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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Hyde Park Garden Fair Is Back For 1st Spring Sale In 3 Years: ‘Something We Really Want To Keep Going’

Annuals, perennials, herbs, wildflowers and much more will be sold Friday-Saturday at the Hyde Park Shopping Center.

A past Hyde Park Garden Fair in the Hyde Park Shopping Center, 5450 S. Lake Park Ave.
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HYDE PARK — A massive Hyde Park plant sale that raises money for neighborhood beautification efforts and a local community group returns this weekend after a two-year hiatus.

The Hyde Park Garden Fair is 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at the Hyde Park Shopping Center, 5450 S. Lake Park Ave. Available plants include:

  • Annuals, the garden fair’s largest department, which includes 86 plant varieties from African blue-eyed daisies and marigolds to petunias and zinnias.
  • Container gardens, which includes greenery that can be grown in planters for outdoor gardens, as well as patio and balcony gardens.
  • Groundcovers for sun and shade, including ivy, wintercreeper, drought-tolerant sedums and creeping phlox.
  • Herbs.
  • Perennials like echinaceas, irises and lilies.
  • Hanging baskets, wildflowers, houseplants, vegetables, ornamental trees, shrubs, vines and roses.

Volunteers can sign up to tally up customers’ totals and assist in the sale’s departments while learning more about the plants they’re selling, Rumsey said. To volunteer, click here.

The garden fair sources its plants “from all over,” including Big John’s Farm Market in Lynwood and the St. Charles-based Midwest Groundcovers, organizer George Rumsey said.

However, a lot of local places have “dried up” due to the pandemic, or they’ve stopped selling wholesale in favor of focusing on a booming retail plant market, Rumsey said.

“We’re trying really hard — people will be pleased with what they find,” he said. “We’ll have slightly fewer plants than usual, but we’ve really been trying to reach out to new growers and new providers.”

About 60 percent of fair proceeds are “plowed back into neighborhood parks,” including upkeep of community gardens in Harold Washington and Nichols parks, Rumsey said.

The fair’s organizing committee also makes a contribution to Growing Home, an Englewood-based urban farm that offers job training programs to people returning from incarceration, he said.

The rest of the fair’s profits are donated to the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. The organization has held community conversations through the pandemic on topics like equitable transit and police accountability and hosted a virtual kick-off event for the Dementia Friendly Hyde Park initiative.

The annual garden fair was founded in 1958 and was last held in spring 2019. It was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to coronavirus concerns and difficulties acquiring plants for the fair.

The organizing committee’s funds “are not as high as they usually are going into a sale,” as its regular cleanup work has continued without its main fundraiser.

“We’re listing this as our 61st garden fair,” Rumsey said. “It’s something we really want to keep going, and we can’t do that without the wonderful people who show up buying plants by the cart load.”

Following the fair, organizers will hold work days in Nichols Park until October, including Saturday work days in the park’s perennial beds and Sunday work days in its wildflower meadow.

More details on volunteering will soon be posted to the fair’s website, Rumsey said.

The fair committee’s annual Bulb and Mum Sale is tentatively planned for Sept. 17. Tulips, specialty bulbs, chrysanthemums and orchids are among the plants available at the sale, which serves as the fall counterpart to this weekend’s fair.

“I placed my order [for the fall plants] yesterday,” Rumsey said. “The bulb company called us and said, ‘We are going to be sold out by end of May, so if you want anything, you better get your order in.'”

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