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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Here’s How to Buy Thousands of Chicago Park District Plants Going Unused In Pandemic

The plants were meant for city parks, but, due to the coronavirus, the Park District can't hire seasonal staff to do landscaping work.

Garfield Park Conservatory
Ryo Chijiiwa/Flickr
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GARFIELD PARK — The Chicago Park District is selling thousands of flowers initially intended to be planted in parks across the city.

Due to the pandemic, the Park District has had to scale back its typical spring beautification efforts. The public health emergency is preventing the district from hiring seasonal workers to spruce up the flower beds at the parks, leaving thousands of flowers unplanted.

But instead of letting the flowers go to waste, the Park District is selling 50,000 of its annuals, which were grown at greenhouses and nurseries around the city.

“We’re trying to turn a tough situation into something positive,” said Cathy Breitenbach, director of cultural and natural resources. “A lot of people are spending more time at home. This is a way to let people enjoy the beauty of our park gardens at their home.”

The Park District partnered with the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance to facilitate a sale with no-contact pickup at the conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave.

Plants can be bought through the alliance’s online portal, and pickup times can be scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You can buy individual plants, packs of three and six plants and flats of 10 plants. 

The plant selection is mostly annual flowers like begonias, as well as leafy ground covers like coleus varieties.

Though the annuals won’t be planted in the city’s parks this year, there will still be plenty of perennials for visitors to enjoy, Breitenbach said.

“A sustainability focus has been important for us in the past few years. We’ve done a lot of work to try help with wildlife habitats,” she said. “That work will pay off in an unexpected way this year in that those plants do come back every year. So we will still have the seasonal beauty from all of our perennials.”

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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