Garden Open House on Saturday + Sawtooth Sunflowers

Haven’t stopped by the garden in a while? Come see us at the Open House on Saturday, 10am–noon

This weekend, we’re holding an Open House, extending a special invitation for Waters families and community members to come out and see what our wonderful garden is all about.

It takes a village to care for the beautiful ecosystem that our neighborhood school holds. Indeed, we humans are a critical part of this ecosystem, showing up in ways that provide shelter for treasured plants and animals and tending to our own selves and community in the process.

In this time of so many environmental crises, it is refreshing to show up to our local school garden knowing our human hands are doing this good work.

We’ll have a diverse array of tasks, including ones that are great for children and new gardeners. And if you’re not up for “work,” just come by to relax in this beautiful space.

We’ll run periodic tours and explore the ecological bounty around us.

– Kristin and Megan

Focus on… sawtooth sunflower

Sawtooth sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus) is one of two species of native sunflower that grow in Waters Garden. Like the New England aster discussed previously, it is a member of the Asteraceae family, meaning that its blooms are composite flowers each made up of many tiny disc and ray florets. Like all sunflowers, the ray florets of sawtooth sunflowers are infertile and only the disc florets produce seeds.

At this time of year, a lot of the native plants blooming in the garden have similar-looking yellow flowers, and learning to tell them apart can be difficult. But if you spend time in the garden and observe the plants closely, you will gradually start to recognize the differences between them. One area to look for differences that can help with identification is the rear of the bloom. Composite flowers have a whorl of leafy bracts at the rear called an involucre; the individual bracts of the involucre are called phyllaries. As can be seen the first photo below, the phyllaries of the sawtooth sunflower are loose and spreading; this can help differentiate these blooms from those of other species with composite yellow flowers, such as the Heliopsis, Silphium, and Rudbeckia species that grow in the garden.

The common name ‘sawtooth’ refers to the serrated edge of the slender, lance-shaped leaves, but the amount of serration is very variable and some leaves are barely serrated at all. The leaves are often opposite (branching in pairs) lower down the stem and alternate (branching singly) closer to the flowers. A characteristic of the leaves that some observers note is a tendency to fold up along the central vein into a V shape, and to droop along their length, forming an arch. If you take time to enjoy the sunflowers in the garden, take a closer look at the involucres at the rear of the blooms, I think that they are often as interesting to look at as the front.

The “Focus On” series is written by Jeremy Atherton, the parent of a Waters 5th grader. He is a research scientist at Northwestern University Medical School. In addition to volunteering at Waters Garden, he is a steward at Riverbank Neighbors and a member of the 47th Ward Green Council.

Mark your calendars for the Sustainability Market, hosted by Reduce Waste Chicago and the North Center Neighbors Association. Northcenter Town Square will be filled with eco-minded vendors, artists, and organizations—as well as material collections by Reduce Waste Chicago, EcoShip, and Working Bikes!

Click here for more details.