Thelma's Garden

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Thanks to the hard work of many devoted gardeners, gardens throughout Evanston are now in full bloom. One way to experience some of Evanston’s premier gardens is by participating in the 20th annual Evanston Garden Walk this Sunday, July 12, sponsored by Keep Evanston Beautiful, Inc.

It includes a tour of seven private Evanston gardens and three public gardens at Northwestern University.
(See more details about this year’s Garden Walk on the adjacent page.)

If other plans get in the way of this Sunday’s walk, there is no need to worry. Evanston is full of glorious public gardens free to the public throughout the summer. As a suggestion for a perfect summer day for gardeners, the RoundTable has put together this list of public gardens. Gardeners – or people who simply enjoy gardens – can spend a day visiting some or all of these Evanston gardens and find inspiration or simply take in the color, fragrance, texture and beauty of these spectacular spaces.

Butterfly Garden And Wildflower Trail Garden

The Wildflower Garden at Grosse Pointe Lighthouse, 2601 Sheridan Road, was planted in 1937 by the Garden Club of Evanston. The club hired well-known landscape architect Jens Jensen to draw the plans. Today the densely shaded garden includes a wide variety of trees, flowers and ferns and guides visitors to the more recently planted Butterfly Garden. The Butterfly Garden, planted in 1995, also by the Garden Club of Evanston, is located in a sunny spot in front of the Lighthouse’s old Fog House. With the sand dunes and Lake Michigan as the gardens’ backdrop, the sight is truly breathtaking. To learn more go to

 Thelma’s Garden

If ever there was a true secret garden, Thelma’s Garden would be it. At the end of Bryant Avenue just north of Central Street sits a long and meandering plot nestled between the CTA tracks and cottage-like homes. The garden is named after the late Thelma Nokes, a local expert gardener known for giving away her plants so she could share the joy of them. The garden is now cared for by community members. Benches along a winding path invite visitors to take in the scenery that includes a 100-year-old rosebush Thelma imported to Evanston from her relatives in Wisconsin.

The Enabling Garden

Located in the open courtyard of the Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Avenue, the Enabling Garden offers visitors a tranquil setting with colorful flowers, raised beds and water features. Although the therapeutic garden was designed to accommodate the physical and psychological needs of the Levy Center’s primary users – senior citizens – it has been and continues to be enjoyed by people of all ages. 

 Rotary Friendship Garden

The Friendship Garden located at the east end of the Ladd Arboretum, was installed in 1962 by the Rotary Club of Evanston to signify the friendships Rotary builds around the world. The garden runs along McCormick Boulevard, opposite the Ecology Center, and offers an ideal respite for bikers, walkers and joggers along the Arboretum’s path. 

Shakespeare Garden

The eight-bed garden is located in the central section of Northwestern University’s campus, just north of the Frank W. Howes Memorial Chapel at the east end of Garrett Place. The 70 x 100 sq. ft. plot of land was established in 1915 by the Garden Club of Evanston to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Designed by architect Jens Jensen, the garden is hidden from view by a double wall of hawthorn hedges. The flowers, shrubs, trees and herbs in the garden, such as lavender, thyme, peonies, ivy and columbine, just to name a few, are all mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays.

To find out more about the garden go to

The Merrick Garden

The Merrick Rose Garden, at Lake Street and Oak Avenue, features hundreds of beautiful rose bushes as well as the historic Fountain Square Centennial Fountain. The garden was originally dedicated in 1948 to honor Clinton Merrick, a second-ward alderman for 23 years, and now contains approximately 2,000 roses and 200 varieties.

To learn more about the history of the Merrick Rose Garden and the Fountain Square Centennial Fountain, visit

The Evanston Community Gardens

The City of Evanston has four garden plots that are rented and cared for by Evanston residents through the Evanston Community Garden Rental Program. These four gardens are spread out through the City and are certainly worth viewing. Visitors have the opportunity to see spectacular plots of flower beds, herbs and vegetable gardens.

To find out more about the Community Garden Program and garden locations call 847-448-8256, ext.102.

Anne Bodine

Anne Bodine, Community News Editor, has been a part of The Evanston RoundTable since 2008 as a reporter covering businesses and institutions; arts and entertainment; and health and wellness. More recently,...