Anna and Robert Bordenave could have moved anywhere in the country. They chose Southern Illinois.
On the hunt for a bed and breakfast, the couple first looked into properties in Colorado and on the east coast, but then decided to look closer to home.
“Robert read an article in Midwest Living about the wonders of the Marion, Illinois, area and saw that it was a good place for hiking and biking,” said Anna, a native New Yorker and retired medical technologist.
She and her husband were living in O’Fallon when they bought Oakridge Manor in Creal Springs. He had been stationed at Scott Air Force Base, and then stayed in the area after retiring from the military to work as a project management consultant.
The Bordenaves had never even driven through Southern Illinois, except to go to Ozark.
“That was our only exposure to Southern Illinois,” Anna said, “taking our son to Camp Ondessonk two summers.”
It didn’t take long to find Oakridge Manor, which turned out to be a fixer-upper.
“Everything was overgrown. It was like an abandoned house where you’d do Halloween movies," said Robert, who grew up in Minnesota.
The base of their fountain in front of the house was completely buried in out-of-control bushes. Ivy snaked up the walls of the 6,800-square-foot house, and shrubbery covered the windows.
The bed and breakfast opened in the spring of 2004, after a year or so of landscaping and remodeling, and continued to serve guests until two years ago, when the Bordenaves finally decided to fully retire.
That, of course, leaves more time to garden. But that’s not how they're spending their time. They’d rather spend it hiking, biking or swimming.
Anna described their expansive garden as low-maintenance because much of it is filled with perennials. And using trap rock helps discourage weeds.
Earlier this year, she planted vinca, a ground cover to replace closed-in grassy areas in the garden.
“We got tired of mowing them with a hand mower,” Anna said. “It’s so much prettier now. In the spring, it gets little blue flowers on them. No work to it.”
Knockout roses adorn much of what the Bordenaves call a lower-walled garden, which leads to their in-ground pool. They planted 650 boxwoods to serve as hedges, which Robert keeps manicured down to 18 inches high and 12 inches wide.
Between the irises, knockout roses and other assundry color are sky pencil holly, which stand out like sentinels throughout the grounds. Japanese maple, variegated willow and ornamental plum add to the luster.
Gardening and landscaping have been longtime pastimes for the Bordenaves, who've lived all over the world, including Spain and the Netherlands.
"The Dutch are very neat people. We kept our garden quite sharp. We didn't want to take the chance of being called the ugly Americans," Anna said. "Every spring, our landlord gave us 200 tulip bulbs to plant."
Now, the two are looking forward to their next project — selling their 98-acre spread. They've already picked out a retirement community in Las Vegas, but relocating is on hold until they can find a buyer for Oakridge Manor.
The Bordenaves have already imagined their next outdoor space, and that includes an all-weather LG train chugging past perennials, serenity spheres and maybe even a waterfall or two.