Pollinator Habitat Almost Ready

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.

The Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat Is Taking Shape

A picture of Keeler Gardens’ new pollinator habitat, taken from the curb. In the foreground is the habitat, planted with natives, studded with raised stepping stones, and edged on the street side with an apron made of reclaimed bricks. Keeler Gardens’ front garden is visible in the back left with lush vegetation and a small section of the pollinator habitat.
Pollinator Habitat

This summer we have been continuing our work on our new Pollinator Habitat, with the valued help of our seven interns and many volunteers, planting a multitude of Illinois native plants and working on a variety of hardscapes. We have all been laboring to get perennials and annuals installed in not only an aesthetically pleasing design, but also in a layout that will support the pollinators. Plants are grouped in large masses so pollinators have plenty to choose from. Annuals and perennials are planted both in the ground and in containers to offer pollen, nectar, and foliage at different heights, and native shrubs are scattered throughout the space to solidify structure.

The image focuses on a series of chipped, aged bricks that read “BARR” on the tops. They’re set in a clear pattern forming a walkway alongside the Keeler Gardens’ pollinator habitat.
Reclaimed Chicago Bricks

Also included in the plans are hardscapes such as flat stones for steppers and edging, and boulders anchoring corners. Stepping stones are staggered throughout the Habitat to allow visitors the opportunity to examine plants and pollinators up close. A narrow brick path lines the curb separating the Habitat from the street. This path is constructed of reclaimed antique paving bricks, drawing from Chicago history. Substantial boulders are painted by a local artist Paula Clayton with educational information.

 

A local artist, Paula Clayton, has been hired by Keeler Gardens to paint educational signs for our new pollinator habitat. Here, she’s crouching in the habitat, painting a sign near a tree that reads, “Shelter for Wildlife” with a graphic of a dragonfly in the upper right corner.
Paula Clayton painting

In addition to the formal Pollinator Habitat, Keeler Gardens supports pollinators throughout our entire space. We are part of the Monarch Waystation Program, a Certified Wildlife Habitat, and host two bee hives. Already we have seen pollinators visit – butterflies, moths, caterpillars, and many different bees. You may have seen a few pictures of caterpillars that our interns found and we posted on our Facebook page. We are looking forward to seeing them grow, and supporting them in the Habitat. We will also be including pollinator “hotels”, offering guests the opportunity to learn to build their own creations.

A black and yellow striped caterpillar is stretched out on a greyish plant in the center foreground. The black stripes are white and red spotted and have black bristles or spines protruding from them, while the yellow stripes are marked with tiny black pinstripes.
American Lady Caterpillar
In the foreground is a handmade insect hotel, which is a square, untreated, wooden frame that is filled with bundles of dry branches, dry twigs, and bits of wood. The insect hotel is designed to be hung, with a rope strap on the top, but it is resting on the ground in the Keeler Gardens’ pollinator habitat for this picture.
Insect Hotel

We are so grateful to all those that have supported us in this endeavor, The Mulch Center providing extraordinary top soil and leaf mulch, Midwest Groundcovers supplying us with a multitude of top quality native plants, Krügel Cobbles for all the stone and brick in the Habitat, and Lurvey Garden Center for continued supplies of all types.

Again we thank Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation for the funding to create the Pollinator Habitat. As part of their K-12 Schools Program we will be hosting our Pollinator Celebration on Saturday, August 4, 2018 from 3:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. It will be an afternoon filled with pollinators and the plants that support them, information on the Habitat and upcoming programs, and tours and interactive opportunities for all ages. Visit our Facebook Event Page for more information and regular updates.

A picture of Keeler Gardens’ new pollinator habitat, taken from the curb. In the foreground is the habitat, planted with natives and studded with raised stepping stones. Keeler Gardens’ front garden and front steps are visible in the back right.
Pollinator Habitat

Keeler Gardens Wins Pollinator Habitat Grant

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.

This "before" image of the site for the planned Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat shows the parkway at Keeler Gardens in the early 2018. THe parkway is mostly grass with two green ash trees and a few existing plantings.
Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat “Before”

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).

The design plan for the new Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat shows both existing and proposed plantings. Existing are label by number with “E” to denote they are already part of the space, grouped mostly at the top of the design (east side) and will be incorporated into the habitat design. New plantings are drawn as circles, 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). New plantings are scattered throughout the design to fill the space. Also included in the design are proposed structures like boulders, benches, water features, and trellises.
Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat Proposed Plan

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:

3 Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
5 Cream Wild False Indigo (Baptisia leucophaea (bracteata var. leucophaea) (NGN))
6 Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis (NGN))
7 White Wild Indigo (Baptisia leucantha (NGN))
8 Common Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis (NGN))
15 Kobold Gayfeather (Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’)
16 Rose (Swamp) Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata (NGN))
17 Common Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata (NGN))
18 Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum (NGN))
19 Anise Hyssop (Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’)
20 Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica (NGN))
21 Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
22 Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii)
23 Turtlehead (Chelone glabra (NGN))
24 Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)
25 Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
26 Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
27 Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea (NGN))
28 Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis (NGN))
29 Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens (NGN))
30 Violet Bush Clover (Lespedeza violacea (NGN))
31 Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum (NGN))
32 Pasture Rose (Rosa carolina (NGN))
33 American Hazelnut (Corylus americana)
34 Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis (NGN))
35 Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)

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.

Sprout the Titan Arum at the Chicago Botanic Garden

We recently visited Sprout, the newest star of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s titan 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.

The Beauty of Pollination

A garden offers us color and scent and a connection with the amazing wonders of nature.  Sometimes we see nature at work — with a pollen covered bee or a butterfly landing on a sweet-smelling flower.  These are not rare occurrences; it’s just the capturing of them that is rare.  Imagine being able to see a hummingbird drinking nectar, or pollen shaken out of a flower.  You are in luck…

Follow this link  http://www.ted.com/talks/louie_schwartzberg_the_hidden_beauty_of_pollination.html  to hear Louie Schwartzberg speak for a few minutes on the wonder of nature, and to watch part of his film “Wings of Life: A Love Story That Feeds the Earth”. You can learn more about him at his website http://www.movingart.tv.

I take no credit for this post.  I give all the credit to my mother, who sent me an incredible video; the filmmaker, Louie Schwartzberg, for his inspirational words and vision; and to the natural world around us offering such wonder in will take your breath away.

Just watch the video.  There is nothing I can say that can surpass the awe you will experience.

Until next time,

GG