The dedication ceremony for the magnificent Brick Wall Garden at Allerton Park — originally scheduled for June 5 — is on hold until, well, who knows?

Not that the generous couple whose $200,000 gift made it possible is upset by the delay.

“That’s very secondary to me,” Deborah Westjohn said. “Our main satisfaction is seeing how it’s been planted and growing, and knowing that it in a way, has helped out.”

Last July, Deborah and husband Mike of rural Monticello made their donation to a place they cherish. Deborah’s family moved to Piatt County when she was 7, “and I’ve been going there for the last 63 years,” she said. “It’s always been a cheering place with a healing balm, too.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, their Sunday routine includes listening to a church service, grabbing a bite to eat and then driving to Allerton Park, “which is like our second home,” Mike said.

The fully accessible, wonderfully landscaped Brick Wall Garden is a sight to see with more than 1,300 new plants. Work started in the fall, and “it will take a year or two to fill up,” Deborah said.

“I get a little choked up seeing it all,” Mike said.

“When I see kids there say, ‘Hey, Mom, look at this!’ or someone say, ‘I like the color of that!’ — that gives you a sense of pleasure.”

When restrictions are lifted, the garden will be dedicated to “all who love and labor for Allerton” — just like the Westjohns.

“Allerton’s been around for a while,” said Mike, 72.

“We want it to be around a lot longer.”

Brick Wall renovation

The historic Brick Wall Garden at Allerton Park (515 Old Timber Rd, Monticello) has been renewed with over 1,300 new plants, and will be dedicated to “all who love and labor for Allerton,” thanks to the gift from Deborah and Michael Westjohn of Monticello.

The Brick Wall Garden, designed by the same architect as the Allerton Mansion, John Borie, is the oldest of the Formal Gardens. Originally a Vegetable Garden meant to supply the occupants of the house with fresh produce, today the Brick Wall Garden contains lawns, bulbs, annual and perennial flowers, and espalier apple trees growing against the walls.

Allerton staff notes that the new design for the four perennial beds in the Garden seeks to restore a more typical English garden feel.

“It includes many plants you might see in an English border-style planting,” explained Micah Putman, Allerton’s Facilities Supervisor. “Plants are set with a pattern in mind, but not as strict as a typical formal garden so that it doesn’t come off too monotonous. The color palette includes whites, purples, pinks, burgundy, and yellows, mainly in muted or washed-out tones to keep the feel relaxed.”

When choosing plant material, staff considered each of the flower beds’ individual “microclimate” created by the brick walls and surrounding trees, which create shadows in different directions throughout the day. 

The Westjohn’s gift funded not only the plants and 25 yards of mulch, but a named endowment for the long-term care and maintenance of the Brick Wall Garden.

“Endowments are more important today than ever before,” Allerton’s Director Derek Peterson stated. “We must grow reliable, long-term funding sources to continue progress, growth, and

beauty.”

The couple’s generosity also spurred another individual donor and the University of Illinois to fund an ADA accessible path throughout the entire garden, replacing pea gravel paths with aggregate concrete.

“We’re very excited about the installation of ADA accessible, natural-looking wide paths in front of all four long flower borders, allowing everyone safer and closer proximity to the plantings,” said Deborah Westjohn. “Since childhood it has been my favorite garden. Allerton Park is and always has been such a special place. It must be kept vibrant, thriving and renewed by investing in it for generations to enjoy.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Allerton’s outdoor areas are open and visitors are encouraged to come out and enjoy the new plantings. A dedication event will be planned at a later date when more people can gather to celebrate.

To learn more about this renovation or other upcoming projects, contact Allerton’s Associate Director of Advancement, Bridget Frerichs, at bridgetf@illinois.edu or 217-333-3287.