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Mid-summer: the word brings to mind bright sunshine, fragrant blossoms nodding under the careful attention of graceful butterflies and fuzzy bumblebees, and long days spent enjoying outdoor activities. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than within a garden.
While helping to bring life back to the warming Earth in springtime by planting flowers, herbs and vegetables can be intensely rewarding, a garden in the throes of its colorful, riotous mid-summer glory - whether wild or well-ordered, tiny or massive, suburban or rural - carries a unique charm all its own.
Depending on temperature and precipitation in the preceding months, many favorite garden vegetables - including tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and carrots - are ripe and ready to enjoy come July and August, whether fresh-picked and raw or as part of a delicious main dish, appetizer or side.
Summer is also a popular time for families to visit orchards to pick their own fruits, with raspberry, peach and blueberry season in Illinois typically kicking off in July and apple and pear availability usually beginning in August. Dozens of options for filling baskets with nature’s delectable treats are available within a short drive from Geneva, and the Geneva French Market - which runs on Sundays April through November, just down the road from GreenFields Geneva - is also a wonderful place to score some fresh-picked favorites!
Vegetable and flower gardens maintain a perennial appeal, but theme gardens, in which every element supports a specific concept, have also been gaining popularity among enthusiasts looking to try their hand - or green thumb - at expressing their creative side via plants and their environs. Theme gardens can be planted, for instance, to showcase a favorite color palette, give a nod to a favorite sports team, cultivate ingredients for a favorite dish, even pay homage to Shakespeare and his legendary “Midsummer Night’s Dream” - with a fairy garden, naturally. Fairy gardens, in addition to being whimsical, are by definition tiny, making them a perfect pursuit for gardeners with limited - or indoor-only - space. With an ever-growing catalog of diminutive accessories and pint-sized plants available for purchase, fairy gardens can also offer a fun way for grandparents to introduce young grandchildren to the magic of gardening - especially if evidence of a visiting “fairy” turns up every now and again.
With the myriad benefits that tending or even just spending time in a garden confers - including increasing much-needed Vitamin D intake, engaging the senses, fostering a sense of relaxation and well-being and much more - it’s no wonder GreenFields Geneva residents so enjoyed their midsummer visit to the aptly named Healing Garden at Stone Hill Farms. The vibrant retirement community offers numerous opportunities throughout the year for residents to get out and about and enjoy a variety of events and activities in and around Geneva.
If you love the idea of starting a garden, there’s no need to wait until spring rolls around. A variety of vegetables can be planted in late summer, and a technique called summer succession planting, which entails planting specific heat-hardy specimens such as Bulldog collard and Peppermint Swiss chard at the calendar’s halfway point, can ensure a continuing harvest.
Getting started doesn’t need to be daunting, either; staff at local gardening stores and members of groups like the Geneva Garden Club are always happy to answer questions and help with plant selection, and a plethora of gardening websites and YouTube channels place a wealth of resources right at your fingertips. Don’t have the time or space to start a garden at home? Check to see if your local park district offers community garden plots like those maintained by the Geneva Park District.
While the pandemic planted the seeds for gardening’s surge in popularity in 2020 as people sought new ways to keep busy and beautify their surroundings, the trend has continued in 2021 - and with people of all ages having found comfort, solace and a sense of purpose in the activity, it may end up having deep roots that continue to blossom.