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Seven Evanston homeowners welcomed nearly 700 strangers into their gardens on June 27 at the annual Evanston Garden Walk. The gardens on display featured blooming native plants, colorful flower displays, relaxing outdoor patios and lush foliage. 

Presented by the Evanston Environmental Association, the Garden Walk included a public rose garden and seven private gardens, located across the City, which residents could visit during a five-hour span.

Ticket proceeds will go toward the Ecology Center’s Apiary and help provide scholarships for children at the Center’s summer camps. 

The Garden Walk Committee, which selects the gardens a year in advance, hosted its 31st walk this year after taking a break last year due to the pandemic. In the past, the Garden Walk Committee looked for more traditional English-inspired gardens, said Kathleen Todd, the head of the Evanston Garden Walk’s writing team. Now, the committee is more interested in gardens that look toward a sustainable future.

One of the gardens on this year’s walk is the first-ever sustainable garden. It is planted at the first certified house for energy and environmental design in Evanston. The program is called LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Solar panels line the roof and native plants blossom. 

An underground water reservoir and irrigation system collects rainwater, which is used to water the plants. This system keeps hundreds of gallons of rain water out of the City’s storm sewers, according to the Evanston Garden Walk Committee’s booklet. The homeowners also recycle plant material by compositing it. 

 

In addition to seeking sustainable gardens, Ms. Todd said the committee also looks for landscaping that matches or highlights architecturally unique houses. 

For example, one of this year’s gardens aims to look staged, as though belonging on the set of a movie. A red chandelier dangles over an outdoor dining pavilion, and pots and planters explode with life. The garden boasts ferns, pachysandra, boxwoods, oak leaf hydrangeas, hostas, peach trees, alberta spruce and more, according to the Committee’s booklet. The exuberant garden is also decorated with fountains, sculptures, and outdoor furniture, where the homeowners can relax, completely surrounded by greenery. 

The owner chooses plants that complement his ivy-covered French-style château. The home turned 90 this year, and the owners passed out slices of cake to celebrate its birthday.

Pauline Sheehan, an architect and lifelong resident of Evanston, is also always interested in seeing how a home’s architecture and landscaping work together. She attended the Garden Walk to find inspiration for her own garden. Ms. Sheehan and her husband are making changes to their garden, and she said she wanted to see what plants grow well in the area. 

Another homeowner found inspiration in the forest. Her cottage-like home sits beneath tall oak trees and from her backyard patio, she can enjoy her floor of ferns and lush foliage. A neat lawn borders her woody plants. 

The homeowner tries to grow plants that offer something each season, so she can always enjoy her garden no matter the time of year, according to the Committee’s booklet. 

Homeowner Natalie Fisher has been gardening at her current home for over 45 years. Before then she had little gardening experience. She’s had some professional help, but the landscaping has always remained uniquely her style. Massive trees hang over her front yard, and a large patio in the back sits under another tree canopy. Shrubs and trees weave together, creating a shady outdoor paradise. This was the third time the Evanston Garden Walk included her garden. 

Homeowner Bruce Reynolds, whose wife manages the garden, lives on a smaller property, and he said his garden shows what a smaller yard can do. A large white oak tree provides shade for a relaxing patio. Instead of grass, herbs spring from the ground and stones are arranged in the shape of a pond. 

Mr. Reynolds said the yard makes him feel like he’s in western Michigan on vacation. “It’s really a different world,” he said. 

Another stop at the Garden Walk, the Merrick Rose Garden, displayed 1,500 individual rose plants. The original garden was designed by Ralph Melin, the City’s landscape architect, and funded by Richard Merrick in 1948, in honor of his father, Clinton Merrick, who worked as an attorney and a Second Ward alderman for 23 years. 

The City maintains the garden, at 1426 Oak Ave, and residents are free to relax and wander the garden whenever they please. The space is also available for rent and residents have hosted weddings and photo shoots at the garden. 

The Evanston Garden Walk started as a fundraiser for Keep Evanston Beautiful, a chapter of the non-profit organization Keep America Beautiful, said co-chair Marta Pappert. Keep Evanston Beautiful formed a committee of landscape architects and organized the first Garden Walk around 1991. 

Garden Walk Committee members Kathleen Todd and Marta Pappert. (Photo by Adina Keeling)

Since 1991, many gardens throughout Evanston have been displayed, and Ms. Pappert said that residents are more inspired to invest in their own gardens after seeing what their neighbors have done. She added that gardening not only creates beautiful spaces, it’s also a healthy hobby.

“Many people attribute their longevity and happiness to gardening their whole lives,” said Ms. Todd.

 

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  1. The garden walk was very interesting!
    However, la Maison Ridge was astonishing!!! It definitely showed a lot of care and expertise. The owners have a true passion for formal French gardens. A delightful visit!