You’ll Love These 4 Decatur Gardens

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    The Scovill Sculpture Park & Gazebo Garden in Decatur IL

Join us as Flower Chick travels to central Illinois to spotlight four beautiful Decatur gardens!

As part of our ongoing “Visiting Midwest Gardens” series, we head south from Chicago’s western suburbs to enjoy a day in Decatur, Illinois. This city of 70,000 residents is tucked between Champaign and Springfield just off Interstate 72 …

In addition to several notable local businesses we’ll feature for you, Decatur is well known for their industrious and highly efficient Park District. The Decatur Park District oversees and maintains several botanical destinations around the city … all of which are beloved by locals and out of town visitors (like Flower Chick).

Did You Know? Decatur’s slogan is “Pride of the Prairie” and locals are known as “Decaturites” …

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  A Painted Lady Butterfly Spotted At Schaub Display Gardens

The city plays a prominent role in agricultural commodity processing and construction. Major employers like Archer Daniels Midland, Tate and Lyle, and Caterpillar all have a large presence in Decatur. It’s also the home of Milliken University, a four year college whose campus lies just west of downtown …

Decatur also has an important Abraham Lincoln connection as the city was the site of Lincoln’s first adulthood home. The future U.S. President located here in 1820 at age 21 …

Did You Know? Decatur is named in honor of Commodore Stephen Decatur, an early American naval war hero …

Decatur’s Gardens

Each of the four Decatur IL gardens we spotlight here are expertly maintained by the Decatur Parks District. We love featuring public gardens here at Flower Chick – they’re accessible and available to anyone!

Decatur is a fairly easy city to get around, so these four gardens can be easily explored in the course of a day. Decatur’s most prominent natural feature is Lake Decatur, a man made lake created in the early 1920’s. Two of Decatur’s best known parks, Nelson Park (north shore) and Scovill Park (south shore) are adjacent to the lake, which is a prime source of recreation for Decaturites …

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            Scenic View Of Lake Decatur From Nelson Park

Here’s a virtual tour of Decatur’s most prominent public gardens. By car, they’re only ten minutes apart from one another. Here we go!

Anna Bethel Fisher Rock Garden – Nelson Park

Beautiful Nelson Park sits on the north shore of Lake Decatur, only a short distance from downtown. We’re so pleased to see all the new lakefront development taking place here! The park land was carefully included in the planning process, which brought Decatur a new concert amphitheater along with lake front living and dining options …

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           Love This Sea of Various Purple Plants By The Amphitheater

Fittingly, the Anna Bethel Fisher Rock Garden is Decatur’s most popular horticultural site. It’s also the longest established public garden in the city, dating back to 1927 …

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The garden’s rose arbor, located on the east side, overlooks Lake Decatur. There’s a focused emphasis on native plants throughout the garden and great consideration is given to ease of maintenance …

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Did You Know? Once known as the Nelson Park Rock Garden, this horticultural showcase sits on the former site of a gravel pit …

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A Lovely Mix Of Annuals & Perennials Welcome You To The Rock Garden

The beautiful garden you see now is the direct result of significant renovation efforts and generous public contributions that began in the 1980’s. The Rock Garden was completely updated to make it more physically accessible, while remaining true to the garden’s original late 1920’s design.

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  Beautiful Hibiscus and Butterfly Weed Beckon Many Pollinators

The layout of the garden is very impressive with winding paths and varying heights of colorful floral displays nestled in the rocks.  There are benches to rest a bit and take in the picturesque setting.

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A Peaceful Setting Peppered By Multihued Seasonal Flower Beds

In the photo below, you can really see how The Rock Garden earned its name.  Today, the area is home to stately cypress trees that provide shade for a variety of flowering plants nestled among the boulders.

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If you are in or near Decatur, you don’t want to miss the Anna Bethel Fisher Rock Garden in Nelson Park!

Scovill Oriental Garden & Gazebo – Scovill Park

Scovill Oriental Garden is perhaps the best known of these four Decatur gardens. Part of the reason is its setting – Scovill Park, located on Lake Decatur’s south shore, is also the home to the popular Scovill Park Zoo.

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The site of a former farm, the Scovill family deeded their property to the Decatur Park District in 1948. For the last 70+ years, Scovill Park has been one of the city’s primary recreation areas …

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             The Peaceful & Picturesque Oriental Garden in Scovill Park

The Oriental Garden dates back almost a hundred years. It was originally developed in the 1920’s and was completely refurbished by Decatur Parks in 2015 …

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Actually, Scovill Park’s Oriental Garden isn’t the only horticultural attraction in the park. The Gazebo Garden, situated nearby, is another must see. A popular photo shoot location, the Gazebo Garden is resplendent with stately trees and showy flower beds brimming with perennials and annuals …

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Dappled Shade In The Oriental Garden Plays Off Of The Hardy Hostas

Most of the sculptures on display are rotated in and out of circulation every two years. This provides greater opportunity to display new works of art and keeps things “fresh” for park visitors …

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Take Your Time Walking Through The Creative Sculpture Garden

It’s an imaginative mix of ideas and materials used in the making of the talented and detailed pieces of art.  As dog lovers, we were captivated by the playful pitbull fixated on his favorite ball depicted below …

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Schaub Display Gardens – Sportsmans Park

You’ll find the Schaub Display Gardens in Decatur’s Sportsmans Park, just two blocks west of The Garden Path (spotlighted below). Flower Chick particularly wanted to visit here because this is where all the flowers adorning Decatur’s parks are propagated.

Discover These Unique Accents To Make Your Garden Shine … Click Here

The industrious Decatur Park District horticultural staff propagates 10,000 plants in this high tech greenhouse facility annually … whew!

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A Pleasant Surprise To See A Mix of Succulents Growing In The Beds!

Yes, you can grow some species of cacti outdoors in Zones 5 / 6.  Flower Chick was delighted to see Prickly Pear cactus and Yucca thriving at Schaub.

Cacti Growing Tips:  Plant cactus in well-drained soil. Cactus planted in moist, poorly drained soil will soon rot.  Mixing native soil generously with coarse sand will also improve drainage. Don’t mulch the soil around cacti. However, you can top-dress the soil with a thin layer of pebbles or gravel.

Check Out These Hardy Succulents For Indoors Or Outdoors – See Them Here

After walking around the outdoor display gardens, venture inside the building adjacent to the greenhouse … to view tropical plants and a charming fish pond (pictured below).

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Fairview Park Rose Garden – Fairview Park

Located slightly west of the Milliken University campus and downtown Decatur in spacious Fairview Park, this pocket sized rose garden can be found on the western edge of the park’s circular drive.

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The Pretty Fairview Park Rose Garden Adorned With Shrubs & Perennials

Fairview is Decatur’s most historic park, dating back to 1857. Its 180+ acres include a small lake, aquatic center, dog park, and a popular biking and running trail …

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Plenty Of Benches To Rest & Take In The Beauty of Fairview Park

The rose garden has expanded in recent years with the addition of hedges, perennials, and annuals as you can see. The Decatur Park District horticultural staff renovated the garden and coordinated growing and transporting plants from the Schaub Floral Display Garden greenhouse …

Plant Your Own Rose Garden … Begin With These Quality Shrubs That Do Well In Zone 5 / 6

Decatur Gardens: Cooperation & Community Partnership

Flower Chick is very pleased to highlight the wonderful partnerships between the Decatur community and the Park District to keep these gardens in tip top shape. Here are just a few examples:

– The Decatur Park District encourages volunteer gardening groups to help maintain all of these beautiful gardens. A true community partnership which benefits all!

– In Scovill Park, itself a land donation in 1948, the works of art spotlight Decatur area and Milliken University artists. A private philanthropist funded much of the park’s sculpture project, and steel is fabricated locally …

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– Fairview Park Rose Garden continues to benefit from the kind generosity of a community minded local family …

– The Schaub Floral Display Center and Greenhouse was made possible by significant contributions from the Schaub family, who have long time roots here in Decatur …

These successful public – private partnerships underscore the great work of the Decatur Park District. The District effectively communicates their needs to the Decatur community, who in turn recognize the value of public gardens and respond accordingly. Park District horticulture staff supplies much of the labor … and the end results are showcased in the beautiful photos you see here in this travelogue. Kudos to all involved … Bravo Decatur!

Time Out For A Little Decatur Shopping

Cedar Lake Gardens & Gifts: This combination garden center and gift shop can be found on Decatur’s north east side. It’s easy to reach coming into town. Exit Interstate 72 at Highway 48 and proceed to the first main intersection, Mound Road. Cedar Lake Gardens & Gifts is on your left …

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Shop For All Your Gardening Needs at Cedar Lake Gardens & Gifts

Flower Chick naturally loves garden stores and this one is charming with an interesting mix of decor, gift ideas, gardening accessories and, of course, seasonal plants for inside and out.  Cute garden statues and signs, whimsical holiday decorations, attractive pots for plants, fragrant soaps,  windchimes, and birdhouses caught my eye in the gift shop.

Every winter the staff goes to independent garden center buyer shows to seek out new goods from distributors who specialize in unique products for small gift stores.  Come check them out … you won’t leave empty handed!

Make Your Yard Sparkle With These Enchanting Lights – View Them All Here

As you get further into town, Highway 48 becomes 22nd Street. It then intersects Decatur’s most prominent east – west thoroughfare, El Dorado Street. From here you’re just 5 minutes from downtown …

Did You Know? When you arrive at the intersection of 22nd Street and El Dorado, you’re at the manufacturing plant of Tate & Lyle, one of Decatur’s largest employers. Staley Field, the original home of the now Chicago Bears N.F.L. franchise, was formerly located right here on part of the site’s northwest corner …

Del’s Popcorn: Perhaps Decatur’s best known local businesses, Del’s Popcorn was established in 1934. Almost 90 years later, Del’s continues to bring smiles to the Decatur community with freshly popped popcorn, house made fudge, caramel apples, and other delectable treats …

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Del’s is located on Merchant Street, downtown Decatur’s center for shopping and dining. Here you’ll find an array of independent shops and several dining options. Anchored near the center of Merchant, Del’s is instantly recognizable by their very cool retro signage. Once inside, your taste buds awaken from the aroma of fresh popcorn, available in several fun and tasty varieties.

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We Purchased Cheese, 3 of A Kind, and Charmel Popcorns at Del’s

We particularly enjoy the Del’s “Charmel Corn”, a scrumptious blend of cheddar cheese popcorn with caramel coating. Don’t miss the fudge or the many mixed nut varieties either … whatever your snacking preference, Del’s fits the bill.

Simply stated, Del’s is a great place and a must visit any time you’re in Decatur!

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Giggles:  You’ll find Giggles just a few doors down from Del’s on Merchant Street.  It’s a fun and inviting gift shop & bakery – Giggles has a little something for everyone! What makes Giggles stand out from the rest is their ability to personalize just about everything:  Christmas ornaments, tote bags, piggy banks, invitations, games … lots of amazing things.

There’s A Lot To Smile About At Giggles On Merchant Street!

It’s a cheery store with plenty of choices from kid’s party favors to adult drinking games. There’s crazy socks, gifts for dog lovers, stocking stuffers, cool toys, darling baby clothes, dip mixes, and a lot more.

The bakery items looked super yummy … homemade cookies, donuts, cupcakes, and brownies.  You can stop in for a grab & go goody, or place a large order for a party. I could go for one of their salted caramel treats right about now!

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The Garden Path: Just two blocks from the Schaub Display Gardens, The Garden Path is best described as a mini botanical garden. Here you’ll find 2 acres of display gardens, including idea and healing gardens, hostas, bird and butterfly gardens, and sun / shade gardens. A spectacular site, most of the plants on display are available in the adjacent garden center …

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     This Clever Display At The Garden Path Made Us Smile!

Stroll around The Garden Path to gather inspiration for your own yards.  The number of colors and textures in their beds will give you some great ideas. Need additional assistance?  The helpful staff can answer your questions and offer suggestions. Call for an appointment for a free landscape design!

Cozy Up In Your Backyard Oasis No Matter The Temperature – Check Out These Awesome Fire Pits!

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Delightful Mix Of Perennials, Annuals, and Shrubs In The Sun Garden

Worn Again: Flower Chick enjoyed shopping at this neat and clean consignment store. A nice selection of gently worn clothing attractively arranged by type and size. You’ll find women’s, junior’s, and some men’s clothes, as well as shoes, handbags, jewelry, jackets, and much more.

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Find Great Deals On Clothing & Accessories At Worn Again In Decatur

I was pleased to pick up a stylish, never worn Talbot’s shirt with a butterfly print (right down my alley ; ) and two other designer tops.  All in great condition and very reasonably priced.  Definitely worth stopping in to discover some good bargains at Worn Again.

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A Step Into Decatur’s History

The Staley Museum: Located adjacent to the Milliken University campus, this handsome mansion is the former home of A. E. Staley, one of the best known citizens and benefactors in Decatur’s history …

Mr. Staley was the founder and owner of Staley Corn Products (now Tate and Lyle) in Decatur. This large agricultural processing firm is known world wide, particularly for soy bean processing. It all started with Staley Corn Products and to this day, Decatur is still a leading processor of soy beans …

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You can visit and tour the Staley mansion and see exhibits about his ongoing influence in the community. We were particularly interested to learn that Mr. Staley was a world class rosarian – at one time the grounds of his home offered a breathtaking display of hundreds of roses …

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Did You Know? Decatur was the original home of the National Football League’s Chicago Bears. Originally known as the Decatur Staleys, the team was founded as a company sponsored team by A.E. Staley. Mr. Staley coordinated the team’s move to Chicago in 1921 along with the guidance of football legend George Halas …

Krekel’s Custard: A beloved central Illinois tradition, Krekel’s has churned out delicious burgers and dairy treats since 1949.

With eight central Illinois locations, Krekel’s is synonymous with Decatur. Their legendary burgers are made fresh to order, and pair well with over a dozen flavors of milk shakes. Krekel’s is also well known for their home made chili, sundaes, and of course, custard …

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Save Room For Mouth-Watering Treats At Krekel’s Custard

We love visiting Krekel’s original location on Wood Street a few blocks east of downtown. Still owned and operated by members of the Krekel family, it’s the ideal place for a quick inexpensive lunch or afternoon treat …

Insider Tip: Enjoy a “swirl” cone here at Kregel’s … mix and match two flavors and get the best of both worlds. We particularly like the strawberry & lemon combination …

A popular family friendly destination, Krekel’s is treasured by the community. It’s usually the first stop for former Decatur natives revisiting the city … and we can understand why!

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The Oldest Bar In Decatur IL …

Lincoln Square Lounge: Just a block from Del’s Popcorn and bustling Merchant Street is our favorite Decatur lunch stop and watering hole, the Lincoln Square Lounge …

This establishment received Decatur’s first liquor license after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. The Lincoln Square Lounge is family owned and operated and in fact, has been in the same family its entire existence. It’s the oldest and most continuously operating bar in Decatur, IL. A proud achievement!

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Friendly Service, Great Drinks, and Tasty Food At Lincoln Square Lounge

Serving lunch and dinner, you’ll enjoy Decatur’s best Greek food here. Lincoln Square Lounge is famous for their gyros, carved thin and served with fantastic tzatziki sauce and warm pita bread slices …

Insider Tip: If it’s available, be sure to order the saganaki appetizer. If you’ve never had saganaki, it’s a creamy Greek style cheese cut into squares, lightly fried, and traditionally flamed at your table side … Opa!!

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Wildflour Artisan Bakery & Cafe: Established in 2010, this wonderful bakery, cafe, and local gathering place is under enthusiastic new ownership. You’ll find Wildflour (love the name!) just a block and a half west of Lincoln Square Lounge (and the heart of downtown) in the Decatur Historic District …

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Enjoy Coffee, Teas, Breakfast / Lunch Delicacies and More at Wildflour

We stopped in right after having lunch at Lincoln Square Lounge. An inviting and relaxed space, Wildflour is the perfect downtown Decatur destination for savoring a cup of coffee or partaking in their daily lunch specials. If it’s fresh baked goods you’re seeking, you’ll find them here.

We picked up two mini loaves of freshly baked bread (perfect for morning toast) and a few items from Wildflour’s sweets case. If the weather is cooperative, there’s a few decorative wrought iron tables and chairs just outside the entrance to sit and savor your purchases …

Get Comfy With Your Coffee & Fresh Baked Treats Wearing These … See These Conversation Pieces Here!

Summary – Decatur Gardens

Flower Chick’s navigator and tour guide (actually my husband Jim) has a long standing connection with Decatur from his insurance company days. We were so pleased to revisit “The Pride of the Prairie” and spotlight the wonderful efforts of Decatur’s Park District …

Decatur is an easy day trip destination from Springfield, Champaign, or Peoria. The city is very proud of its natural attractions, local businesses, and rich history …

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If your travels take you anywhere near central Illinois, add Decatur to your plans. The Decatur gardens we’ve spotlighted are reason enough to visit … add in a few of the city’s wonderful local businesses and you’ve got the agenda for a great day or fun overnight trip.

Inspired To Spiff Up Your Own Garden? Discover These Green Thumb Helpers…See Them Here

We hope your gardening sensibilities are inspired by these beautiful Decatur gardens. For even more inspiration, check out any of our other “Visiting Midwest Gardens” features … there’s a few linked at the bottom of this page or check out the drop down menu atop the site.

Thanks for joining us on our Decatur gardens tour!

Special thanks to Clay Gerhard of the Decatur Park District for providing background and historical information for this feature …

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  1. Marsha Sanders-Hoover

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