I always look forward to the Go Green Wilmette Sustainable Yard Tour which took place on July 17th, 2022 this year. I have attended and written about these tours since they began under Saima Abbasi’s leadership in 2013. This year, however, with Saima Abbassi moving out of the area, the tour was capably led by Kathryn Calkins who took the reins from Saima Abbasi.
The tour was comprised of six gardens selected from Wilmette gardeners. The turnout was great with over 200 people who came from near and far to enjoy the gardens, get new ideas and learn gardening tips. I love the chance to see what my neighbors have created as well as the chance to interact with others who love gardening.
This year was a new experience for me. My garden was selected to be one of those on the tour. This was my first peek as to what goes on behind the scene.
Each summer the tour highlights yards that work hard to manage storm water, produce healthy organic food, compost food and yard waste, and provide critical native habitat for birds and beneficial insects. Local gardeners share their passion, experience, and wisdom, and each yard features creative, beautiful and practical ideas that visitors can put to use to make their own yards more sustainable.
One of the visitors to my yard lives in a different state. She was just blown over by the event and the way she viewed this as an excellent means of community building.
Soon a video will be available on the Go Green Wilmette’s YouTube channel where each of this years’ gardeners will tell the story of their gardens. The gardens on the tour were:
Created by a younger gardener who has spent time volunteering in nearby prairie and oak savannah restoration projects, the Economou garden is devoted to creating a diverse pocket prairie on one side and a source for seeds of rare native plants on another, all while providing a beautiful space to appreciate plants.
The highlight of the garden, according to the garden creators is the “pocket prairie” which is an experimental space frequently evaluated with the goal of achieving a hyper-diverse prairie. “The seed garden is exciting because of the promise of the seeds we lovingly gather to distribute at nearby natural restorations.”
Dominated by a huge, spreading locust tree, the Keer garden provides a shady oasis while taking advantage of pockets of sunshine to maximize vegetable growing. From potatoes grown in barrels and an in-ground worm composter to an herb garden in pots, the garden is a place where the caretakers try new things while maintaining an appreciation for the importance of mature trees.
Future goals include: adding attractive and colorful native easy-care flowers, managing weeds and improving water distribution.
If you’re looking for a certain type of garden–rain, vegetable, native plant, meditation–you’ll find it in the Greenberg garden. Unique space follows on unique space around this lively garden. A homemade pond is lined with sedges and iris. A rain garden mitigates flooding in a low corner. Composting and a vegetable garden line the back fence. Rain barrels provide water. The Greenbergs have created it all themselves and can share their experience if you want to know how it’s done.
The Greenbergs shared that most of their perennials come from a yearly plant swap held by friends each spring. “Most of our friends have given up gardening but we hope to continue for years to come. It keeps us fit and a bit creative.”
In this garden, you’ll see a study in how native plants behave. Liz Martin has slowly added natives to her landscaping over a number of years, watching to see where certain plants like to be. Some areas have entirely seeded themselves. Liz enjoys learning from the plants, adding more and slowly tackling certain non-native invasive species, which all gardeners must do from time to time.
After participating in a Go Green Wilmette webinar about the dark sky movement, Liz replaced her outdoor lighting with Dark Sky Friendly lights that face downward and cause less light pollution and set her motion sensors to the shortest setting. Future goals include introducing more plant diversity to support birds.
Haas SooHoo garden
In this bird and kid friendly garden, native plants play nicely with a grassy space. Natives line the edges of a shady backyard that leaves room to romp. Annie has put herbs in the sunniest spots near the kitchen.
Noteworthy is the section where shade garden kits purchased from the Go Green Wilmette’s plant sale is growing. They also allow clover to grow with the grass which compliments the grass’s nutrient needs.
An insect oasis, the Holcomb garden provides artistic little rocky puddles (the water is changed daily to discourage mosquitoes) as drinking spots for the many kinds of bees that frequent the pollinator friendly plants. Rhonda has salvaged furniture for a delightful sitting area from which her Pandemic Project, a gorgeous display of native plants can be viewed. Learn from Rhonda about how much insect activity she witnesses in her garden every day.
Rhonda also says “I’m not afraid to dig something up and move it to where I think it will be happier or look better.” She also will continue to experiment and allow her garden to be a work in progress.
Many of the hosts for Go Green Wilmette Sustainable Yard Tours have been certified by [email protected] which is supported by the University of Illinois Extension. They also provide information that is very helpful to gardeners. Check University of Illinois Extension in Cook County
Photos: B. Keer
Brief garden descriptions were written in part by Kathryn Calkins