Day of discoveries

Mary Wicoff|Commercial-NewsLee Smitley, a Master Gardener, tends to the new Gravel Bed Tree Stewardship program at Douglas Discovery Garden. The trees will be transplanted elsewhere in the city after they have grown more.

DANVILLE — It’s a community garden, where people are invited to rest in the shade, enjoy the flowers, pick the vegetables and lend a hand when possible.

On Sunday, you can do all that and more at the Douglas Discovery Garden Festival. The event will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the garden on the north side of Douglas Park, Wayne and Florida streets.

The free event will feature rides in antique cards, a barbecue meal, unique vendors, a demonstration on salad making, the chance to buy plants and seed packets, a butterfly display and new features at the garden.

Discovery Garden is part of the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners’ Garden Walk, and tickets to the eight sites on the walk will be for sale that day. However, there is no charge and no ticket required to visit the Discovery Garden and enjoy the festival.

As a special feature, anyone who has been associated with Douglas School in any way — such as student, teacher, administrator, staff, neighbor — will have a chance to create a memory ribbon. Sign your name and dates to remember on the ribbon, and tie it to a garden tree.

“We hope to fill many trees with your memories,” said Lynn Wolgamot, executive director of the garden and a Master Gardener who has been involved since its inception.

If you can’t be present on Sunday, contact a garden volunteer who will prepare a ribbon for you.

At 11 a.m., there will be a special dedication of a plaque honoring Douglas Elementary School. This is happening thanks to the generosity of a Douglas School alum, Pete Holtz, class of 1960. He came across a Douglas School sign and had Adams Memorials make a plaque out of it.

“We wanted to show our appreciation,” Wolgamot said. “This used to be a school. Now, it’s changed into a community garden.”

Besides enjoying the festival, people will find this is a good spot to acquire garden ideas, see student-grown raised vegetable beds, view grape vineyards, fruit trees and pollinator pockets.

“This is the Discovery Garden and we need to discover different things,” Wolgamot said.

Something new this year is a “Trees for Danville” gravel tree bed. Seedling trees are planted in spring, and then replanted in the fall when their roots are bigger.

“The objective is to get a larger root mass for better survival rate,” said Master Gardener Lee Smitley, who spends hours at the garden. “There’s a diverse variety of fast-growing trees here, all native to Illinois.”

There are 100 trees, and are all different. They have tags with their names, such as white oak, river birch, bald cypress and thornless honeysuckle.

This is one of only two gravel tree bed projects in Illinois, with the other one being at Dr. Tom Halloran’s home. Halloran is founder of the nonprofit Trees for Danville, and gave the garden a grant for the foundation of railroad ties and gravel.

The U of I Extension and Keep Vermilion County Beautiful provided a grant for the trees. Berry’s Garden Center helped put in the automatic sprinkler system. Steve Lane with the City of Danville also is an active partner.

Visitors also will see succulent gardens in horse troughs, an orchard, beds maintained by young people — including students at Kenneth D. Bailey Academy, the Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom and Peer Court.

A second walkway will be built to Wayne Street so the park is accessible to everyone.

“It’s very interesting out here,” Wolgamot said, adding that the accessible walkway will let more people enjoy it, regardless of mobility.

She encouraged people to volunteer or serve on the board

“We want to have a showplace for the east end,” she said. “We want people to come enjoy it.”

Here are the festival attractions:

▪ Experience an antique car ride

▪ Purchase a freshly prepared pork sausage sandwich, hamburger or hot dog

▪ Visit the garden vendors: antiques of all kinds — country, primitive, vintage, architectural items, garden art, handmade soap, popular dulcimer players and more

▪ Susan Biggs Warner with the Vermilion County Conservation District will demonstrate how to prepare salads direct from the garden

▪ A monarch butterfly display will have prepared milkweed plants and seed packets available to purchase.


In 2006, Douglas Discovery Garden was just an idea. Several U of I Extension Vermilion County Master Gardeners who once taught at Douglas Elementary School wanted to create something special when the building was torn down. They envisioned a place that could continue to be an educational venue for the community, much as the school once was.

These volunteers partnered with the City of Danville and local organizations to create the Douglas Discovery Garden. Over the years, the committee has created a large community garden, and Master Gardeners have volunteered more than 3,000 hours to help the garden grow to include a pergola, keyhole gardens, raised beds, pollinator pockets, a prairie and a small orchard.


To serve on the Douglas Discovery Garden board, volunteer or for more information, call Lynn Wolgamot at 260-3483 or email

Those interested also can visit the U of I Extension at 3164 N. Vermilion St. or call 442-8615.

From Interstate-74, take Bowman Avenue North, then turn left onto Wayne Street, on the north side of Douglas Park. The garden is at the corner of Wayne and Florida streets.