PULLMAN — A garden club on the Far South Side is bringing back a beloved tradition after a two-year pandemic hiatus.
The Historic Pullman Garden Club hosts the Garden Walk: The Bees and the Birds on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the box office. For the first time since 2019, community members can enjoy self-guided and guided tours of private and public gardens in the neighborhood.
Plant lovers can see how people who live in Pullman curate green spaces in their yards and neighborhoods. People can shop for plants, t-shirts, garden ornaments and more at Historic Pullman Garden Club or art by local artists at Pullman ArtSpace Lofts.
“We have eight or nine gardens and each one has something special, maybe it has a pond or it has something a little bit different,” said Susan James, vice president of the historic Pullman Garden Club. “And of course, all of our gardens are small… so we’re showing exactly the kind of creativity that people can show in a small space. They are still very nice and people enjoy them.”
Neighbors can also visit a farm where a neighboring beekeeper raises bees on the tour.
The Pullman Garden Club has 50-60 members who are concerned about what gardening needs to be done in the community. The group has been organizing the garden walk since the early 1990s and usually hosts it on the last Saturday in June, but has skipped the event in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.
James said it has been difficult to get members back into the fold of the Historic Pullman Garden Club because the majority of participants are older. Others have turned to new hobbies or don’t have the same amount of time they used to dedicate to the club, James said.
“These are small houses … and they tend to attract singles, older people and retirees,” James said. “We’re getting older, some of us … so we’re always looking for young people to get involved. … It’s a challenge to keep things going.”
Getting young people involved in their work is not a new challenge for the Historic Pullman Garden Club, James said. Previously, James and other garden club members worked with local schools, including Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy High School and the University of Chicago Law School. Volunteer volunteers from Pullman’s Method Soap Factory have also helped club members pull weeds, plant flowers, and tend grass and other foliage plants.
With school groups and others interested in the Pullman community taking regular tours, members of the Historic Pullman Garden Club have made it their mission to beautify the neighborhood’s green spaces, including Arcade Park and Pullman Park.
“If we get in touch or make a call, we could use some help, that’s a wonderful thing,” James said. “If you bring in a whole group of younger people, you can complete a task in an afternoon.”
James said the garden walk has drawn people who used to live in Pullman as well as those who have never lived in the neighborhood and are curious about its history.
James said it’s always interesting to see how former neighbors are surprised at how the area has changed since they left Pullman as kids.
“The main thing they say is, ‘My grandfather was a Pullman porter, or he worked in the factory, or my uncle was a waiter at the hotel when the hotel was still the restaurant.’ They’ll have these stories about how they used to come here for brunch…” James said. “So there’s a lot of that they remember and they come back curious about what it’s like, what’s happened since they left.”
James said she hopes people will remember past Pullman Garden Walks and come to support this year’s edition.
“We’re always a little nervous,” James said. “But of course, the main reason we’re doing this is to try to unite the community, share ideas with each other, and cement those bonds. Whether people come or not, it’s still a great event.
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