As a North sider, if you have a backyard, it’s likely that it isn’t large enough for a big garden. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring flowers and greenery into your home environment.
Even if the only space you have available is a high-rise balcony, shady front steps, a windowsill or a small roof deck, several garden shops in Chicago specialize in finding flowers and plants that fit the various light and wind conditions the city endures.
“There are a lot of plants, shrubs and trees that are specifically suited to smaller garden areas,” said Abbe MacLise of Jayson Home & Garden in Lincoln Park. “A lot of people want to block out a telephone pole or have more privacy from neighbors but don’t want to put up a fence. Shrubbery is a great alternative.”
Jayson Home and Garden stocks a diverse selection of containers from around the world, each made from different materials meant to survive Chicago’s varying weather conditions. In high wind, for example, ceramic containers are great because they are heavier and window boxes work well because they can be tied down, MacLise said.
For those city dwellers wanting the beauty of greenery but lacking the time to maintain it, non-flowering plants and succulents are great options. Gardening professionals at the stores can help you determine which plants or flowers are best for certain seasons.
Planting for Health
Aside from adding beauty to your home, digging into the gardening world can bring you several health benefits.
Many studies have shown that certain physiological indicators, such as respiration, pulse, blood pressure and muscle tension, respond positively to plants. And simply working with plants can help relieve stress and distract you from worry.
These health benefits have been clinically proven in healthcare environments, carrying over to the casual gardener. Research confirms that even modest levels of physical activity, such as that found in various gardening activities, can positively affect health. Gardening activities can draw on your endurance, flexibility and strength.
According to professionals at the Chicago Botanic Garden, gardening can reduce pain physically and emotionally, improve memory and concentration, cultivate nurturing feelings and reduce anger. You can even benefit from simply watching a plant grow over time.
Alex Manuel, PT, a physical therapist at Swedish Covenant Hospital who provides therapy sessions to orthopedic patients using planting activities, said, “When our patients work with the plants in the hospital’s garden, they often forget about the pain. Working with the plants is a distraction. Instead of being the person who’s receiving care, they’re focused on taking care of another living thing.”
This article was originally printed in Well magazine, the precursor to this site, in May 2007. Written and edited by the editorial staff of Well magazine and Well Community.
Peterson Gardening Project
Help grow an organic vegetable garden at the corner of Petersen and Cambell avenues.
Greater Rockwell Organization
This civic-minded community organization often organizes gardening efforts, including award-winning corner gardens.
Rogers Park Garden Group
Building up beauty, comaraderie and involvement in Rogers Park
Wicker Park Garden Club
Beautifying Wicker Park (Damen Ave. and Schiller St.) and other neighborhood green spaces.
Chicago Botanic Garden
Offering classes and lifestyle programs.
5386–5410 N. Bowmanville Ave.
4643–4645 N. Drake St.
Ginkgo Organic Garden
4055–4059 N. Kenmore Ave.
Turtle Park and Garden
4900 N. Troy St.
Warner Park and Garden
1446 W. Warner Ave.
For information on how to become involved in the above community gardens, visit neighbor-space.org, a website forNeighborSpace, non-profit organization that acquires and supports community-based management of gardens and parks.