The September 7th Birds, Bees & Butterflies: A Native Garden Tour hosted by West Cook Wild Ones and Green Community Connections drew more than 140 experienced and beginner native plant gardeners and those wanting to learn what this was all about. They came from near (Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park, Berwyn and Cicero) and farther—Plainfield, Downers Grove, Elk Grove Village and various parts of Chicago — to visit 11 residential and public gardens. More than 40 homeowners, master gardeners, volunteers, sponsors and Forest Preserve staff members also helped to make the afternoon a rich, educational - and fun! - event. The West Cook Wild Ones Wildlife Corridor also received a lot of attention at the event, and more people pledged their gardens to be part of it. The Wildlife Corridor is envisioned as a contiguous swath (at least 2 per block) of native gardens in residential and public spaces from Columbus Park in Chicago to Thatcher Woods in River Forest. Watch for more detail and ways to be involved in this unique and important project which will be coming soon.
After the garden tour, we informally surveyed participants and volunteers. We thought we'd share some of their enthusiasm, in hopes that through the upcoming, long winter, you might get inspired to plan some new native plantings in your own yard:
“It was reaffirming to see that native garden lovers are so aware of the need to use non-toxic products to help their gardens grow!”
“It inspired my sister [who was visiting from Pennsylvania] to start a garden!”
“I was reminded how important it is to see other people’s gardens and share information, as we can always learn more.”
“The children (and adults!) really enjoyed the impromptu live insect displays, like the katydid I found on my car bumper and the caterpillar found in the forest preserve garden. We provided them a small habitat for the day and released them at the end of the event.”
“The aliveness of the gardens seemed to energize the people that visited them. We went away smiling after watching the butterflies, bees and birds in the gardens.”
“Even the most experienced native gardener I know came back telling of seeing a rain garden on the tour and being emboldened to try one in his own gardening.”
“We want to host a garden tour like this one in our town!”
Read Ginger Brown Vanderveer's (West Cook Wild Ones co-founder) article on what native gardening means to her. She led 28 participants on a guided bike tour of six of the gardens during the event.
Stay tuned for more native gardening events next spring:
One Earth Film Fest showing of “Hometown Habitat,” in March 2015
Wild Ones Native Plant sale in May
Special guest speaker, Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, will come in May to share his unique perspective on bringing nature to urban areas as our rural lands become more developed or inhospitable due to industrial agriculture methods and increased use of pesticides.
“Unless we modify the places we live, work and play to meet not only our own needs, but the needs of other species as well, nearly all species of wildlife native to the United States will disappear forever. . . There is, however, a way out of this mess . . . Evidence suggests that . . . most species could live quite nicely with humans if their most basic ecological needs were met.” — Douglas W. Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home