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

2018
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!

Highland Park Garden Guild Presentation

Gina stands at the front of a group of laddies that make up the Highland Park Garden Guild. Everyone is riveted as they all look at her.
We were honored by an invitation from the Highland Park Garden Guild to speak for their group this past week. We were so thrilled to be able to get the word out about Keeler Gardens, connecting with nature, and our new Pollinator Habitat. The group was such a pleasure to work with. They were interested, had excellent questions, and they themselves were already so well educated on green spaces, soil science, and supporting pollinators. Our presentation focused on what Keeler Gardens is doing in the community. Following are links to previous posts and resources on connecting with nature.
Gina stands at the front of a group of laddies that make up the Highland Park Garden Guild. Everyone is riveted as they all look at her.
Gina Speaking to the Highland Park Garden Guild
  We spoke for quite a while about how we designed the pollinator habitat and the process for plant selection. We had some great references for them that we are including here in this post: high-value target plants for pollinators for dry, moist, and wet sites, along with our final design and plant list. We had a couple of previous posts about the making of the pollinator habitat you can find at the links above and here. And we are very excited to include this group in our upcoming tour, In the spring of 2019, at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. We want to thank the Highland Park Garden Guild for their sincere interest in our presentation, their hospitality, and for spreading the word about what we’re doing at Keeler Gardens. We look forward to working with them again in the future.
A group of ladies poses for a picture in a well appointed kitchen. On the island there is a bountiful display of food and beverage.
The Highland Park Garden Guild
Contact us if you would be interested in having Keeler Gardens be a guest speaker at your event.

Garden Festival, Spring 2019

In the background, the Festival Blooms display at Epcot is spread across a strip of grass above a lagoon. The display is pink, magenta, red, orange and yellow, and is made in the shapes of stars, suns, and the Mickey Mouse logo. In the foreground, green hosta leaves edged with contrasting white are mixed in with dianthus, little hot pink flowers with fringed petals clustered at the ends of long, thin stalks.

Keeler Gardens Visits the 2019 Epcot® International Flower & Garden Festival

In the background, the Festival Blooms display at Epcot is spread across a strip of grass above a lagoon. The display is pink, magenta, red, orange and yellow, and is made in the shapes of stars, suns, and the Mickey Mouse logo. In the foreground, green hosta leaves edged with contrasting white are mixed in with dianthus, little hot pink flowers with fringed petals clustered at the ends of long, thin stalks.
Festival Blooms Display

Saturday, May 4, 2019, through Saturday, May 11, 2019

UPDATE JANUARY 28, 2019: LIMITED SPACES STILL AVAILABLE…

Join Keeler Gardens for a week at one of the most extraordinary flower and garden festivals in the country: the Epcot® International Flower and Garden Festival at Walt Disney World! This isn’t your typical flower and garden show. It offers an unimaginable collection of gardens, themes, and interactions, and we’re incredibly excited to be able to offer this opportunity to our community.

Keeler Gardens has been attending the Epcot® International Flower and Garden Festival for many years, gathering knowledge that we will now be sharing with you over one very special week. Let us guide you through the many gardens on display, allowing us to educate you on all the magical details that will truly connect you with the plants and people of this enchanting special event.

In the center of the picture, a white peacock butterfly with spread wings rests on a cluster of spiky, light orange and dark red milkweed flowers. The butterfly is a pale brown with three dark brown spots on each wing and several rows of rusty orange and dark brown stripes around the wavy edges of the wings.
Butterfly on Milkweed

As your hosts, Keeler Gardens will be at your disposal for guided tours during a portion of each day, with your late afternoons and evenings free to take advantage of all Disney has to offer. Every stop will impart an appreciation for the many different displays, cultures, and hidden gems throughout the festival and beyond. We will immerse you in butterflies, visit each country in the World Showcase, and explore Disney’s environmental commitment. We will also offer suggestions and tips for maximizing your enjoyment of Walt Disney World.

Keeler Gardens has partnered with Vacation Village at Parkway in Kissimmee and Michelle Buchecker at DreamFinder Travel for an excellent offer on accommodations and theme park tickets. Stay in an apartment-like unit with a full kitchen, bath, king bed, and laundry facilities, just a 10-minute ride from Walt Disney Resort property. Along with the comfort of these unique rooms, you will have the luxury of a pool, hot tub, and sun deck.

Tour Details

Package includes:

▪ One-bedroom unit for seven nights

▪ 7-day pass with Park Hopper, to offer the most flexibility (ages 10 and up)

▪ Keeler Gardens knowledge, expertise, and our personal attention as we guide you through your festival experience

▪ Welcome Reception

▪ Keeler Gardens Tour Kit

Package price is $965 per person, based on double occupancy.

In one section of the Terracotta Garden at the 2016 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, Italian terracotta pots overflow with blooms. In the front pot is white sweet alyssum and light pink New Guinea impatiens. In the pots just behind are tall blue and purple stalks of blooming salvia mixed with bright red dianthus, and far in the back hot pink New Guinea impatiens and two-tone pink geraniums. Along the bottom of the picture are more stalks of salvia, and deep blue petunias.
The Terra Cotta Garden

To reserve your package through Keeler Gardens, contact Gina at Gina@KeelerGardens.com.

A nonrefundable deposit of $250 will be due upon booking to confirm your accommodations. Final payment will be due within one month of booking.

Prices are subject to change until paid in full.

Guests will be responsible for their own airfare, transportation, and meals. There is limited daily transportation available from the hotel to the Walt Disney World Resort.

If you have any questions about the packages, options, or the festival please contact Gina at Gina@KeelerGardens.com.

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

What’s up with the Cardboard in the Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat?

The parkway, grassy area between the sidewalk and the street, is completely covered with corrugated cardboard. This is the first step of lasagna gardening for the future pollinator habitat at Keeler Gardens.

Pollinator Habitat Progresses

We promised you regular updates about the pollinator habitat and we do have news.  Let’s start with the apparent mess in the parkway. You may be wondering why it looks like a random dispersion of debris, rest assured there is a method to our madness.

The parkway, grassy area between the sidewalk and the street, is completely covered with corrugated cardboard. This is the first step of lasagna gardening for the future pollinator habitat at Keeler Gardens.
Cardboard laid out preparing for pollinator habitat

Our parkway is presently mostly grass and to build the pollinator habitat in that space the grass needs to be removed.  One way to prepare a bed is to till it, cutting up all growth and turning it back into the soil. We wanted to avoid this process because it is actually detrimental to the soil at a microbial level.  We don’t want to disrupt the living aspect of the soil.

Another way to remove grass is to use a sod cutter.  This would slice off a layer that would include the grass, most of the roots, quite a bit of soil, and possibly a significant amount of the organisms in the soil, which are critical to soil health and, in turn, plant health. That seemed somewhat wasteful and disruptive to the ecosystem so we wanted a better option.

What we are doing is similar to lasagna gardening.  We are killing the grass by layering corrugated boxes over it. This does not have nearly as negative an impact on the microbial life in the soil, and the grass degrades back into the soil which is another plus. The cardboard will also degrade into the soil, faster once we get a top layer of organic material covering it.

Since this image was taken we have learned that People’s Gas will be doing some work in our area. We are uncertain how this will affect our plans, but we are fortunate the work is being done before we do any planting.

We will keep you updated as plans progress. Our next post will include an updated plant list so you can see all the wonderful flowers to expect this summer!

Flower Arrangements at Keeler Gardens

Flowers and Foliage on Saturday, March 10, 2018 at 1:00 p.m.

Join us at Keeler Gardens for an afternoon of flowers and foliage. We will have an abundance of dried flowers and branches for you to choose from, like eucalyptus, yarrow, birch, dogwood, and some unique accents, too.

Groups of eucalyptus branches dyed in rich colors of mocha latte, burnt auburn, and deep iced blue.
Bunches of dried eucalyptus in colorful choices
Two bunches of yarrow flowers, dried and dyed a perfect candy-apple red sit in front of thick weathered grape “vine” branches.
Bunches of minute yarrow flowers form a stunning red cluster

Although there is no formal registration, please do RSVP as we only can accommodate 20 participants, and consider a suggested donation of $20.

One large star frame lightly wrapped with vines accompanies three smaller stars, wrapped densely, all sparkling with festive lime-green glitter.
Star shaped accents covered in bright lime-green glitter

RSVP at our Facebook Event Page here. Also make sure to follow @KeelerGardens on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates on this event and other ways to connect with nature.

A multitude of accents are presented for a natural display including dried lotus flower seed pods, pine cones, and faux pomegranate.
A myriad of seed pods and other accents, made from lotus flowers, conifers, and more.

And here is a little example, one of several arrangements we put together that you can see at Backlot Coffee in Old Irving Park.

We look forward to seeing you on March 10 at Keeler Gardens!

A sweet cluster of dried botanicals including green yarrow, chocolate-colored eucalyptus, yellow flower buttons, and green-flocked birch branches, all in a miniature off-white rippled vase.
A small combination of dried botanicals

Our First Programs at Keeler Gardens.

Spring is Springing

(Press Play if you would like a little spring music while you read)

Are you enjoying this wonderful spring weather? We are, and so are the tulips and other spring bloomers. Flowers are not the only thing in bloom, we are preparing for our first programs here at Keeler Gardens.

Close up of about two dozen Stresa tulip yellow tulips with brushes of pink on the outside of each petal. In the foreground to the is the base
‘Stresa”tulips bloom in the back garden.

Instameet, Sunday, April 30 at 1:30 PM

We are excited that as we welcome the warm weather we have our first two Keeler Gardens program offerings. The first is the Instameet day at Keeler Gardens. What is an Instameet? Instameets are group get-togethers to take pictures to post on Instagram. Although we are using this term, we will do much more. At 1:30 PM on Sunday, April 30th we invite you to come out and take pictures at Keeler Gardens. You don’t have to use a mobile phone, nor do you have to post your pictures on Instagram. Just spending a half hour taking pictures of the garden is a wonderful way to connect with nature. If you so choose, you can share or post your images online. We hope you do, so we can all enjoy your pics. We will be using the hashtag, #KeelerGardens so we can all view the photos during and after the event.

Our executive director, Ed Caplan, stands in a rain coat with smart phone in hand capturing the bright yellow forsythia on the front deck of Keeler Gardens. The cloudy rainy day creates a wonderful environmental contrast for the photo.
Ed connecting with nature.

All levels of photographers are welcome. If you have questions, big or small, about your camera or taking photos come early at 1:00 PM and we’ll be happy to walk through the basics and answer any questions. Let us know you’re planning on coming by RSVP’ing through the Facebook Event Page.

Family Event at Fannie’s, Sunday, May 7 at 4:00 PM

Logo for Fannie's

Fannie’s is a wonderful café in Jefferson Park. The owner, Stephanie, has offered her space for a family day just in time to prepare for Mother’s Day (hint, hint dads!). Make sure to follow the event on our Facebook page here for all the details. What we can tell you right now is it involves seeds and journals. (We’ve said too much!).

Scrapbooking accessories and accoutrements including small and large quotes such as “Cats speak language with their tails.” “Come forth into the light of things let NATURE be your teacher.” The background has various textured papers from watercolor to repeating prints. There are also small trinkets such as butterflies, flowers, and stars.
Various ways to adorn your garden journal

Project WILD

Recently I was certified as a trainer of Growing Up WILD, Aquatic WILD, and Project WILD. These are environmental education curriculum for youth of all ages. From early childhood through elementary and high school, the programs are written to be age specific, with educational learning standards in mind. Upon the completion of this training Keeler Gardens can officially train teachers and other community members on this program.  Make sure to follow us on Facebook and sign up for What’s Growing on, our mailing list, so you are the first to know when we set the date this summer for the Project WILD training.

Two adults sit on a bench in a display garden with three children. The man works with a boy and girl of 5 and 6 years old. The women with her camera keeps an eye on the 3 year old who is more interested in climbing the bench.
Connecting children to nature.

Thank you again for all of your support. Keeler Gardens is here to help you and the rest of our community connect with nature. Thank you for spreading the word by sharing this update and our other posts. Click on these links to let us know if we will be seeing you here at Keeler Gardens on April 30th for the Instameet, at Fannie’s on May 7th for the Family Event, or click here to sign up for What’s Growing on for updates on the Project Wild Training.

Thanks for connecting,
Ed