Workshop Descriptions

 Workshop Descriptions

Tailored topics for all interests and stages of natural landscaping:

Design~Beneficial Insects for Food Gardens~Rare Plants~Small Trees and Shrubs~Host Plants~Green Roofs~Rain Gardens

Register for the conference here: Native Plant Conference Registration and Native Plant Sale

Volunteer opportunities for any time commitment or interest are also available.  Free admission to the conference!  Sign up here:  Living Landscapes Native Garden Conference and Native Plant Sale Volunteer Sign-up Form


Wow! Look At That Wonderful Garden!        

Presenter: Trish Beckjord, Midwest Groundcovers

It is exciting to see that many homeowners are becoming better informed on the idea of sustainable gardens and the value of adding native plants to the garden mix. But, at the same time, knowing how to do it successfully can seem an intimidating task. Trish Beckjord is a registered landscape architect and specialist in the world of native plants. She is always looking for good examples of using native plants in a garden setting and has a lot of images and experience to share. Come see the examples she has assembled from around our region. Her talk will build on the information presented by Doug Tallamy and tie it all together for those of you who want to take the next step. Come see the types of things you can do in your garden so you can start planning and planting!

Trish Beckjord is a registered landscape architect and graduate of the University of Michigan’s MLA program where some of her favorite courses involved field study of native plants and ecosystems. She is an experienced designer whose focus has been the successful integration of native plants and ecological restoration strategies into designed landscapes for significant LEED gold and platinum projects including companies such as Advocate Healthcare, Johnson Controls and McDonalds. In addition, she has brought these same ideas to the residential scale through her personal practice and her work with several Wild Ones chapters in Illinois and Michigan. Currently Trish is responsible for sales and market development of native plants and green infrastructure for Midwest Groundcovers, LLC. She is an enthusiastic educator on the beauties and benefits of native plants and many have benefited from her presentations.



Pollinators, Predators, and Parasitoids: Who Are These Insects and How Can They Be Attracted to Our Gardens?        

 Presenter: David Lowenstein

Several groups of insects benefit plants through pollination and plant protection. This presentation will describe how to identify these insects and communicate the idea that not all insects are detrimental to flowers and food crops.  David will share the results of his research on pollinators and parasitoid wasps in Chicago neighborhoods and suggest practices that conserve and enhance these beneficial insects.

David Lowenstein is currently a PhD candidate working with Emily Minor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He completed a Master’s in Entomology with Russ Groves at the University of Wisconsin and a Bachelor’s in Biology at Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York-Lehman College.

His research interests include insect ecology, pollinators, and predator-prey interactions.  He has studied pollination services across Chicago neighborhoods and how characteristics of the urban landscape impact bees and their subsequent visits to native wildflowers and managed crops. Currently, he is investigating biological control of cabbage worms and natural enemies in urban agriculture.
David Lowenstein



Rare Plants of the Chicago Region for the Home Garden      

 Presenter: Christopher David Benda

Despite intensive urbanization and development, the Chicago region is a center of biodiversity in North America. A wide variety of natural communities exist across the spectrum from prairie to savanna to woodland, with numerous types of wetlands interspersed among them. Discover the many rare plants and showy wildflowers that occur in this area, along with the habitats in which they occur.  Special emphasis will be on species that can be propagated in the home garden.

Christopher David Benda earned his B.S. in Biology from Winona State University in 2002 and an M.S. in Biology from the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign in 2007.  Currently, he is a plant ecologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey.  He also teaches local flora at Southern Illinois University and is president of the Illinois Native Plant Society.  Chris leads many nature hikes and teaches several botany courses.  He can be found online under the moniker “Illinois Botanizer.”Benda


Landscaping with Native Small Trees and Shrubs          

Presenter: Connor Shaw, Possibility Place

Successfully landscaping with native small trees and shrubs in our urban environment.  We will discuss height, width, flower, seed, positive insects, fall color and winter structure.  We will also discuss cultural practices for successful planting.

Connor Shaw and his wife Jo reside in Monee, Illinois at their place of business, Possibility Place Nursery.  Established in 1978, the nursery has specialized in growing native plant material that is indigenous to the Chicago area.

With degrees in Forest and Wildland Hydrology, Connor acted as resource consultant on zone changes in the Chicagoland area.  He determined what effect proposed developments would have on water, soils and vegetation in the report area.

Connor has taught classes on Arboriculture and Plant I.D. at Joliet Junior College and has taught seminars at the Morton Arboretum, and the Chicago Botanical Garden. Connor is invited to give many lectures each year at garden clubs, golf courses, association meetings, and arborist meetings.

Connor can be reached at 708.534.3988 or at [email protected]


Siting Rain Gardens to Manage Stormwater Using Natives       

Presenter: Julia Bunn of The Spirited Gardener

This presentation will  give a brief background of rain gardens and why their function is so useful for local flooding problems and environmental health. Different rain water management systems using cisterns, rain barrels, garage green roofs, pervious surfaces, rain swales,  etc., will be introduced.  Examples of rain gardens that have solved certain problems such as water seepage in basement and sidewalk pooling will be discussed.  Diverging from the idea that stormwater is a problem, we will instead see rain garden examples that consider stormwater to be an environmental partner with the city.

Reference links to building rain gardens from the internet (e.g. for assistance in calculating size of gardens needed to manage water run-off from specifically designated areas of the property will be shared.  A simple example of how to calculate for gardens will be discussed. Native plant material that works effectively in rain gardens will also be shared.

Julia Bunn, a member of MELA (Midwest Ecological Landscaping Alliance) since 2008 and the LDA (Landscape Design Association) since 2006, participates in professional development programs and is a proponent of organic methods of pest control and amendments for soils and plants including Natural Lawn Care techniques. Her knowledge base is always expanding through classes at the Chicago Botanic Garden‘s Professional Development Program from which she earned the Ornamental Plant Certificate in 2007 and took many of the Garden Design classes.

In 2013 she integrated Rain Gardens into eight of the Spirited Gardener’s client’s yards, and in 2014, added eight more Rain Gardens, helping clients to solve puddling, seepage and small scale flooding problems on her client’s properties while creating beautiful gardens.  “Creating Gardens as Unique as their Owners” is the motto for her landscape company. The design concepts she uses encourage relationship to the earth, creative use of rainwater and collaboration with clients.

Kevin's Rain Garden's

Photo Courtesy of Kevin’s Rain Garden’s


Playing Host to Our Area’s Butterflies and Moths          

Presented by Monica Buckley, Red Stem Native Landscapes and Denise Sandoval, Good-Natured Landscapes

The order Lepidoptera–butterflies and moths–represents nearly 15,000 species worldwide. In Illinois, there are about 150 butterfly species and 1,850 moth species. This program covers which Lepidoptera can thrive and multiply in our gardens, simple things we all can do to provide habitat for them both in the plants we use and how we design and maintain our landscapes,  and plenty of other interesting information and discoveries to help you nurture them.

Butterflies and moths are extremely beautiful and entertaining to watch. But, apart from these charismatic qualities, these creatures are key players in our local ecosystems; in their adult stage they pollinate plants, and as caterpillars they represent an enormous protein source for birds. As gardeners, we can help conserve and protect lepidopterans while allowing ourselves and our children to witness the incredible phenomenon of metamorphosis as these insects transform from egg to adult.

Monica Buckley spent her childhood in her father’s organic garden on Chicago’s South Side, one of the pleasures of which was identifying the butterflies there and in the adjacent empty lots the neighbors used to call “prairies.” While much of her adult career was spent in publishing, native plants and ecosystems became a virtual obsession, and Monica left the publishing world to found Red Stem Native Landscapes, Inc., following her passion for creating settings where natives, wildlife, and people can thrive in gardens all over Chicago’s North Side and near suburbs.

Denise Sandoval started her business, Good-Natured Landscapes LLC, in 2005, soon after completing her Horticulture degree in landscape design and working at The Natural Garden native plant nursery (now closed). During her horticulture studies and volunteer work at prairie restoration sites, she had a light bulb moment and knew she wanted to help others make a positive difference for nature and conservation. So she made the leap from software engineer to designing landscapes for what she calls “true beauty”:  appearance, functionality and kindness to the Earth, featuring native plants and sustainable design, serving most of the Western Suburbs.

Photo: Janet Allen

Photo: Janet Allen


Native Plants for Green Roof Applications        

Presenter: Grace Koehler, GRP, Pizzo Nursery

Green roofs are an effective means of managing storm water in urban areas.  Deeper more intensive green roof systems are able to hold and delay more storm water from entering conveyance systems and can support a greater diversity of plant materials than extensive sedum plantings.  A general overview of green roof systems will be presented, highlighting successful native plant selections as alternatives to sedum and conventional perennials.

Grace Koehler’s top priority at Pizzo Native Plant Nursery is to cultivate and strengthen relationships with clients to better understand their needs in order to supply them with innovative, high quality native plant nursery products. Grace entered the nursery and landscape industry in 1980 and joined Pizzo Native Plant Nursery in April, 2010 as Sales and Marketing Manger. She has extensive background experience in ecological restoration and the wholesale nursery business. Grace’s strong interpersonal skills, commitment to client satisfaction, experience in nursery product development, and knowledge of horticultural and native plant communities on the ground level and the roof top provide the basis for her duties to grow and expand the Pizzo nursery brand.

Pizzo Green Roof on Chicago City Hall

Pizzo Green Roof on Chicago City Hall