Recently, I had the opportunity to join in activities at the Chicago Botanic Garden (located at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe) for World Environment Day (June 2nd), the theme of which was Unite for a Sustainable Chicago. The events kicked off with the opening of the garden’s newest addition, the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden. This new 10,000 square foot space – fenced in to ensure that children are able to learn and explore while remaining safe -- is split into two outdoor classrooms, and features six raised beds, six ground level beds, and a raised bed with wheelchair accessible planting trays, as well as a living wall, and plentiful seating. Even the tool shed has been designed with the environment in mind, with the solar panels sitting atop it, providing for all of the children’s gardens electric and hot water needs.The food and ornamental plants grown in the garden will be watered with rainwater that will be collected in barrels and then distributed through an environmentally friendly irrigation system. One of the first groups to use this new space will be the Chicago Botanic Garden’s own Camp CBG, though other early childhood programs, scout programs, school field trips, teacher professional development programs and the Science First and College First programs will also utilize this wonderful new addition.
After the opening of the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden, I saw another new addition, the Butterflies & Blooms exhibit, which is an outdoor butterfly garden featuring approximately 500 butterflies, where visitors will be able to see dozens of different species, some native to our area, others exotic.
From Butterflies & Blooms it was onto the Keynote Presentation, featuring Tom Skilling (Chief Meteorologist for WGN-TV Chicago), Robert Jordan (Anchor, WGN-TV Chicago) and Dr. Don Wuebbles (Professor, Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), which focused on the impact climate change will have upon us here in the Chicagoland area, as well as the impact it will have globally. Among the many issues addressed were the importance of the health of the Great Lakes -- a source of water to so many --, the melting of permafrost and resulting release of methane into the atmosphere, and the extreme climate shift we are likely to see by the end of the century -- transforming our climate into that of eastern Texas -- if we do not take action to combat climate change and protect the planet now.
Once the Keynote Presentation and post-presentation Q&A session were over, I went to check out the “Community Displays,” which showcased local groups as well as the corporations’ environmental efforts. Among the displays I was able to visit and organizations I learned more about were the US EPA, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Lake County Forest Preserve District, Openlands and Leave No Trace.
Afterward, I decided to stop by the garden’s Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden to partake in some of the activities there, which included a Blöndkopfchen Heirloom Tomato Plant Giveaway and a cooking demonstration by Sur La Table’s Rochelle Taylor.
I wrapped up my visit with a stop at the Plant Science Center -- another relatively recent addition to the garden. While there, I stopped at the Chicago Wilderness booth, where I learned more about the organization and the Leave No Child Inside program. I also learned more about a number of invasive plants and the risks that they pose to native species at the “Invasive Plants and Ecological Restoration” booth. I then headed upstairs to the Plant Science Center’s green roof -- where I learned that not only are there significant environmental benefits to using a green roof, and that green roofs significantly reduce your heating and cooling costs -- which I already knew -- but that a green roof can last up to three times longer than a conventional or traditional roof, which in turn translate to even more savings. Heading back down and out of the Plant Science Center, I also made sure to stop by the Bee Smart: Learn More About Native Bees, Plant Paleontology: A Window into the Environments of the Past and How to Create a Rain Garden displays -- which were full of interesting, useful information -- before ending the day with a leisurely stroll through the garden back to the Visitor Center.
If you would like more information regarding World Environment Day, you can visit the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) World Environment Day website at http://www.unep.org/wed/. For additional information regarding World Environment Day at the Chicago Botanic Garden, visit www.chicagobotanic.org/wed.
The Chicago Botanic Garden is located at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe. Admission to the garden is free. Pets are not permitted in the garden, with the exception of service animals. Information and directions for individuals commuting to the garden by car, bike, train, bus or trolley (operated by the Chicago Botanic Garden to/from the Metra Glencoe Station on Metra’s Union Pacific North Line during certain times of the year), may be found online at www.chicagobotanic.org/visit/directions. Parking fee information may be found online at http://www.chicagobotanic.org/visit/admission. Summer Hours, which began on June 2nd and continue through September 3rd, are 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Fall Hours, which begin on September 4 and are in effect through October 31, are 8:00 AM to sunset. Hours may vary due to various special events. Therefore, I would recommend that you log onto their website and verify their hours of operation for the day you plan on visiting the garden. To find out more about the Chicago Botanic Garden, please visit their site at www.chicagobotanic.org.
Special thanks to Julie McCaffrey and the Chicago Botanic Garden for the additional details regarding the Butterflies & Blooms exhibit and the design of the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden, which were used in writing this article.
Photos: © Chicago Botanic Garden; Andrew DeCanniere