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3rd Annual Cooper Young Garden Walk: Native Plants Take Spotlight

Innovative gardens are flourishing in Memphis' historic Cooper Young neighborhood. Also growing: the number of people wanting to check them out. 

The 3rd Annual Cooper Young Garden Walk offers greenthumbs and garden geeks a chance to see what's sproutin' on Saturday and Sunday (May 19 & 20). 

A total of 89 gardens—more than double the amount from the first year—are open for perusal. This year's theme is native plants in an urban setting. 


Kacky Walton talks to Kim Halyak, with the Cooper Young Garden Club and founder of the Cooper Young Garden Walk.



Kacky Walton: Did you have any idea when you started this a few years ago that it was going to get this big? 

Kim Halyak: I wanted it to get this big, but I did not think we would get this big this quick. We have 89 homes and businesses, a community garden, a school garden. Visitors will see every kind of garden imaginable from 110-square-foot tiny little side yard that is a delight, all the way to the oldest garden and house in Cooper Young, which is from 1882. 

Walton: If you have a small yard, it's not limited by the size you have to work with. The only limitation is the size of your imagination... 

Halyak: Exactly! Some of the gardens have re-purposed material; every square inch utilized. In some gardens, we have edibles, art studios, raised beds, and elegant lawns. We are actually doing different themes this year. If you are concerned that you can't see all 89 gardens, then pick a theme, or even the short-on-time theme, which has 24 delightful gardens of all themes.  

Walton: You suggest that folks show up and go to Stone Soup or one of the other restaurants in Cooper Young for breakfast and then plan a route.  

Halyak: Yes, and we have a shuttle this year. Cooper Young is a very walkable neighborhood. We also have a guided bike tour. You can bring your own bike (or rent one at First Congo), walk it, take a shuttle – and then come back for lunch in the center of Cooper Young. Even shop a little. We have vendors and educational booths. We have some fabulous raffles.  

Walton: You have speakers on both Saturday and Sunday.  

Halyak: On Saturday, we will have Dr. Doug Tallamy, who wrote the book Bringing Nature Home. He is very much into how you incorporate native plants into urban settings. Our pollinators are down; our bees are down. We have to take the place that we have and that includes where people live, to bring nature back. He will be speaking in First Congo church at 9 a.m. Saturday, for an hour.   

Chris Cosby will be speaking 4 p.m. Sunday, talking about native plants for specific places.  

Walton: What are some things that flourish in the Memphis area that people may not know about?

Halyak: Definitely things like blueberries are native to North America. Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, Azaleas–mainly, native Azaleas, which are the fragrant ones and the pollinators really like them. One thing we are doing this year is we are going to be labeling native plants all throughout the garden walk. And, labeling ones that we consider invasive, while giving you some other options. 

Walton: Give me an example of an invasive plant.   

Halyak: Japanese Honeysuckle, Nandina and Barberry. There are other options out there. In fact, native plants work so much better in our environment that we would have to work less if we have more natives.  

Walton: Some business in the neighborhood are offering discounts. 

Halyak: Yes, many of the restaurants will be offering discounts on drinks and food, along with some of the shops. We do have several vendors. We have eight different educational foods, some of them will be giving away freebies like ferns and various other things. So, there is a lot to keep you busy.    

Walton: Dr. Chris Cooper, who does The Family Plot on Channel 10, is going to be at the Garden Walk too with a booth. He is going to do many talks on native plants, both on Saturday and Sunday. 


Cooper Young Garden Walk 2018

Tickets: $25, which includes both days, shuttles, and entrance into two keynote speakers who will give advice on how to grow native plants in this area.

More information: Cooper Young Garden Walk on Facebook or cooperyounggardenclub.org

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