Spotlight: Wicker Park Advisory Council


Welcome to the second installment of our blog series Spotlight on PACs, where the ten 2014 PACs of the Year share best practices and discuss common issues facing their volunteer groups. Previously, Indian Boundary Park Advisory Council explained some key social media ideas as well as best practices of using survey data to guide programming. 

This week our guest blogger is Doug Wood, special events and education coordinator of the Wicker Park Advisory Council and Garden Club. He offers perspective on gardening techniques and mentorship, as well as a unique and affordable landscape class at Wicker Park. Read on!

The Wicker Park Advisory Council and Garden Club have been designing, funding and maintaining the 10,000 square feet of ornamental gardens in Wicker Park, 1425 N. Damen, since 2002. The all-volunteer garden team tends the gardens weekly from March – December. Volunteers are recruited from all over the city and are offered training in hands-on gardening techniques and design.  In addition, they are offered monthly lectures on landscape design, workshops like seed starting and tool sharpening, discounts at the yearly plant sale, and an 8-week long landscape design workshop on Saturdays in January and February.

Recently, the group reached out to the Eckhart Park Advisory Council to assist them with identifying the plants in the gardens they inherited and to develop a maintenance plan to upkeep their gardens.  Denise Browning and I met with the Eckhart Park team members Dana Tedesco and Claudia Sainsot in mid-May to view the garden and to set a plan to maintain each plant and control weeds. Both took notes, took photos with notes, and reviewed them after the meeting. 

Our advice for Eckhart PAC’s gardens included:

  • The climbing roses on the fence near the pool at Eckhart are called Morden Centennial roses and actually came from Wicker Park. To prune them, 'pin them horizontally' to activate them to bloom more. In addition, prune to keep the roses thinned out to increase air flow and to cut down on mold, mildew, and black spot diseases. 
  • To extend the bloom time or perennials by pruning them one month before bloom time to various heights. This causes the plant to produce buds at different times and at different levels thus extending the blooming period of that specific perennial. 
  • For groupings of shrubs and perennials, 'create a drift' of mixed plant material. The point of this is to prune to allow each plant to grow naturally but not impede the growth or health of the surrounding plants. 
  • Plant Verbena bonairensis seedlings in vegetable gardens to draw butterflies and bees and in the ornamental gardens to add season long bloom. (We provided Eckhart with some Verbena.)

Dana has been in charge of the food crop raised beds at the park and is interested in developing a volunteer team to improve the quality of the ornamental gardens by rejuvenating the plants that had been planted there and by enhancing them with new partner plants both perennial and annual that would work well with them. 

Then we introduced the Eckhart team to Shirron Molette (Park District Central Region Landscaping) and Liz O’Callaghan (Coordinator of Community Gardens in the Parks) so that they could work together to provide mulch and some tools for big volunteer days that Claudia and Dana will organize this June.

The Wicker Park Group plans to continue meeting with and advising the Eckhart Park Advisory Council’s Gardeners.

The mentorship that the Wicker PAC provided is an amazing way for an accomplished PAC to pay it forward, and we encourage your PAC to reach out to existing PACs to form meaningful partnerships to help your park. For more information on Wicker Park Advisory Council, visit or reach out to Doug directly about the landscape class at You can read about the Landscape Design Workshop here:

For information about developing a new community garden, please visit this page or contact Liz O’Callaghan at Elizabeth.o’

Jennie Scheerer