The Edwardsville couple will be taking part in the Edwardsville-Glen Carbon Area Garden Tour

Gardening comes naturally to Chris Smejkal and he enjoys sharing his passion with others.

Smejkal and his wife Dana Cattani have a home garden in Edwardsville that is one of eight selected for the 22nd Annual Edwardsville-Glen Carbon Area Garden Tour June 10-11. The event includes seven home gardens as well as the garden of the Edwardsville Children’s Museum.

“I’ve been gardening for over 20 years and my mom is a master gardener, so I grew up in a gardening family,” said Smejkal, the communications director at St. Louis Community College’s Meramec campus. “One day I just started tinkering in the garden and it’s been growing ever since.

“I was first asked in 2010 to be on the Garden Tour for 12 years and I was just asked again. I’m happy to be a part of it. There are many whimsical, creative, handcrafted elements in my garden. It’s very unique and I change something every year.”

Smejkal’s garden is listed as Garden E for the tour, which takes place on Friday 10 June from 4pm to 8pm and 9am. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 11.

Smejkal added that this year’s garden is not 100% ready but he hopes it will be ready for the Garden Tour.

“I have a detached garage in the back that I want to paint and I still have to do a bit of tinkering in the yard,” says Smejkal, who has lived in the house since 1998. “I would like to add a bit of color around the house to make everything look nice.

“I’ve been working on getting most of this done for the past few weeks. I don’t want to wait until the last minute.”

Smejkal noted that the garden tour is not only a treat for “serious” gardeners like him, but also for people thinking about getting into gardening.

“What I like about this shipyard is that it shows everyone that you can do pretty much anything on a budget,” said Smejkal. “I do everything myself and it’s been organic all along and constantly changing.

“It’s important that people see what can be done without a lot of background knowledge or skill. I like that people can come here and get ideas for their own garden.”

Smejkal disproved the notion that maintaining a large garden is necessarily more time-consuming than maintaining a large lawn.

“People probably spend a few hours a week mowing, and I probably spend a fraction of that time tending the garden and pulling a few weeds each week,” Smejkal said. “I have a postage stamp sized patch of grass in my front yard and that’s it. That’s all I want and I take the weedwhacker and it’s ready in 10 minutes.”

“It looks very detailed, but it’s actually very low maintenance,” adds Cattani, who works at the Macoupin Art Collective in Staunton. “The way he designed it and the choices he made makes it so there’s some maintenance early in the year to get it going, but after that there’s very little .

Unlike Smejkal, Cattani didn’t do much gardening during her childhood.

“Both of my grandparents had huge Italian vegetable gardens, but this is all new to me,” Cattani said. “It’s Chris’ passion and he’s happiest when he’s gardening.”

Hostas are one of the best examples of Smejkal’s low-maintenance philosophy, and they come in a variety of shades, shapes and sizes.

“I have six or seven different hosta varieties here and I mix in bell peppers and different types of ferns,” Smejkal said. “Also, you can’t kill hostas – they’re very hardy. I even put them in pots and put the pots in the woods next to my garden around October every year.

“They grow back from the clumps early in the year. I put them right back in the pots.”

Smejkal’s garden decoration includes a raised pot which, like most of his decorations, he created himself.

“I had an old post and I cut it off and there was a drainage hole at the bottom of the pot,” Smejkal said. “I took the foot that fits under a chair and used it as a washer, screwed it into the pot and made some drainage holes in it.”

Smjejkal’s side yard, on the other hand, is something he’s invested a lot of time into over the past three years.

“I redesigned the whole side yard because I was never satisfied with it,” said Smejkal. “The landscape is difficult and sloping, so I fill it in with lots of native plants. I’m trying to get more involved with native plants and I think that’s super important. I try not to include anything that is not native.”

The garden bench in the side courtyard made of wooden planks and cinder blocks is another of Smejkal’s creations.

“Cinder blocks are about $2 apiece and lumber is more expensive now, but I probably paid $30 total,” said Smejkal, adding that he and his wife are donating free homemade garden stakes for sale at the Garden Tour. “We wanted a bench seat, but we kept shopping and they were $200.”

Smejkal’s property extends about another 10 or 15 feet beyond the side yard and into a ditch, and he was thinking of a way to fence it off. He considered building a small wall, but after considering the cost of lumber and maintenance, he came up with a better solution.

“I got some flagstones, turned them on their sides and made a natural partition. I like the way it looks,” said Smejkal.

“The side garden isn’t a mature garden, but it gives people an idea of ​​what can be achieved in just a few years of planting. It’ll be very mature in about two years, but it’s a lot fuller than it was last year.”

The garden shed in the backyard is another intriguing feature of Smejkal’s estate.

“My brother and I built this shed. It has electricity and we can store all our garden tools in it, along with camping supplies on the other side,” said Smejkal. “We have a small side business with ceramics and we also stock tables and chairs when we go to events.

“I wanted something completely unique and we have Centennial Farm in O’Fallon which has been in my family for 100 years. The windows are from a house that was there and they still have the original class which is probably 130 years old.”

Smejkal is always looking for antiques or other items to display in the shed or use in the garden.

“I like exploring old abandoned buildings and taking photos in these places,” said Smejkal. “Some of the things I use are things I find on the ground and try to salvage so they don’t end up in a dumpster.”

Smejkal’s backyard includes a herb garden, a vegetable garden and a flower garden.

“We use herbs all the time to make sauces and liqueurs and all sorts of other things,” Smejkal said.

The vegetable garden and flower garden are surrounded by a wooden fence that Smejkal built to keep animals away.

“I custom built this star fence using about 150 cedar slats and I just cut each of them to get the star shape,” Smejkal said. “I cut each one individually, so I guess I was a glutton for punishment.

“I just completed a whimsical tower (between the flower garden and the vegetable garden) made from small wooden blocks of different colors on a metal pole. I decided to count how many there are and there are 46 blocks, which is funny because I’m 46 years old. Each individual block can rotate, and at the bottom of the pole are cinder blocks with herbs planted in them.”

The backyard has an enclosed patio as well as a back porch where people can sit while touring the garden.

“We have a small water feature in the courtyard and Christmas lights in a few trees. Everything is lit here at night and it’s a really nice ambient light,” said Smejkal. It’s about repurposing things or just thinking a little differently about what a garden can be.”

Garden Tour tickets are $13 each and are valid for both days. An entrance ticket is required for each garden. Participation in the tour is free for children up to 10 years of age.

Tickets are available online at and can also be purchased in person at Joe’s Market Basket (locations in Edwardsville and Troy), Creekside Gardens in Collinsville and the Edwardsville Children’s Museum.

The event is sponsored by the Madison County Extension Education Foundation with support from the University of Illinois Master Gardeners.

For more information, call 618-344-4230.

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