The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update


July 14, 2012

Downtown backyard is sanctuary for master gardner

Lynn Schocke has a very smelly garden.

As you stroll through the blooms with her, she will often lean over and quickly pluck a specific plant, rub it gently and place it directly under your nose. Able to describe the history, taste and medicinal benefits of each green shoot, Schocke has created her own personal oasis.

“I teach people to cook meals with low fat, low salt and low cholesterol,” said Schocke, a family nutrition assistant for limited resource audiences with Purdue University. “I’ve found that cooking with herbs means that you don’t need condiments.”

Not only does she cook with herbs, but she grows them in her garden. When she wishes to spice up dinner, she only needs to step outside the back door. She also encourages her clients to use their food stamps to buy herb plants and save money in the grocery store.

When she decided to move downtown 17 years ago, she left her woods behind. Caring for a daughter with limited mobility required the city life — but she was determined to grow a little bit of country in the backyard. What was originally little more than grass is now a garden teeming with all kinds of colors and scents.

Attributing the lush growth of her plants — even during a drought — to carefully choosing specimens native to the area, Schocke can point to several given to her by Native American friends.

“Native Americans used the leaves of pokeweed for salad and the berries for various cures,” she said. “I think it’s a pretty plant — and the birds love the berries.”

Other sources have also contributed to the garden.

“I got this feverfew from the Bronnenberg House,” she said. “In medieval times they used it to relieve headaches. The leaves make a very calming tea.”

In addition to the sage, thyme, lavender, oregano and mints scattered about, she also encourages unusual growth.

“My motto is: if it lives, it gets to stay,” said Schocke, a master gardener. “Some people think this trumpet vine is invasive, but it took me four years to get it going here. I brought it as a shoot from my grandmother’s house. Some weeds are pretty plants and so I let them grow here.”

The vast number of plants and bird feeders welcome wildlife into the yard. Dozens of birds flock to the delicious treats and shelter she provides. Along with the squirrels, these visitors help  keep the unwanted weeds away.

“Squirrels own this yard and are friends with my cat,” she said. “Birdfeeders make excellent weeding tools. The birds flick seed on the ground and while the squirrels dig to pick it up, they get the weeds.”

Not only does Schocke enjoy her garden, family and friends spend a good deal of time soaking in nature in her backyard as well.

“Sometimes friends stop in and I don’t even know they are here,” she said with a laugh. “This is my sanctuary and they are welcome. Gardening is so relaxing — and it doesn’t take electronics. It is a great relief from my full-time job where I work with lots of people in stressful situations.”

Each week, Emma Bowen Meyer features a Madison County home. If you know of a home that should be showcased, send an email to

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