Thursday, June 17, 2021

Natural wonders

Northville Garden Walk features floral perfection 

It's taken Dave and Pat Neil 31 years, but they finally have grass in their Northville back yard.

Of course, they also have a brick paver patio or two, a flagstone area, a stream trickling under a handmade blue bridge, a fireplace and grill along with two ponds connected by a waterfall and garden art.  Lots and lots of carefully installed and lovingly tended garden art and greenery designed over the years to somewhat camouflage the absence of grass in the back yard of their subdivision home.

“When we first bought the house, there was not much grass because we had so many trees,” Pat Neil said. The trees provided so much shade, grass simply would not grow in the space. The couple, who both love gardening, added the extensive hardscape features over the years along with numerous potted flowers and many other unique features, but still, they hoped for grass, which they both thought would add to the extensive artistry of their yard. 

After many unsuccessful tries in the heavily-shaded garden, last year they brought in yards and yards of black topsoil, carefully spread it everywhere it would complement the extensive work already done in the yard, seeded it with a grass variety designed to grow in shade, and to everyone's surprise, it sprouted into a luxurious living carpet of green.

“My parents loved gardening and my dad kept telling us we would never have grass here because we have so many trees and so much shade,” Neil said. “We were shocked because we thought it would never come in. But here it is.”

In addition to the ponds and patios, along with the extensive plantings, paths and trees, the back yard also features two fairy gardens which have proven a real attraction for their eight grandchildren, one of whom added some specially painted rocks to one of the footpaths recently. The garden also features a great many unique birdhouses along with gazing balls and other unique garden art.  Dave Neil took a welding class to help him fashion a huge bell with a gong that the couple'’s grandchildren enjoy.

While Pat admits she may spend a bit more time in the yard than Dave, she said for her it is a “labor of love.” She added that tending to the garden is great exercise, too, “and it so peaceful out there, listening to the birds. It's really a great stress reducer.” She said both she and her husband can be found in the yard most afternoons tending to the various plants or working on new art or plant additions. 

“Because of the trees, we are always in the shade, so it is always very comfortable,” she said. “That makes it even more enjoyable.” The couple also installed a cleverly adapted old door leading into the garden which is covered with family collectables, “and we have lots of other art,” Neil said. 

Their four adult children and their grandchildren enjoy the yard and the love of gardening seems to have been passed on to the younger generation who love visiting the Neil's garden for family gatherings.  Of course, the couple did install a zip line for the youngsters to allow them to fly over the entire garden which proved an irresistible attraction.

The couple will join four other spectacular home gardens on the Northville Garden Club 27th Annual Garden Walk.

The tour this year will take place from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 14, and will feature five private gardens including the Neil's with a bonus “Mini Walk” featuring six patio gardens.  Advance tickets are now on sale and are priced at $12. Tickets can be purchased at Gardenviews, 117 E. Main or online at 

The ticket price the day of the event is $15 and tickets will be sold at Northville Town Square 150 E. Main across from the downtown clock.  The event will also feature garden artisans and live music by Zachary Kreuz at Town Square. For more information, call (734) 788-9935.

Proceeds from the Garden Walk support local and national gardening organizations, civic beautification, and Northville High School scholarships.