My life began in 1960 on an island in the Caribbean (St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands). Some of my happiest memories were of sitting in a tree and observing nature. When I moved to Oak Park I started gardening using cultivars. In 1998 my 100 year old Elm died and suddenly my front yard had sunlight.
My daughter’s 4th grade class was studying the prairie and I learned that Illinois had less than 1% of native prairie land remaining. I knew the soil in that area needed to recover from the large tree roots so I decided to plant hardy natives. I figured by planting a 6 X 6 foot native garden I would soon have 10% of the prairie in Illinois. I went to the Farmer’s Market and followed the advice of Art & Linda (got my plants from them too). Those first plants thrived in the soil. I attracted bees, butterflies, and birds to my yard with just those few plants. I have been using native plants ever since.
I added asparagus and strawberries to my front yard for a low maintenance food source. My natives wove themselves through that garden. I get hundreds of strawberries now and stalks of asparagus from spring to fall. My neighbors ask how I keep the critters from eating my food. I dont use any products to deter insects or animals. I suspect the native plants do all the work for me. They keep my soil healthy and attract/deter as necessary.
Here are a few of my favorite plants: Milkweed, New Jersey Tea, Prairie Clover, Royal CatchFly, Purple Coneflower, Prairie Dock, Stiff Goldenrod, White Cloud Aster. These plants attract birds (American Goldfinch, Red Tanager, Cardinals, and more), bees (and cool wasps as well), bunnies (they hide behind the Prairie Dock leaves), butterflies (and their larva), and worms. Theres probably more that I dont know about. My small little garden becomes a source of habitat that is a delight to observe.
I help take care of the native plants at Field Park as a member of the Park Districts Green Team; they can always use more help.
I give away as many native plants as I can. I take care of my churchs native garden (Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at East and Randolph). Good Shepherd’s garden was started over ten years ago and was initially intended to be a Butterfly garden. When our member left who started the garden the congregation talked about tilling it under. I stepped in and said I would care for it. We have volunteers from the congregation who help at times. I’ve added to the garden over the years. We now give tours of the garden and tell people why they should plant natives. There are so many spaces that deserve native plants.
I hope I can continue to add to the native landscape.