If you were among the approximately one hundred lucky individuals who took advantage of gorgeous weather and rode their bikes to one or all of eight gardens throughout Wilmette on Sunday, July 23, 2013, you were greatly rewarded. This was Go Green Wilmette’s Annual Tour and included 8 innovative local alternative yards. Bikers met at Plaza Del Lago and at the Wilmette Public Library and headed out to see amazing local gardens. Garden owners generously welcomed groups of visitorsthat came continuously, and explained what they had done to create their garden and why. Each of the garden owners was passionate about their creation and lovingly shared their experiences and resources. From wildlife habitats, to prairie gardens: from rainwater diversion and retention, to homegrown food, Wilmette residents put their yards to work for practical and delicious purposes, with beautiful results.
Though the gardens/yards were different sizes, received various amounts of sun, were focused on different goals, what they had in common for the most part included a place for compost, rain barrel use, and some area set aside for vegetable, edible gardening. Rabbit/pest control was tackled by employing raised beds, fences and cages. Of the eight spaces visited, three have little or no lawns and front yard that require no mowing.
There was a difference in the owner’s approaches to the development of the spaces we saw that ranged from hiring firms to develop and maintain an organic garden, to making changes in the garden over a 27 year period with a result that is a magical and continually changing.
On Ashland Avenue, Margrit welcomed visitors to her 5 year-old fenced vegetable/herb garden where we saw the effectiveness of using two rain barrels.
There were two places to visit on Laurel near each other. Karen proudly showed her dry, pebbled streambed that takes water from the down spout into a rain-garden. She has no front lawn. The backyard contains a vegetable garden with raised beds and built in animal barriers, plus some fruit trees and a small section of native woodland perennials.
Debra, across the street, learned a lot about water conservation, composting, planting in mixed shade areas and the value of landscaping with hardier native plant varieties and the garden reflects this. Gutters were installed on the garage to direct water into rain barrels and the raised planter bed.
On Linden, Kate shared a different approach. She says, “With four children, a full time job, and a busy backyard, I thought my dream of an organic garden would never materialize. That was until I saw the Smart Gardener booth at the farmers market!” The results are very impressive and the people who did the work were in place to answer questions.
Ann, on Quilmette Avenue has “turned our postage-stamp lawn into a mini botanic garden”. There is no lawn here now. Besides the wonderful vegetable garden, there is a charming fishpond with beautiful water lilies in place. There is also a “creative” rain barrel that fills the pond with the collected water.
"On Wilmette Avenue Alanah passionately shared the result of 27 years of work. Visitors "oohed" and "aahed" at everything but what was most unusual was a “mouse house” and a meditation labyrinth, and an area for turtles.
Eran, on Lake Street, introduced visitors to a grape arbor that is part of a front yard that has no lawn. There are over 25 fruit trees with companion plants to protect them from pests and disease, a 200 square foot annual vegetable garden and a cold frame gardening area where vegetables can be grown even in winter.
Just over the Glenview boarder, on Indian Road, Cathy has a garden/yard that works with the water that could otherwise cause flooding, rather than fight it. With the help of Ellen Moderhack of Mode Landscape Designs, four rain gardens were created. Two of the rain gardens take water from the roof down rain chains or spouts and empties that water into stone that have a cistern below and then on to rain gardens. Ellen Moderhack was on the site to answer question. An area next to the house that drop down four feet is filled with prairie plants and is magical.
This was a wonderful opportunity to be inspired, to see new and different approaches to gardening and to meet neighbors with like interests. Saima Abbasi organized this event for Go Green Wilmette. She commented, “The most amazing part of the tour was to see the community come out on a Sunday morning to celebrate local Gardeners' passion about gardening! The Weather Gods cooperated by giving us temperatures in the 70s.”
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