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Roseland, Pullman

Tour Pullman’s Greenest, Most Colorful Yards At Annual Historical Garden Walk

Pullman's green thumbs are opening their yards for self-guided and guided tours this weekend. There will also be plants, T-shirts, garden knick knacks and art for sale.

At the Annual Historic Garden Walk, community members can tour private and public gardens and green spaces.
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PULLMAN — A Far South Side neighborhood garden club is bringing back a favorite tradition after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

The Historic Pullman Garden Club is hosting Garden Walk: The Bees and the Birds 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Tickets cost $12 in advance or $15 at the door. For the first time since 2019, community members can enjoy self-guided and guided tours of private and public gardens in the neighborhood.

Plant enthusiasts will get to see how people living in Pullman curated green spaces in their yards and around the neighborhood. People can buy plants, T-shirts, garden knickknacks and more from the Historic Pullman Garden Club or art made by local artists from the Pullman ArtSpace Lofts.

“We have eight or nine gardens, and each one has some feature, maybe it has a pond or it has something a little bit different,” said Susan James, the vice president of the historic Pullman Garden Club. “And of course all of our gardens are small … so what we’re showing off is just whatever creativity people can demonstrate in a small space. They’re still very nice, and people enjoy them.” 

Neighbors also can visit a yard on the tour where a neighborhood beekeeper raises bees.

The Pullman Garden Club has 50-60 members who brainstorm what gardening needs to be done in the community. The group has organized the garden walk since the early 1990s, typically holding it the last Saturday in June, but skipped the event in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.

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At the Annual Historic Garden Walk, community members can tour private and public gardens and green spaces.

James said it has been difficult to bring members back into the fold at the Historic Pullman Garden Club because the majority of participants are older. Others have moved on to new hobbies or don’t have the same time they once did to commit to the club, James said.

“These are small homes … and they tend to attract single people, older people, retired people,” James said. “We are getting older, some of us … so we’re always looking for some young folks to get involved. … It’s a challenge to keep things rolling.”

Getting young people involved in their work isn’t a new challenge for the Historic Pullman Garden Club, James said. Previously, James and other garden club members partnered with local schools, including Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy High School and the University of Chicago Law School. Youth volunteers from Pullman’s Method Soap Factory have also helped the club members pull weeds, plant flowers and maintain grass and other leafy plants. 

With school groups and others interested in the Pullman community making regular trips for tours, Historic Pullman Garden Club members have taken it upon themselves to beautify neighborhood green spaces, including Arcade Park and Pullman Park.

“When we reach out, or we put out a call, we could use some help, it’s a wonderful thing,” James said. “If you have a whole group of younger people come, you can accomplish a task in one afternoon.”

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A front yard outside a home in Pullman.

James said the garden walk has attracted people who used to live in Pullman as well as those who’ve never lived in the neighborhood and are curious about its history. 

James said it’s always interesting to see how former neighbors are surprised by how the area has changed since they moved out of Pullman as kids. 

“The main thing they’ll 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 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, that they’re remembering and they come back out with curiosity for what it’s like, what happened since they left.”

James said she hopes people remember past Pullman Garden Walks and come to support this year’s edition.

“We have always a little nervousness about it,” James said. “But of course, the main reason we do it is to try to unify the community, share ideas amongst ourselves and kind of cement those ties. So whether people come or not, it’s still a great event.

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Front yards like these will be available to tour during the Annual Historic Garden Walk: The Bees and the Birds on June 25.
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The Historic Pullman Garden Club is hosting its annual garden walk this year for the first time since before the pandemic.

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