Loretto Hospital donated a bus for the tour as they do every year. And, like she does every year, Mary Peery, president of the Austin Green Team, which hosts this annual garden tour, wrote to Mayor Daley and once again requested his presence.

This year he sent his administrative representative, Scott McHaffey, who said, “Mrs. Peery sent a letter to the mayor, and he asked me to come. I was happy to come because I had heard about the Austin Green Team for many years, and it’s one of those great groups that has kept going. So many of these groups start up and then fizzle out, so this one has seen quite a history with all the young people that get involved. The Young Sprouts [group] is quite impressive.”

The garden tour departed from 4901 W. West End and toured the following locations: 185 N. LaVergne, 800 block of north Limon, 5800 block of West Division, 1200 block of West Mayfield, 600 block of North Latrobe, 400 block of North Leclaire, 200 block of North Laramie, 5200 block of West Washington Blvd. and 5000 block of West Fulton.

Vice President George Lawson let guests sample vegetables from his garden. Some of the young college students took home tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Even the very young children were fascinated by picking their own cherry tomatoes.

Green Team’s youth director LaKesha Kneeland’s garden on West Maypole is long and narrow, but somehow she has managed to plant many beautiful flowers and plants and could give the west Garfield Park Dome Nursery a run for its money. Her mother, Vera Watson, also has an impressive garden on West Fulton.

One of the larger gardens at Division and Menard has been maintained for several years by Willie and Irma Ferba. The Ferbas, like many other members, took what was a rundown, junky lot and turned it into an idyllic sanctuary. Visitors come from all around the Chicago area to visit and learn how a piece of property that had become a dumping ground can be turned into a green Eden.

The Green Team’s pride and glory is their Memorial Garden located at Washington Boulevard and Laramie Street. Here you can find engraved memorial bricks dedicated to West Side residents who devoted themselves to making the Austin community better. Although they have passed on, their memory is sustained at the Memorial Garden.

The garden tour ended back at 4901 W. West End where refreshments were served.

-Delores McCain