My husband and I visited Chicagos Millennium Park last month and were in full tourist mode taking photos of the reflective bean sculpture, the interesting fountain that spits water at you, the big heads and other famous attractions there. What a pleasant surprise to find Lurie Garden in the center of this very popular space. Designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd, Piet Oudolf, and Robert Israel, this 5-acre garden consists of a sustainable and mostly native plant collection.
We spent a lot of time walking around the garden. What a wonderful example to help redefine what a real garden is supposed to look like. In a way this is a follow-up to my last post on New Yorks High Line Park. (Piet Oudolf was also the planting designer for the High Line Park, so there are many similarities.)
We were there early on a Sunday morning for the good morning light and to avoid the crowds, but it wasnt long before thousands of Bears fans joined us as they headed to that days football game at the southern end of the park. There are no huge parking lots around Soldier Field—people come by mass transit and walk the rest of the way through the park. How sustainable.
We still have a lot of work to do
The lesson we can take from Lurie Garden, the High Line Park, and less formal public spaces is that outreach is so important. Native plant enthusiasts have a lot of teaching to do to overcome those impossibly perfect landscapes touted as the best examples of what to do on TV, magazines, and websites.
- Include informative signs when designing public gardens.
The name of the plant is nice, but what role it plays in the local ecosystem helps visitors begin to think differently.
- Plan for ongoing maintenance and ongoing support. Even with a native (or mostly native) landscape, you cannot plant it and forget it. Create a Friends of XX Garden to coordinate this. Both the High Line and Lurie Garden have a group that raises money, runs tours and other events, manages maintenance, and coordinates the PR including an informative website.
For more examples of people organizing efforts to preserve and maintain ecosystems, see Eco-activists: a few people can make a real difference, Supporting wildlife beyond your garden gate and as mentioned above, New Yorks High Line Park.
For ideas on improving outreach for your eco-oriented organization, Sue Dingwell and I teamed up with a four-part series on outreach:
Outreach with Impact Part One:
-the need for more outreach, and organizing a small regional event
Outreach with Impact Part Two:
-making an attractive booth
Outreach with Impact Part Three:
-organizing and publicizing larger events
Outreach with Impact Part Four:
-attracting and training volunteers.
Its been proven that even small isolated patches filled with native plants provide significant ecosystem services to the area.
So what are you waiting for?
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