Saturday, January 2, 2010

One Seed Chicago

This month gardeners across Chicagoland will begin voting for their favorite prairie seed for One Seed Chicago and the winning seed will be sent to them through the mail.

“For the third year One Seed Chicago is uniting Chicagoans,” said Ben Helphand, NeighborSpace Executive Director. “By planting a common seed, backyards, windowsills, community gardens and balconies across the City will be linked together in a season-long celebration of urban greening.”

In partnership with GreenNet, Chicago's community greening coalition, One Seed Chicago selected the three candidates Chicagoans will choose from. This year the winning seed will be from a plant that was once commonly found in the prairies around Chicago, but that is now rare in the wild outside of prairie restoration projects and cultivated gardens. Once established this native plant will require little water, is less prone to diseases and attracts beneficial insects and birds to a garden.

"Native plants attract native birds and insects and help to increase biodiversity in your garden," said Colleen Lockovitch, Director and Horticulturalist at the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park. "Our native plant friends are more adapted to their local surroundings and can handle the Chicago area's fluctuations in climate and weather."

Vote from Jan 1 until April 1st.

The winning seed will be announced at the annual Green and Growing Fair, April 24, 2010 at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

For more information or to vote visit One Seed Chicago.

Origins of One Seed Chicago
One Seed Chicago is a project of NeighborSpace, Chicago’s land trust for community gardens. Entering its third year One Seed Chicago aims to build upon the success of the previous years and get even more gardeners involved. In 2009 One Seed Chicago distributed 10,000 Blue Lake Pole green bean seeds thanks to a generous donation from the Ball Horticultural Company. “The Year of the Bean,” as 2009 was called, was popular because it dovetailed with Chicagoans who rediscovered growing their own food in a recession.

About NeighborSpace
NeighborSpace is a nonprofit urban land trust dedicated to preserving and sustaining community managed open spaces in Chicago. Their growing network of gardens provide thousands of people the opportunity to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers; to restore habitats; and create unique gathering places in their own neighborhoods.NeighborSpace’s partners in the community can rest assured that the land will remain dedicated to conservation and their efforts will never be displaced. For more information, please visit NeighborSpace.

Thank you to Mr.Brown Thumb for providing me with the press release above. Mr.Brown Thumb's working with NeighborSpace and One Seed Chicago to get the word out on this terrific project, and I'm happy doing my part to help.

Which One am I Voting For?
All are worthy plants. I'm all for adding natives to the garden, or growing an all-natives garden. I LOVE coneflowers and bee balm. We have species and cultivars of each in our garden. Last fall I added a few alliums too. Hazarding a guess, I suspect the lovely coneflower is likely to garner the most votes, or maybe bee balm. I'll be surprised if the onion wins.

I voted for the nodding onion (Allium cernuum.)
Why, you ask? Well, I'm glad you asked, and I'm happy to tell you! I voted for this pretty little allium for a few reasons.

You may remember during a visit to Mom's last September, about a third of our shade garden was chewed down to the ground. Most of the coneflowers, and all the bee balm were gone. Alliums are generally avoided by deer, rabbits, and other mammalian herbivores (a/k/a rodents/garden pests,) and may even discourage pests from other plants in the garden. As if that wasn't reason enough, nodding onions (unlike coneflowers and bee balm whose native habitats are more extensive,) are native only to Northeastern Illinois. They're adaptable to full or part sun and a variety of soils. Since most of this little native's habitat has been destroyed, since bee balm and coneflowers are so much more common in gardens, and since I like to support the underdog, the lovely nodding onion gets my vote.


  1. such a marvelous idea to nurture love of NATURE and NATIVES... and unite people at the same time.. ~bangchik

  2. Linda,

    Thanks for blogging about One Seed Chicago and helping get the word out. Great job with the endorsement. I'm probably going to post my endorsement this week. I'm going to sleep on it at least one more night before I go ahead and vote.

  3. Anonymous12:11 AM

    What a terrific idea! And I like your choice. :) Happy New Year, Linda!

  4. Anonymous6:22 AM

    Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

  5. I voted for bee balm out of pure self-interest. I have already have enough nodding onionto start my own prairie growing wild back here. But you are absolutely right about its pest-control properties. I attribute my remarkably pest-free garden to the abundance of this plant.

  6. Hi Linda, of the three options, I would definitely have voted for nodding onion, too. It's not that I don't like bee balm or echnicacea, it's just personally I have plenty of those already and no nodding onions. Also, I think it;s good to raise awareness in the general public and I think nodding onion is probably the least well-known. (For example, when I planted my heirloom fountain garden at a historic property, I shied away from some "obvious" choices (like hollyhock, which I love), favoring lesser known plants so it's more educational--I mean, you can see a hollyhock a lot of places, but where else are you going to see bibleleaf or mignonette?). Also, nodding onion fits well with Chicago's origins! They're native to southeast Michigan, too; they were in a native garden I stewarded and my native plant expert friend adores them!

  7. Nodding wild onion is indeed a wonderful and underrated native! I voted for the bee balm, however, because I collected a bunch of Allium cernuum seeds in my garden this year but my monarda didn't set seeds. But really I don't care which one wins; I'm excited for any free seeds, and I'm really glad it's native plant seeds this year!

  8. Bangchik, I agree wholeheartedly!

    MBT, my pleasure! Thanks for inviting me to post on this. Looking forward to knowing which one you vote for!

    Thanks Nancy! I first heard about it last year when pole beans were the seed chosen. It was fun to be a part of the group effort, and we enjoyed the beans - even George, our dog helped out by eating some of them - green beans are his favorite veggie. Happy New Year - hope you're feeling much better!

    Thank you Anonymous. Interesting compliment.

    Xan, thanks for visiting and for your comment! Good to know nodding onion is good for keeping pests away. Purely for self-interest, I hope it's either bee balm or nodding onion. We have lots of coneflowers here. We do have a couple of native monardas, but I'd be happy to add more. They're a favorite plant of mine - love the scent, and the bees and hummingbirds they attract.

    Hi Monica, I like the idea of increasing awareness of nodding onion too. I hope it wins. If not I'll probably look for some seeds - I'd like to have them in our garden. Wouldn't it be cool if some showed up in your seed swap!

    I'm glad it's native plant seeds too Rose! Whichever plant wins, I'll find a place for Allium cernuum here.

    I didn't plant garlic in our veggie bed last fall. I wonder if that and/or the onions were what kept the rabbits out of our veggie bed last year. I was surprised they didn't bother it, and didn't make the connection until I read about the allium repelling rodents. Scary thought. I might have to rush some onions into the bed this spring if things start getting chewed.

  9. I remember learning about this project last year during Spring Fling. I also remember turning down the offer of the free seeds, because I already had plenty of green beans growing in my garden--I kicked myself later for not participating in this! I love the group's choices this year! You know I love coneflowers, but I think you've made an excellent choice, too. After seeing all the gorgeous alliums during Spring Fling, I planted some here this fall and can't wait to see them come up in the spring.

  10. Ahhhh.......good reasons for voting for the nodding onion!
    That's a very interesting "contest". I like it a lot!

  11. Anonymous6:46 AM

    Hi Linda, thanks for filling in the gaps about this wonderful idea. I agree, go with the underdog, the allium. We will seek some out here as well, just for outside support! We were just going through the seed packets left over from last year and found the bean from Chicago. It will get planted this year as well. May 2010 bring you and yours the most happy times ever, in and out of the garden! :-)

  12. What a great promotion to get people interested in native plants. I guess I'd have to choose the coneflower because it attracts butterflies and the finches love the seeds.

    I am a big lover of alliums but haven't seen the nodding onions.

  13. I love coneflowers too Rose, and am glad they like it here with so little sun. I wish rabbits didn't love them so much. It would be wonderful if alliums helped repel the bunnies, as they wreak major havoc in our garden.

    Seems like many Spring Flingers planted alliums last fall. I couldn't resist, even though I'm not so good about planting bulbs in the fall - hope they're happy here with not much sun.

    My pleasure Frances! It's so cool gardeners outside of the Chicago area are joining in the fun and supporting One Seed Chicago!

    Best wishes to you and yours for a happy, peaceful, prosperous new year!

  14. Marnie, isn't it a great idea! I love coneflowers too. It's fun watching the little finches go after the seeds, when the squirrels and bunnies here don't get to them first.

    I love alliums too - hope they like it here!

  15. Anonymous12:38 AM

    Hi Linda,
    Hope you had a fantastic holiday and are already plotting new additions for your lovely gardens. I'm not surprised that you selected the onion, since I know deer can be a problem for many area gardeners. Happy 2010! - Avis

  16. Hi Avis, hope your holiday season was fantastic too!

    Soon it will be time to pay more attention to the plants overwintering in the basement - I have some propagating to do, and last year I regretted procrastinating.

    My fingers are crossed for the onion! Win or lose though, I'll have them here.

    Happy New Year!


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