The point of this Saturday’s Lincoln Square Garden Walk, now in its eighth year, is not to intimidate but to inspire. “It shows people what they can do,” says Nancy Benjamin, organizer of the event along with Debi Johnson. “People come to my backyard and say, ‘I didn’t realize you could grow peaches in the city.’”
The self-guided tour will take visitors through more than 20 gardens of varying styles, including community gardens at Montrose Green and Waters Elementary School. “This neighborhood used to be old European,” says Benjamin, with residents generally following the gardening practices of their home countries. That trend has shifted in recent years to incorporate more native plants, vegetable gardens and “green” concepts like rain barrels and organic methods. “There are different ideas of what a garden is. It’s no longer yews and tulips.”
For Benjamin, what separates Lincoln Square’s garden walk from those of other neighborhoods is the DIY spirit — there’s little of the expensive, professional landscaping seen elsewhere. “These are people who just love doing it,” she says. “These are city-sized, doable gardens.”
Though Benjamin and Johnson do scout the neighborhood for potential participants and extend invitations to homeowners whose gardens they find of particular interest, plenty of residents raise their hands and ask to be included in the walk. “I primarily see this as a community event,” says Benjamin. “If somebody calls, we say ‘sure.’”
In addition to the tour, master gardeners will be stationed in Giddings Plaza, the garden walk’s entry point, to offer demonstrations and answer questions, many of which are likely to be weather related. The hot summer and dry winter are “stressing every plant like crazy,” says Benjamin, even hardy varieties like cone flowers. “This year has been very tough. It’s nature–what are you going to do?”
The Lincoln Square Garden Walk is set for Saturday, Aug. 4, 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Admission is $10, with proceeds going to Common Pantry. Enter at Giddings Plaza, 4731 N. Lincoln Ave., to receive a map of the homes included on the tour.