A Garden to Kvell Over
Almost every day Judy and I drive by the garden of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston. Today we decided to walk the mile from our house to give it a closer look. This garden was created when the congregation rebuilt their old synagogue so as to meet the highest certification standards of the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
The garden utilizes predominantly native plants and a minimum of inputs. Lying between Dodge Avenue and the west side of the synagogue, it is mostly in full sun, though there are two sizeable redbud trees (Cercis canadensis). (Speaking of sun, the day was quite overcast and less than ideal for taking pictures.)
In mid-summer, the garden’s most visually dominant plant is wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). Yellow and purple coneflower (Ratibida pinnata and Echinacea purpurea) and nodding onion (Allium cernuum) were also much in evidence. Not 100% sure about the Allium ID, though.
The whole place was buzzing with bees when we were there, and we also saw two Monarch butterflies.
The clumps of wild bergamot seemed remarkably upright, and didn’t seem to be suffering from the dry weather we’ve been having lately.
There were swathes of wild onion, though mostly not yet in bloom.
There were a few exceptions, though. I keep meaning to put some of this Allium into my garden.
On the other hand, I have lots of wild bergamot and yellow coneflower, so when I see them in a garden it’s like running into old friends.
Extensive use of recycled construction materials is a requirement for the LEED certification.
A path wanders through the garden, allowing a closer look.
There are also a couple of benches for kibitzing or contemplation.
On its website, the congregation notes the religious basis for environmental stewardship, including this quote from Ecclesiastes: “God led Adam around the Garden of Eden and said, ‘Look at My works. See how beautiful they are, how excellent. See to it that you do not spoil or destroy My world – for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you’.
Neither Judy or I are religious people (my family is Jewish, hers is Lutheran), but I find it encouraging when people of any faith recognize that environmental sanity is a moral and practical imperative. Aside from that, it’s always good to find a congregation with a more exciting and creative approach to landscaping their own small piece of the earth.