Lincolnwood Garden Club of Evanston will turn 90 in the coming year, but it is creating gardens in a new way. With some of the funds it raises from its annual spring garden sale, held every year on Central Street, it created its first home garden for the ETHS Geometry in Construction House.

A young couple from Evanston have a new, affordable home thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Geometry in Construction program at ETHS through which students, in collaboration with the City and community partners, construct a 1,500 square foot home each year. Last winter, as the homeowners prepared to move in, the Club offered to design a landscape plan and to bring it to life in the yard of the new  home. The homeowners accepted the offer and began meeting with Cindy Clark and Jane Hampson of the Garden Club to discuss landscaping, including any special requests regarding plant and tree preferences. 

“At our very first meeting, it was clear that the homeowners wanted their yard to be attractive and functional, yet easy to maintain,” Ms. Clark said. “While they are not experienced gardeners, they were enthusiastic about and committed to maintaining their new landscaping. We were able to fulfill many of their requests, such as increasing privacy and including a sunny space for a garden of summer annuals.” 

After more than 20 years of designing and maintaining the Heiberger Memorial Garden located in the planetarium courtyard at ETHS, the LGCE was looking for a new project to continue their partnership with the high school. Matthew Kaiser and Maryjoy Heineman, the teachers of the Geometry in Construction program, were happy to work with the garden club. They scheduled a volunteer day for faculty and staff from Northwestern’s athletic department to help club members install the perennial garden, and provided all necessary information to the club as the project developed. 

Nature’s Perspective Landscaping generously donated a tree and all of the shrubs placed in the garden. Tonya Klee of City Scapes, along with her crew, cut the beds, amended the soil and planted these donations. Perennials were selected from the personal gardens of the Club’s members, who selected their plants for their heartiness, as well as to meet the desires of the homeowners.

“Many of the Club-members don’t dig three-foot holes anymore,” said Jane Hampson, “and that’s just one of the reasons that we were very glad to have Tonya Klee and her team involved. Tonya immediately figured out that we needed to level the beds, made necessary [soil] amendments, dug holes and planted.” Ms. Hampson said that the only thing they paid for was the labor of Ms. Klee’s team, that Ms. Klee donated all her own time and labor.

A lilac, evergreens, and a tree for the front yard were all donated by Nature’s Perspective, which Ms. Hampson said was very generous with all the materials that were needed. “A lot of good gardeners and good people came together to work on this project. We all are good gardeners. And, mean people don’t dig holes and get their hands dirty.”

The Club, which was founded in 1929, maintains gardens throughout Evanston and annually funds grants to organizations and facilities working to improve the community’s environment through horticulture. Its 40 members, who range in age from 45 to 88, raise funds by hosting the Evanston Garden Fair each May. Landscape planning for next year’s ETHS Geometry in Construction home is already underway.

Another member of the Club, Cindy Clark, said that the Club took on the project because of her daughter-in-law, Whitney Rutherford, who is a math teacher at ETHS and good friends with Ms. Heineman. “We knew that people in the broader community would see it and that it would benefit the kids. We had some fits and starts, because it was new for us and we were starting from scratch. Now, we’ve already planned for the next house, said Ms. Clark. Laughing, she continued, “Our intention is to continue to do this, as long as they’re willing to deal with us.” Asked what the Club’s ultimate hope for the work is, Ms. Clark said, “We hope it might give others ideas and lead the next door neighbors to do a bit more gardening. We hope it will plant a seed.”

Ned Schaub

Ned Schaub is a feature story writer for the RoundTable. He has served as reporter, content developer and communications manager across his career in the field of nonprofit communications. Ned studied...