Northcenter Garden Walk

By Tatum Bartlett | Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lisa Hish of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago shows off her bees! Photo from Northcenter Neighborhood Garden Club.

I’ve lost count of the times I have heard the following: ?Why don?t you guys move to the suburbs, give the kids a place to run free and roam safely?? My reply: ?Because Northcenter offers just that, and boasts a great city in the backyard to boot!

Case in point: The 4th annual Northcenter Neighborhood Garden Walk takes place on Sunday, June 27, from noon to 6 p.m. The self-guided tour sponsored by the Northcenter Neighborhood Association begins at Alexander Graham Bell School (3730 North Oakley) and continues through some 40+ local gardens. (Yes, mom, there are gardens in the city!)

Karen Carter Lynch, event chair and dedicated member of both the Northcenter Neighborhood Garden Club and Northcenter Neighborhood Association, moved with her husband to the area 20 years ago. ?Back then, there were a lot of elderly people in the neighborhood offering good gardening tips!” she says. Eventually, though, things changed. “I began to notice that people just weren?t sitting on their porches anymore,?? she says.

The Northcenter Neighborhood Garden Club is the brainchild of local residents (and neighbors) Julie Hobert and Sheila Caswell. (Caswell?s garden was a winner of the Chicago Tribune?s Small Garden Award in 2004 and was recently published in Better Homes and Gardens‘ special interest publication, Garden Idea and Outdoor Living, Summer 2010). When the garden walk began in 2007, it included 20 gardens, but each year, it continues to grow.

Carter Lynch says that besides showcasing gardens, the event is a way for neighbors to get to know one another. ?The annual walk is a means to bring together the community,? she says. ?It is a wholesome, family-friendly day.? The walk features gardening demonstrations, live music in several yards, and a scavenger hunt for the kids.? Speaking of live music, bands will perform between 12-3 p.m., with Nobody Nobody Sent at 2112 W. Grace, St. Jams Band at 2037 W. Bradley, and Cello and Violin Duo holding down post at 3856 N. Oakley.? Then there are the makeshift (and oh so adorable) lemonade stands that Carter Lynch assures will line the blocks. All proceeds from the event (there’s a $3 suggested donation) go to The Common Pantry, which has served the North Side since 1967 and is Chicago?s oldest continually operating food pantry.

When it comes to the gardens, Carter Lynch is reluctant to name favorites. When pressed, however, she does single out two not-to-be-mised sanctuaries: Mercedes and Joe Prause?s garden at 3854 N. Hamilton Ave. and, of course, Sheila and Rich Caswell?s at 3912 N. Claremont Ave.? ?Mercedes loves pink,? says Carter Lynch. ?Everything is pink. A lot of fairies and fantasy fill the garden. It is healing, meditative, and nurturing, just like her. She is a true nurturer?down to her core. In fact, just yesterday I saw her walking an elderly neighbor down the block. She is that kind of person.? When questioned about the Caswell?s standout garden, Carter Lynch says, ?Sheila?s brother, Dane Caswell of Scotland Yards is an amazingly talented designer. The front parkway of the Caswell’s is also home to a variety of ‘orphan plants’ (plus Korean Fir, Katsura and White Fringe Trees).? And I know they are really looking forward to continuing this repurposing all the way down the 3900 block of Claremont.”

The walk features more than just gardens. One gardener and recognized jewelry designer, Deana Rose, will open her studio and cottage garden to passersby, while two neighbors, Lisa Hish and Elizabeth Wescott of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago, will show off their bees (both are supporters of The Bee Trail Project).

I don?t know about you, but I’m an advocate of bringing back the good ole? days of porch lounging, and?as my withering basil plant might suggest?a few gardening tips wouldn?t hurt either.

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