European garden blooms in Orland Park
Donna Vickroy email@example.com | (708) 633-5982 July 20, 2011 4:00PM
Gayle Bohne with her custom designed pergola enhanced backyard at her home in Orland Park. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
This summer, the
SouthtownStar is visiting local gardens for a
Updated: January 23, 2012 3:06AM
When Gayle Bohne moved into her newly built Orland Park home in 2003, she had no idea she was about to get a crash course in gardening.
“The only horticulture knowledge I possessed was about sweet corn: ‘Knee high by Fourth of July,’ ” she said.
Knowing that wouldn’t fly with her new homeowners association, she embarked on a journey of planting and moving and replanting and hoping for the best.
She simply didn’t believe plant labels that warned “shade only.”
She does now.
“I kept moving my plants around the yard finding that special place where they could thrive,” she said. “My yard was like Nordstrom’s department store where every day the sales girls move the merchandise to a new location.”
This went on for some time.
“For three months I diligently pampered the only plant that was in full throttle until a kind neighbor informed me I had the largest blooming WEED he had ever seen,” she said.
But now all that trial and error stuff is water under the bridge, or at least eight seasons ago.
Today, Bohne’s front yard is a passport to Provence. The pinks and purples and yellows engulf her ranch home, transporting visitors to the south of France.
“I really wanted that country farmhouse look,” she said.
She gets it through roses, balloon flowers, hostas, geraniums and black-eyed susans. There are also daisies and Russian sage and Wedgewood blue summer snapdragons.
“There’s a robin’s nest in every tree,” she said. “Heck, I’d live out here in a treehouse, too.”
As so often is the case, Gayle’s bright, animated personality is reflected in her yard work.
But there’s also a sentimental side to her that is evident throughout her property.
The lilies of the valley, as well as the bluebells, violets and jack-in-the-pulpit, are original to her mother’s house in Grayslake. They date back to the 1940s.
When Gayle moved to Palos Heights in 1968, she transplanted the bulbs. When she moved again to Orland, she brought them along.
The brick walkway leading to her home, which also is decorated to resemble a European cottage, is riddled with tiny johnny jump ups.
“They pop up everywhere,” she said. “There’s no fighting them.”
Gayle once taught journalism at Stagg High School in Palos Hills. She retired from teaching after a stint at Desert Mountain High School in Arizona, where she lived for a time.
After her husband, John Bohne, who owned Imperial Crane Service, died in 2003, she moved to Orland Park.
She has three sons and four grandchildren who absolutely love the backyard pool that looks like it was poached from a high-end resort.
She carries the European theme into the back, where a pergola covered patio casts unique shadows across the seating area, replete with flower containers.
“I love the shadows,” she said. “I love film noir.”
That explains the basement walk-out patio area that is covered in cobblestone and decorated with flowers and wrought iron decor.
“This is my French bistro,” she said.
A winding brick wall separates the pool area from the seating area.
She has music piped into the back, making each day’s two hours of yard work pass quickly.
“I don’t date because I can be done by 9 o’clock with my flowers,” she said laughingly, whereas a man would require more maintenance. Plus, if she gets tired of a plant, she can simply toss it out, she said.
The cottage theme runs throughout her home, as well.
Her father was a professor at the University of Illinois, in the school of agriculture.
One year, he sent packets of seeds to missionaries in Korea.
They sent photos back of the fruits of their labor.
Gayle’s mother painted a picture of one of those photos. That painting is hanging in her bedroom.
Chaos, the pitbull, gets his own bedroom.
Though her home looks like something out of French Country magazine, Gayle insists she is hardly an expert.
“This is God’s gift to me,” she said.
Still, she has to laugh at how far she’s come, from the early days when she sneaked out at 2 a.m. to sprinkle during a strict watering ban to her current picturesque state.
“I just do whatever’s pretty,” she said.