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Evanstonians headed outdoors this weekend to explore six local gardens displayed in the Glorious Garden Walk, hosted by the Garden Club of Evanston.
The walk featured two public gardens—the Wildflower Trail Garden at Lighthouse Beach and the Shakespeare Garden on Northwestern’s campus—in addition to four private gardens. A garden on Lincoln Street also boasted a small market where vendors sold art, paper goods and jewelry.
“There’s a wide variety of gardens. It’s really fun,” said Anne Berkeley, the President of the Garden Club of Evanston. “It’s not your typical garden walk.”
Every ticket from the walk will help make a tangible difference in the projects and gardens managed by the Garden Club, said Berkeley. The 106-year-old club is the care-taker for three public gardens, which, she said, are expensive to maintain.
To support these gardens and other local community projects, the club hosts a major fundraiser about every three years, but hasn’t hosted one since the start of the pandemic. Typically, the club hosts a house walk, but due to COVID-19 concerns, organizers decided to try something new.
“This is the first time we’re doing a garden walk,” said Berkeley. Evanstonians who purchased a ticket for the walk received a small booklet that described the gardens and provides a map. Volunteers outside each garden helped facilitate the walk.
One volunteer, Leslie Cousineau, said she joined the Garden Club of Evanston about three years ago. She volunteers weekly to maintain the Wildflower Trail Garden, located behind the Evanston lighthouse and filled with only native plants.
“We’ve had a lot of people who never been to Wildflower before because it’s not easy to find. But once you find it, it’s like a little oasis,” said Cousineau. “It’s one of my favorite places to go.”
In addition to maintaining public gardens, the Garden Club of Evanston has also partnered with Evanston Grows, an organization dedicated to fight food insecurity by growing vegetables, fruits and edible plants.
Berkeley said the pandemic exacerbated food insecurity in Evanston, and that gardens could be an important source of food for the community, she said. “The benefits of gardening go beyond beautiful flowers and beautiful gardens,” she said.
Gardens also have a relaxing and calming effect, and just spending a couple minutes in the Wildflower garden or the Shakespeare Garden can help Evanstonian de-stress, said Berkeley. She added, “There’s a mental health component that just can’t really be measured.”