A Bizzzzy 2019 at Keeler Gardens

A rock slab stands upright, braced by other rocks and surrounded by foliage in the Keeler Gardens pollinator habitat. The slab is painted partially white, and text painted on it reads “Welcome to,” in black, and “Keeler Gardens” in green. There is also a painting of a blue and green hummingbird hovering next to a blue flower to the left of the words, which is the Keeler Gardens logo.
Welcome Sign

2018 was a busy year for Keeler Gardens! The highlight of this year was the opening of our Pollinator Habitat, a year-round refuge for pollinators featuring Illinois native plants. And speaking of pollinators, our bee hives were successful this first year. We definitely benefited from the help of our six Chicago Tech Academy interns in the spring and our seven summer interns. We hosted programs, like the Flower Arrangement Class and our Pollinator Celebration at Keeler Gardens, and we presented to the Highland Park Garden Guild and at the Chicago Botanic Garden Nature Play Event. Read on for details about each of these exciting programs and presentations. 

Chicago Tech Academy Interns

In February we were proud to welcome six interns from Chicago Tech Academy! Chicago Tech Academy is a great charter school, with a mission to educate, empower, and help students discover their passions, succeed in college, and thrive in a digital world. They particularly stress engaging in real-world learning and work with 100+ partners such as DDB, Vibes Media, Gogo Air, CNA Insurance, and now Keeler Gardens, to provide students with early exposure to work-based learning and internships. These six interns came from Chicago Tech to gain hands-on experience in botany, horticulture, technology, and art. Over the month of February, this crew completed art projects, supported our social media plan, photographed the site, organized digital files, and designed a garden. We thank all of the interns for their hard work in the winter as it set the stage for the rest of the year.

The Keeler Gardens Educational Pollinator Habitat

One of the biggest accomplishments this year was the creation of the Pollinator Habitat. In March Keeler Gardens won a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to build a pollinator habitat. We can now offer an experience with Illinois native plants in a year-round refuge for pollinators, that would perform from early spring through late fall. 

On August 4 we opened our Pollinator Habitat with our Pollinator Celebration, which was a great success!

Summer Interns

Over the summer we were also fortunate to host seven interns! Four of them participated through privately funded internships, and the other three through the After School Matters summer internship program. After School Matters works with more than 23,000 companies to provide jobs for more than 15,000 teens across Chicago every year. This program is a great way for nonprofits and other businesses to help Chicago’s youth, and it was a great way for us to find teens that want to connect with nature. Throughout their internship, the interns worked on planting a plethora of plants in the new Pollinator Habitat. Thanks to these interns, the Pollinator Habitat successfully opened on August 4.

The Big Buzz, Honey!

We were very fortunate to partner with Sloanstead Honey. They installed and managed two hives on top of our shed. They harvested Keeler Gardens Honey at the end of the season and we plan to have honey every year!

Looking Forward

has come and gone, but we are excited to continue building on the Pollinator
Habitat and tackling more projects in 2019. This year we want to welcome more
volunteers to Keeler Gardens. Our focus is to continue to build community
through nature. Make sure to sign up for our email list or follow us on
Facebook to be the first to hear about events such as Fridays by the Fire, a
trip to The Epcot™ International Flower and Garden Festival, and sharing
our story at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show.

Do you need a little more nature? Then head to Keeler Gardens and sit in a rocking chair, look for the community cats, or knock on the door for a cup of tea with Keeler Gardens Sloanstead Honey. We look forward to expanding our community this year!

Keeler Gardens Welcomes Summer 2018 Interns

Four high school interns from across Chicago pose for a picture, standing in the right foreground in a group on a sidewalk with a sign that reads “Welcome, Keeler Gardens.” In the background, mostly to the left, is the Keeler Gardens educational pollinator habitat, freshly planted, with a variety of Illinois native pollinator plants.
Five high school interns from across Chicago stand on the sidewalk in front of Keeler Gardens with Gina, the gardens’ lead horticulturalist, posing for a picture to commemorate their first day at work. On their left in the foreground and background is the educational pollinator habitat, with many of the native plants and bulbs in pots on the soil, not yet planted in the ground. Behind them to the left is part of Keeler Gardens’ front garden.
Interns with Gina
This summer, Keeler Gardens is proud to say we have seven new interns working and learning with us! Four of them are participating through privately funded internships, and three we host through the After School Matters summer internship program. After School Matters works with more than 23,000 companies to provide jobs for more than 15,000 teens across Chicago every year. Their program is a great way for nonprofits and other businesses to help Chicago’s youth, and it’s a great way for Keeler Gardens to find teens that want to connect with nature. Our new interns are taking on their jobs like champs! Their first week at Keeler Gardens was excellent weather for working outside, if a little hot, so they mainly worked on planting bulbs and other plants in the new Pollinator Habitat.
Two interns, seen from slightly above, one bending down on the left side of the picture removing a shovelful of dirt, and one standing at the top right with only her legs visible holding a shovel, are digging a large hole to plant a rosebush next to an ornamental rock feature. The clay soil appears gray and chunky as the sun is beating down on the working interns. The soil appears gray and chunky, and the sun is beating down on the working interns.
Planting a rose bush in the Pollinator Habitat
They’ve made so much progress on the Habitat that it’s coming along ahead of schedule, and we’re very excited to see how far it’s come. The Pollinator Habitat will be officially open on Saturday, August 4, 2018 for our Pollinator Celebration Day, and you may have the opportunity to meet some of our interns. They’re all looking forward to meeting the community and growing with Keeler Gardens this summer!
Four high school interns from across Chicago pose for a picture, standing in the right foreground in a group on a sidewalk with a sign that reads “Welcome, Keeler Gardens.” In the background, mostly to the left, is the Keeler Gardens educational pollinator habitat, freshly planted, with a variety of Illinois native pollinator plants.
Interns and the Pollinator Habitat

Keeler Gardens at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

If you are following us on Facebook you already know that we are visiting the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.

As of this blog post we have reported from the following gardens:

We still have a few more gardens we will report from so make sure you are following us on Facebook and in the upcoming weeks we will put all of the videos together on YouTube into a nice playlist to have the whole week in one place. Make sure you subscribe to our newsletter so you will be the first to know when they are posted.

In addition, make sure you are following us on Instagram as we are highlighting different topiaries each day from around the festival. In the upcoming weeks we will add the photos to a gallery here on our website.

You can watch the Facebook Live videos on our Facebook Page and let us know if there are any other gardens you would like to see.

One last note, the Chicago Flower and Garden show is coming up soon. I, Ed, will be presenting at 2pm on Monday, March 20th on Mobile Photography in Your Garden, and we will also be presenting at 5:00pm on Friday, March 24th on the evolution of Keeler Gardens. We hope to see you there. Make sure to come up and say hello.

A New Year at Keeler Gardens

Viewing from the perspective of an ant on the ground we look through what appears to be a giant forest of tulips of a rainbow of colors. The tulips in the foreground seem to match the Chicago Skyline behind with the Sears Tower prominently anchoring the buildings.

Welcome to 2017


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.


Deep below the hiking trails above the bluffs we see the calm stream that helped to carve these giant limestone bluffs. Aside from a few ripples from a stone or branch colliding upstream it is almost a mirror image of the landscape above.
A calming view of a stream near Starved Rock in Illinois.


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.


A beautiful gray tabby with a hint of dark smoke rings adorn her from head to toes to tail. Her yellow eyes staring towards the ground as she lets a paw dangle off the couch as she wonders why she has been woken up from her nap. In the background her dark gray brother appears to be sound asleep except for one ear that stands at attention.
Cats and all pets help us to connect with nature.


This giant weeping willow tree stands as a giant guardian almost all but blocking the view of the water behind it. It's huge branches arch down towards the water like a hundred horses stopping to drink at a river.
An inspiring weeping willow tree.

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.


Sun barely shines through the fence
Multiple aspects call us to connect, stone steps, ground cover, flowers, and a peek at the sun.


Metal lion heads adorn this decorative base to a light pole. The black metal iron is a popular place for these little salamanders to sun themselves. This one freezes after trying to make a break for it hoping no one notices a grey lizard on a black metal lion.
A lizard caught on a iron rail, which itself is a work of art.

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.


Viewing from the perspective of an ant on the ground we look through what appears to be a giant forest of tulips of a rainbow of colors. The tulips in the foreground seem to match the Chicago Skyline behind with the Sears Tower prominently anchoring the buildings.
The Chicago skyline from the perspective of the ants.


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.


A yellow, black, and white caterpillar is eating a milkweed leaf that it is holding on to the bottom of. In the background there is a blue sprig of saliva.
A hungry caterpillar fills up for her upcoming metamorphosis.


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.


At first glance it looks like a table of leaves, sticks, and antlers. After closer inspection each piece of nature reveals that they are silver and copper metal work, that other then it's metallic shine, is hard to tell from nature's real thing. It is metalwork by Ben & Lael, INC
An example of nature-inspired metalwork art.
Two tall canvas paintings by Meg Fine Art, sit side by side at an art show. Heavy blue tones cover both with as the one on the left depicts a vining flower with accents of a red cardinal and the one on the right features a beautiful blue butterfly.
Original art on cloth draws nature indoors.

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.


Two benchs positioned perfectly at the end of the dock are drenched with the orange tones of sunset looking southward on Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron in northern Michigan.
Two benches wait for the us to enjoy the sunset in northern Michigan.

Have a question?

You can comment below. You can reach us on social media @KeelerGardens or you can always email me at gg@keelergardens.com

Let us know in the comments, “What connects you with nature?”


A lush landscape bathed in yellow light as the sun starts to set. The shrubs adorn the hillside that is home to the waterfall garden. In a break towards the top one can see the top of one of the waterfalls and almost hear the water trickle down the hill.
Fall view touched by the sun.

Press Release – Announcing Keeler Gardens, NFP


The following is our official press release.  You can download the PDF copy here or contact Ed if you would like an editable version.


Keeler Gardens
3631 N. Keeler Ave
Chicago, IL 60641

Contact: Edward Caplan, Executive Director
Ed@KeelerGardens.com – (773) 206-6072

Announcing Keeler Gardens a New Non-Profit Educating on Biophilia in Old Irving Park

Old Irving Park, Chicago, IL 11/21/16 – Ed Caplan, 16 year resident of Old Irving Park, is pleased to announce a new community resource, Keeler Gardens.  After 10 years, Keeler Gardens is now formally offering programs and education on biophilia and how our local environment can better our well-being, free of charge to the Old Irving Park community.

“Biophilia is our innate desire to connect with the natural world, and that connection offers something so special and important,” states Caplan, Executive Director of Keeler Gardens. “When we nurture this connection we see rejuvenation and increased attention, less fatigue and stress, increased productivity, and enhanced healing.  Even childhood diagnoses are reduced.”

Whether you want to get your hands dirty, review research, or just enjoy a stunning view, you will find all of that at Keeler Gardens.

Visit KeelerGardens.com for more information about upcoming programs and to receive the free Keeler Gardens newsletter.  Also, find Keeler Gardens on most social media platforms via @KeelerGardens.

About Keeler Gardens:

Keeler Gardens is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in the Old Irving Park Community.  Keeler Gardens will be participating in this year’s Giving Tuesday event on November 29th through the #ILGive campaign and will be at the St. Viator Mistletoe Market on Friday December 2nd.

The Executive Director of Keeler Gardens, Ed Caplan, is available for interviews and questions regarding biophilia community resources.

Contact: Ed Caplan, MSW
Executive Director
Keeler Gardens, NFP
(773) 206-6072

Good Luck Gina!

Gina Iliopoulos is the new host of GreenMark Pr's new on line news show. Here we see her enjoying a cup of tea at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort. The GreenMark Squiggle is in the upper right hand corner letting us know it is official.

Gina To Host Live Green News Show!

Gina Iliopoulos is the new host of GreenMark Pr's new on line news show. Here we see her enjoying a cup of tea at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort. The GreenMark Squiggle is in the upper right hand corner letting us know it is official.

We are going to see our very own Gina Iliopoulos (GG), a lot more now, just not here on KeelerGardens.com.  We wish her the best of luck in her new venture as host of GreenMark PR’s LIVE news show.  Don’t worry, you’ll still see her around in the garden.

You can now find Keeler Gardens on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as @keelergardens.

You can now follow Gina personally on Facebook and Twitter (@Gina_Iliopoulos).  Her first broadcast is August 18th on the Firetalk platform.  Here is the link to the channel: firetalk.com/greenmark-pr.  You can watch via this link and if you want to comment and participate make sure to log in.

By the way I’m Ed (xperientialEd) and I will be taking over the reigns of the website and social media.   Make sure to follow Keeler Gardens on your platform of choice and leave a comment below wishing Gina to “Break a Leg!”


The Midwest Gardeniere

The time has come!! The moment we have all been waiting for-
Scott’s Miracle Gro and The Home Depot present…

Gina, The Midwest Gardeniere

in three new videos ready for viewing.  You can go to the Gardenieres site to find videos or you can go right to each video with the links below.

You can see me, GG, in my garden at

Watch me working on my climbing roses at

And I am ammending clay soil at

I am so excited, the videos came out fabulous!  Please pass along the links to everyone you know.  I mean that…everyone.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy my garden.

We just finished filming the next round of videos so here are a couple of teasers…

We did two “vertical” gardens, one with fall tones…

And one on the stairs with a blue focus.  Here are pictures looking down from the top step and up from the sidewalk.

Aren’t they just awesome!  I designed them both and I am so pleased with how they look.  Thanks so much to my wonderful mother, who picked out the blue torch at the bottom and gave me the tall amber torch as a gift.

Once again, any comments or suggestions please leave me a note, and please subscribe to the blog.

See you next time with the first post in our design series.





In my excitement I neglected to even introduce myself.  For now, know that I am Gina.  I have decent size city lot in Chicago, on which I have built a haven.  I have been consumed, in a good way, by my garden for the past 5 years.  I hope what I have to offer will inspire you to create something extraordinary.

I will show you the evolution of my garden and all the associated projects.  I also want to be a resource for you so ask questions, give me suggestions, and we will work together.  Soon I will add an “about me” page with more background info on me.  Until then let’s blog!