National Public Gardens Day

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The Second Annual National Public Gardens Day is May 7, 2010. National Public Gardens Day was created to raise awareness of America’s public gardens and the various roles they play in our lives.  
Do gardens like the Chicago Botanic Garden need their own special day? After speaking with Paul James, the spokesperson for National Public Gardens Day,  I started thinking about all the myriad ways the Chicago Botanic Garden’s presence and work affects our lives in Chicago.
I know about a lot of the work the Botanic Garden does but I don’t think I’d ever connected the dots and realized the importance of it all. It is more than just a place that houses pretty flowers, rare plants and cool bonsai trees. The seed bank, The Plants of Concern project, and the Green Youth Farm are just some examples I can think of off the top of my head that make me realize how lucky we are to have an institution like the Chicago Botanic Garden in our area.
So, I guess the answer to my question of their being a need for a National Public Gardens Day is a resounding yes. Since it is the Friday preceding Mother’s Day Weekend why not take the mom in your life on a trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden. The Morton Arboretum has a number of events lined up this same weekend all centered around making Mother’s Day special. (see here for some local gift ideas for Mother’s Day)
Many in our City have never been to the Botanic Garden or the Morton Arboretum and it is unfortunate that sometimes finances keep many who would benefit from visiting these places from being able to do so. If you can’t get out of the City; celebrate National Public Gardens Day by visiting the Lurie Garden, the Garfield Park Conservatory or the Lincoln Park Conservatory. All three of these places are free to visit and easily accessible via trains and buses. 
You can learn more about National Public Gardens Day and the American Public Gardens Association here. Get out there and take in one of the many wonderful public gardens we’re fortunate to have in the Chicagoland area. 
Talking with Paul James 
I got a call from Paul James last Friday morning and it was a little surreal talking to one of my gardening heroes. I remember sitting around my freshman year of college watching Gardening by the Yard and being entertained and informed by his show. The show made me want to be an outdoor gardener. Of all the programming HGTV used to have Paul’s show was the only one I felt I really learned something from. His show is no longer in production and he thinks his career in television is “over” because he’s “too old.” Something his fans don’t agree with. He thinks that with the shift to reality based gardening shows there is no longer a market for his type of gardening show. Although, he says he’s currently talking to a publisher about the possibility of writing a gardening book. He’s also currently busy traveling and speaking about gardening and besides promoting National Public Gardens Day he’s the spokesperson for the Home Farming Movement sponsored by Triscuit, where they’ll be installing 50 community based gardens across the country. 
There’s a lot of hype around encouraging people to remove their lawns and so I asked him if it was necessary. He said that you can successfully sustain a lawn without the use of synthetic chemicals. If anything people could always think about decreasing the size of their lawns just to lessen the amount of resources they take.
I hope he’s wrong about his TV career being over because I think there’s a need for a gardening personality like Paul James. Many men who are just discovering gardening, both ornamental and edible, will benefit from having an average Joe like Paul James to look up to. He made it ok for a young MrBrownThumb to tell people he liked plants and watched HGTV. For that I’ll always be grateful.   
You can get your does of Paul James “The Gardener Guy” on the internet by visiting his website for gardening tips and information or “like” him on Facebook.


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  • Agree on Paul James, you know I love him! I have been converting lawn to garden beds for some time, but still have a lot of "lawn". I'm organic about it because that's just me but also because I live 10 feet from a creek. My lawn is mostly weeds which means in the 8 years I've lived here, I've watered my lawn exactly (wait for it) ZERO times and it still looks green. I also don't fertilize or use weedkillers. I ignore conventional wisdom and mow VERY short--this gets weeds before they bloom/form seedheads (except dandelions who are sneaky little @#@#ards) and reduces the amount of times I have to mow/use gas.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    Yeah, I know you love you some Paul James. I forgot to tell him about you, although I did sort of mention that incident where you-know-who took that pic of you and PJ from your website. I think one of the reasons why I'm not anti-lawns is because I was first indoctrinated into natural gardening and landscaping practices watching Paul's show. So, to me it was never something I thought of as being much of a drain either economically or environmentally.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    Have I managed to log in this time? Sorry, but I'm working on total overload, Mr BT!!
    A "National Public Gardens Day" is so timely - simply a great idea. And here you are mentioning the Lurie Garden, one of the many reasons why I love my home town, and not only for a special Mother's Day visit.
    I've been thinking about that great new ramp from the Lurie to the Modern Wing of the AIC, and can't wait to return to Chicago, hopefully, again in the Fall.
    Congrats by the way, on your nomination for the Mousie Award.

  • In reply to AliceJoyce:

    Hi BATGT,

    That bridge is pretty cool. Love taking pics from there. Hope you have a great Mother's Day!

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