Growing Native

Purple Coneflower
Source: Rambling Vegans, Flickr

Despite being a big city, Chicago is home to many types of natural areas from prairie grasslands and woods to wetlands and dunes, and since the days of the renowned Jens Jensen, the city has had an interest in promoting native biodiversity. This means that throughout our parks and nature areas you can find plants native to our region thriving in natural landscapes.

Home gardeners are joining in the native plant movement and creating their own nature oases. Native plants make sense with our increased environmental consciousness. They evolved in our region, and therefore require less care and water, go dormant over winter, and provide homes and fodder for birds, butterflies and other wild animals. A related trend in sustainable gardening is xeriscaping, or landscaping without watering.

Visitors to Millennium Park are awed by the Lurie Garden, masterpiece of landscape design which amazingly is planted on top of an underground parking garage and features many native plants. In Gardening With Perennials Noel Kingsbury shares the secrets of the Lurie and describes how you can implement them in your garden with perennials, plants that return year after year.

In addition to profiles and photos of native plants, Armitage's Native Plants for North American Gardens provides useful lists including drought-tolerant plants, plants that attract hummingbirds and rabbit-resistant plants, among others.

In the category of mouth-watering gardening books is The American Meadow Garden, which will inspire you to give your green grass the old heave ho and instead propagate a flowing meadow of sedges, fescues and wildflowers. Also available as an eBook.

If you can’t make it to one of the many native plant sales around Chicagoland this spring, many garden centers now carry the little green babies that will transform your patch of urban land into a prairie oasis!

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