finalist. Representatives from McLean County government and the Master Gardeners received an engraved plaque, and a road sign noting this achievement will be installed in Bloomington.

A group of 89 Master Gardeners volunteered 5,300 hours over the last five years. Their efforts earned them the Master Gardener State Teamwork Award. The Master Gardeners also mentored 124 4-H club members who served 718 hours working on the garden. Funds for seeds, fertilizer and other garden supplies come from the Glorious Garden Festival Garden Walk, an annual event, which netted approximately $15,000 for the restoration in 2010.

The restoration project has brought Sarah's Garden to the attention of 50,000 visitors annually. The garden's increased exposure to the public has in turn increased its educational value and taught visitors about the significance of the landscape and gardening in nineteenth-century America.

The Master Gardener program is sponsored by the University of Illinois Extension. Trained volunteers share unbiased, research-based horticultural information with home landscapers and gardeners of all ages.

The Governor's Home Town Award program is administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity and gives formal recognition to volunteer efforts to contribute to the quality of life in Illinois communities.

(L-R) McLean County Board Chairman Matt Sorensen, McLean County Administrator Bill Wasson, Master Gardeners Ellen Culver, Kay Henrichs, Jaci Dixon, Sharon Jaeger, Robin VanDermay, and Donna Thiel, with Dan Seals, assistant director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

House from the Garden, Historic Photo, cir. 1880s
House from the Garden, Historic Photo, cir. 1880s
Three Men in the Garden, 1912
Three Men in the Garden, 1912
Garden Today
Garden Today
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