Just as buds are beginning to blossom, a special home garden in the North Suburbs is fueling new life for both animals and the woman who tends it.
Gardens have the power to nourish our souls and in the case of Jane Fulton Alt, it turned out to be the one thing that brought hers back after losing her beloved husband.
Five years ago, Howard Alt, decided to build a garden. Not just any garden, but one packed full of native plants, flowers and shrubs that would nourish insects, birds and everything in between.
“He was here in the garden nonstop. He loved it,” Fulton Alt said. “He loved it.”
She said he plotted, planted and poured everything he had into it. And as his passion for native gardens grew, so did his wife’s concern about the project which grew to wrap two streets in an eclectic array of native flora and fauna
“I said, ‘Howard, who’s going take care of this garden when you’re gone?’ And he just smiled at me,” she said.
Then just as the weather began to cool that next fall, Alt’s death came without warning. And the garden that brought him so much joy now sat quietly unattended.
“I wasn’t a gardener. I didn’t know the first thing about gardening,” she said.
Shrouded in that cloud of darkness, Fulton Alt picked up her camera and found light in the most unlikely place, a single blossom.
“He knew. He somehow knew how it was going to nourish me and it nourishes so many people that walk by,” she said.
Working alongside, Alt’s mentor from Lurie Garden, Fulton Alt began to dig in.
“It just fills me up and gives me this connection with Howard that I don’t think I would have otherwise,”she said.
She began to label the native plants, restock the brochures Alt had carefully placed on the outside fence line, and sure enough, something within her began to grow.
“It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. It’s unbelievable,” she said. “I’m always thanking him because there are always these surprises of things I didn’t realize.”
Fulton Alt named the garden, “Howard’s End’, and with that, began a new chapter piecing together her photos of the life her late husband planted, along with her own story of finding beauty in the face of grief. She is putting the finishing touches on a book dedicated to her husband titled, “Still Life: A Photographer’s Journey Through Grief and Gardening.”
It is a love story kept alive, through the deep roots of a garden.