The Northcenter Neighborhood Association’s Garden Walk, set for June 16, is a great opportunity to see how the other half lives. And by “other half,” we mean the kind of people who know the difference between a dahlia and zinnia.
In its first year, the walk featured 20 neighborhood gardens, a number that’s now blossomed to 48, including 11 gardens new to the tour in 2012. “We want everybody who wants to be in it to be in it,” says Karen Carter Lynch, a member of NNA’s Garden Club, which organizes the walk. “It doesn’t need to be fancy. The whole thing is about community. It’s a great way to walk through your neighborhood.”
The walk originated six years ago as way for Northcenter residents to peek into each other’s gardens and get acquainted. “It’s evolved into this dynamic group,” says Carter Lynch, a group that’s now spearheading the “greening of Northcenter.” Montrose Green, a new community garden at 1819 W. Montrose Ave., is included on the walk (though it’s a bit of an outlier), as are plantings that are part of NNA’s Parkway Corner Initiative.
As beautiful as the gardens are, they also serve an educational purpose. A map of garden locations includes a key that indicates whether the homeowners compost or use a rain barrel and whether the yard is organic, bee-friendly or biodynamic.
“The thing about gardeners is they love to teach,” says Carter Lynch. A gardening expert will be on hand to answer questions at the Bell School entrance to the walk; an environmental kiosk will also be stationed at the same entry point. Children will receive a scavenger hunt hand-out, encouraging them to look for things like butterflies and birds’ nests.
With temperatures expected to soar into the mid-90s on Saturday, Carter Lynch is grateful that the neighborhood boasts a fair amount of shade (a gardener’s bane, but a walker’s delight). Lemonade stands will be sprinkled throughout the walk, she adds, and the way gardens on the tour are frequently clustered together will make it easy for people to hit up a number of participating homes in close proximity.
Several gardens serve as perfect rest stops, featuring either gardening demonstrations, tours of the homeowner’s art studio, or musical entertainment. It helps when the owner of Martyr’s lives in the ‘hood.
Suggested entry fee for the walk is $5, seniors are free; enter a raffle to win a rain barrel or composter, $2 each ticket or 6 for $10. Proceeds go to Common Pantry, a particular cause of NNA’s. The group is also growing produce at Montrose Green to benefit the pantry. “It’s about sharing our abundance,” says Carter Lynch.
The Northcenter Garden Walk runs from noon to 6 p.m., June 16; maps will be distributed until 5 p.m. The main entrance is at Bell Elementary, 3730 N. Oakley; a second entrance is at Epiphany UCC, 2008 W. Bradley Pl. The majority of the homes included on the walk are located between Waveland and Irving Park and Lincoln and Western.