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!

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.