Barb Gyarmathy was amazed earlier this year that renowned landscape designer Roy Diblik had agreed to come to the Beverly Arts Center (BAC) to speak to members of the Garden Club of Morgan Park/Beverly Hills and other residents who have a green thumb.
Now, she’s overjoyed that Diblik has designed one of his vintage gardens that is being created in the courtyard at the BAC, 2407 W. 111th St.
Since his visit five months ago, Diblik has returned twice to work with the garden club to install the “Roy Diblik Garden of Living Art.”
The latest gathering was on Aug. 3 for a day of planting. Diblik first visited the BAC on March 6 to talk about his latest book, “Coming to Know Plants: Understanding Plant Relationships in the Garden.”
Gyarmathy said attendance at the BAC presentation was great.
“We almost filled the Baffes Theatre,” Gyarmathy said. “People were waiting an hour afterwards to speak with him. Those who know him are just amazed that he’s doing this. This is just so exciting for the South Side and especially for Beverly.”
Diblik’s installations can be seen at several prominent locations in the city, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Shedd Aquarium and the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park, where Gyarmathy he is employed.
Diblik, a Berwyn native, was the plant purchasing coordinator for the Lurie Garden, and he grew over 11,000 of the plants used in the first planting there in 2003.
The garden at the BAC, which is situated in the northwest portion of its courtyard, is full of perennials and native plants, including four hydrangeas, 12 alliums, 15 calamintha nepetas, echinacea, salvia and sesleria, a perennial plant in the grass family.
Gyarmathy was thrilled watching plans come together, she said, as Diblik took the ideas in his head and then began drilling holes and positioning plants around the space, creating what she called a “mini Lurie Garden.”
When planting perennial gardens, botanists agree that results develop over three years, as the garden “sleeps, creeps, then leaps.”
Gyarmathy said Diblik wanted “color for all seasons” in the BAC garden, and she believes the plantings will thrive.
“All these plants are 3 years old, so they’re relatively mature,” Gyarmathy said. “It’s not like they’re tiny baby plugs.”
Diblik began planting with club members on April 9, when they cleared brush, laid down biodegradable cardboard that will provide nutrients and keep weeds from growing, and then spread mulch.
Gyarmathy said Diblik is donating his work, with the club providing $500 for supplies.
She said the garden design reflects “new wave planting” that can thrive in neighborhoods such as Beverly/Morgan Park.
“Urban cities are doing this because it’s a lot more suitable over time,” Gyarmathy said. “It needs a lot less maintenance and water.”
Diblik also wrote “The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden,” which lists 62 plants, both sun-loving and shade-loving, along with their “first dates,” other plants that co-exist in a healthy garden that requires little maintenance.
Diblik has gardened since he was a young boy planting kohlrabi seeds alongside the family garage with his grandmother.
He earned a degree in outdoor education from Western Illinois University, then worked as a groundskeeper with the St. Charles Park District, where he said he learned an important lesson.
“It’s all about the maintenance,” he said.
In 1979, Diblik began working at The Natural Garden, a nursery in St. Charles, Ill., and he grew thousands of plants. In 1991, he and others opened Northwind Perennial Farms in Burlington, Wisc., and it grows over 400,000 plants every year.
He enjoys growing seeds outside, instead of inside modernized greenhouses. He said he tells gardeners to focus on being patient and using native plants, instead of new and exotic varieties.
Plants, he said, can be self-sufficient.
“Stop thinking of plants as individual cultivars and create communities of compatible and self-reliant perennials that can happily co-exist, as they did in nature,” he said. “I had never considered how beautifully native plants lived among themselves in strong healthy communities that have thrived on their own for millennia with no human intervention.
“They share their own language, one that we have either ignored or misread.”
Diblik will be in attendance for the dedication of the Roy Diblik Garden of Living Art on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 10 a.m., at the BAC.
For more information, email Gyarmathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is part of The Beverly Review's annual special section "The Good News."