Have you heard the news? Keeler Gardens has won a grant to build a pollinator habitat! The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation has awarded us up to $10,000 toward the creation of a native pollinator habitat to provide environmental education opportunities for students, and all community members. We will offer visitors to the habitat an experience with Illinois native plants in a year-round refuge for pollinators, that will perform from early spring through late fall. Here is a before image of the space we will be preparing this spring for installation, hopefully, early this summer.
We are so excited and are moving forward rapidly. The first step is a design. We created this preliminary design and await approval. All plantings are label by number. “E” plants are already part of the space, and will be incorporated into the habitat design. New plantings are color coded by season, purple for early bloom, grey for mid-season bloom, and yellow for late blooms. Greens denote grasses (light) or shrubs (dark). Outlines indicate the height of full grown plants from thin (12” minimum height) to thick (4-6 ft maximum height).
Also included in the design are proposed structures like boulders, benches, water features, and trellises. Stone will be used for edging and as steppers, and will be added at installation to accommodate the design as it evolves.
Here are a few of the plants we hope to include, with their identifying number referenced on the design:
We will continue to report on progress with the project, community events in support of the effort, with updates throughout the spring and summer. Follow us here on our blog, on our Facebook Page, and sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch.
We spent some time this past week on the east coast getting to know quite a few individuals and groups that are working on ways to incorporate nature into their lives. We also got a lot of really good recommendations, one of which lead us to a detailed article discussing biophilic design. In “The Practice of Biophilic Design”, Stephen R. Kellert and Elizabeth F. Calabrese go into great detail about biophilia and what it means to us as individuals and communities, with respect to “design and development of the modern built environment.”
This article describes five basic principles that, although in the written work are geared toward designing buildings and landscapes, are relative to the general discussion of how we can benefit from connecting with nature. The idea is to work with these principles as new designs are developed, but we can also use these directives to guide us in our daily efforts to connect with nature.
The first principle: “Biophilic design requires repeated and sustained engagement with nature.” This is a very important point. A trip to the “country” once a year isn’t enough. If we live in urban environments we must connect with nature on a regular basis for a reasonable length of time.
“Biophilic design focuses on human adaptations to the natural world that over evolutionary time have advanced people’s health, fitness and well-being.” A literal example of this adaptation is the use of natural materials, like wood, to build a home that offers us shelter. But it is not just the direct benefit, there is an added benefit, to our physical and mental health when we incorporate aspects of nature.
“Biophilic design encourages an emotional attachment to particular settings and places.” We feel a connection with nature and want to be in the places that feed our love of life and living things. We may even long to return after a time, which goes back to the first point, of needing to engage with nature regularly.
“Biophilic design promotes positive interactions between people and nature that encourage an expanded sense of relationship and responsibility for the human and natural communities.” This point is of great value when considering the development of communities. Every block, school district, neighborhood, or city is a community, which as a whole can benefit from a connection to nature.
“Biophilic design encourages mutual reinforcing, interconnected, and integrated architectural solutions.” This point is directly related to design and can be considered even with existing structures. Even if a building is already standing it can work to connect us to nature with some additions, changes, or even simple adjustments.
These principles are a good starting point. The article goes on at length about many aspects of biophilic design, which we will touch upon here in future posts. You can find the link to this article, and many other papers, on our Resources page. We leave you with the true motivation…When we live in environments that connect us to nature and support biophilia the results can be more than substantial…
“The successful application of biophilic design should also result in a wide spectrum of physical, mental and behavioral benefits. Physical outcomes include enhanced physical fitness, lower blood pressure, increased comfort and satisfaction, fewer illness symptoms, and improved health. Mental benefits range from increased satisfaction and motivation, less stress and anxiety, to improved problem solving and creativity. Positive behavioral change includes better coping and mastery skills, enhanced attention and concentration, improved social interaction, and less hostility and aggression.”
The goal of our efforts in our community and into yours is to see all these benefits, the improvements of strengths and the decline of weaknesses, with the simple act of connecting with nature. Tell us, in the comments below, how would you like to incorporate these principles in your community?
This is our first winter as a formal non-profit, Keeler Gardens. Keeler Gardens is all about biophilia so we thought we would introduce ourselves, and the term, here in our first formal blog post of the year. Biophilia is defined as the love of living things or the love of life, and you’ll find that definition along with a lot of descriptors on our Biophilia page. Here today we’re going to talk about a wide variety of different things that will give us fodder for the entire year.
So we love living things, we love life, we’re inspired by that which is filled with life around us. All of us actually have a desire to be connected to nature and living things. It’s one of the reasons why we love pictures of kittens and puppies, and when we see beautiful landscapes it just warms us from the inside out. Those feelings, those are our connections to nature. And when we feed that connection, and we give ourselves that respite, it actually does something to our brains and our bodies that makes us healthier, happier people.
Now this isn’t a touchy-feely kind of post, this is really meant to introduce you to some of the aspects of what we’re trying to educate on. For example, we’ll talk about that beautiful landscape…you ever need a break to go outside and take a breath of fresh air, you walk around the neighborhood, you walk through a park, take your dog for a walk, and then you find that when you return, you’re more focused. There is a study on our Resources page that actually shows given an hour or so of time in a natural setting a group of participants were able to perform better on a cognitive test. I could go into a lot of details about this backward digit-span test but it would confuse us all, so suffice it to say these tests are considered standard procedure for gauging your level of focus and cognitive abilities, and when you do better on these tests it means your cognitive abilities have improved. So these studies are showing that cognitive ability actually does improve when you spend a little bit of time connected to nature; they had a control group that spent time in the urban downtown area instead and they did not have improved cognitive performance. So you spend a little time outdoors, you get smarter. And although it’s not that simple, we are trying to teach a bit about the simplicity of connecting with nature here at Keeler Gardens.
How to connect with nature?
Our programs will educate on horticulture, of course, and there’s all living things, like animals, wild and domestic. But there’s also all the elements, the soil, stone, mountains, stars in the sky, and the sun, that all have a connection to us and our lives, by providing for us, by sheltering us, by warming us, and more.
Some other options for ways to connect with nature are art and using all the senses. That study we mentioned earlier also showed just looking at images of landscapes improved or “restored” cognitive function. There are so many different ways we can participate and our educational programs discuss macro issues, like conservation, and also micro issues, you as an individual and our community, the block we live on, our neighborhood. We hope we will soon be reaching our whole city, our county, and the entire Midwest and beyond.
So how would it work?
How does this innate desire and connecting to nature change our lives? Well, let’s just say we could teach everyone to find their personal outlet to nature and every day they made an effort to spend 15 minutes, half an hour, or even an hour feeding that connection. They would have less fatigue, more time to do more things, they might make better decisions and have better problem solving skills, and they might want to build a better community. And if everyone in the community participates, the values of the community improve. The goals sounds lofty but they are so very achievable. All we need is our community members to participate, teachers, students, garden club members, local businesses, kids, parents, grandparents, people of all ages and any level of knowledge can learn and grow.
So briefly, our programs can be here at Keeler Gardens. At our site you can spend some time in nature with us, we can have discussions, presentations, some hands-on activities, we can even teach you a lot about working in an urban space. We can come to your site, your school, your group, your event. We can come once, we can come on a regular basis. It all depends on what you want to learn, how intense you want the experience to be, and how much information there is to share.
Content of programs will range widely from environmental issues, like conservation and native plants and habitats, all the way to the other end of the spectrum with art, music, and anything that motivates anyone to communicate and connect with nature. We will customize any program or series of programs to whatever a groups’ needs are.
So take advantage of one of our programs, recommend us to a group, find us on social media, and join our mailing list. We are certain to find a way to connect you with nature so we can all reap the benefits. And just to give you a little incentive a quote from our Biophilia page regarding the benefits of connecting with nature:
Some tangible results are rejuvenation and increased attention. Fatigue and stress lessen, while productivity, problem-solving and mastery skills improve. Decision-making and self-discipline improve, and it fosters creativity and personality development. Healing is enhanced while childhood diagnoses are reduced.
Come take a walk through Keeler Gardens, have a glass of lemonade and a snack, and learn a bit about our teaching garden. We are approximately 1500 square feet of green on a Chicago city lot, offering as much as we can to the community. See what we have created with ten years of diligence and hard work. And we will have some giveaways, plants we have propagated, though supplies may run out fast.
We are planning for Keeler Gardens to formally serve the community at all levels of horticulture and so we are announcing Keeler Gardens, NFP, our new non-for-profit. Learn more about us here.
Our garden is at 3631 N. Keeler Avenue in Chicago. We are two blocks west of Pulaski Ave. and just north of Addison St. It’s a big green house with a wrap around porch. You can park on the street or in the parking lot across the alley in the rear. Please check in at the front garden and you will join one of the many tours being offered throughout the day.
Two videos for this post, a late spring tour of the garden and something different, a twilight tour. We took a walk through Keeler Gardens at dusk to capture a different view of the garden, with the focus on beacons in the dark and guest staring fireflies.
So we are taking a walk through the gardens again. It’s mid-may and we have Ajuga in bloom, tulips making a relatively graceful exit, and the peonies are on their way. You may have seen this video live on Facebook, when we featured the front gardens in bloom.
This is the premier of the second video though, of the rear gardens, where the poppies are budding along with the many roses we hope to show you in a few weeks. There are many spring blooms to see, now, and in the upcoming days. Stay tuned for more…
Here are some more videos and pictures from the Chicago Botanic Garden’stitan arum display. Below, Sprout is blooming with his big burgundy spathe, Alice is in fruit in her special enclosure, and a youngster is leafing out.
And now the videos. We showed you the collection of pollen in the previous post, and here are all the stars of the show.
We recently visited Sprout, the newest star of the Chicago Botanic Garden’stitan arum display. We were fortunate to catch a couple of videos of CBG staff collecting pollen from Sprout’s male flowers. Pollen will be stored, frozen actually, so it can remain viable for about two years, and will be used to pollinate future titan arum female flowers.
If you missed the show at the Chicago Botanic check back here for more videos of Sprout in bloom and Alice in fruit.