Pretty Penstemons for Prairies and Savannas

penstemon digitalis
Penstemon digitalis

Penstemon or beardtongue can be a beautiful addition to your prairie or savanna site. With tall clusters of white, lavender or pink tubular flowers above a mound of foliage, penstemons are lovely in natural areas or landscaped gardens. Blooming in May through June or July, they attract a wide range of long tongued bees including honeybees and bumblebees. Butterflies, sphinx moths and hummingbirds are occasional visitors. After flowering, the attractive seed capsules are often scattered by wind. These four species are commonly found in Illinois, are easy to grow, and make nice cut bouquets. Read More…

Featured Project: DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church

The savanna in the foreground and raingarden in the background are teeming with life.
The first year, new grasses and forbs sprouted right away.

Prompted by an addition to expand the church, native landscaping is building a greater sense of community between nature and people to DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church in Naperville. Beginning in 2012, The Pizzo Group was contracted to redesign and rebuild the entire greenspace of the church. The landscape architects at ecology + vision, llc designed a planting plan using live plugs for the front entrance areas, raingarden, and parking lot. The rest was seeded by Pizzo & Associates, Ltd. “The front yard, with the savanna under the big trees on one side and the raingarden on the other, began blooming the first season and continues to impress visitors with the succession of colorful flowers throughout the growing season,” says church member Pat Clancy. Read More…

Plan a Pollinator Paradise

CoButterflies on Stiff Goldenrod 2nsider planning an area for pollinators and create your own buzzing paradise! Late fall and winter is an ideal time to take some time and decide how you can help our many beneficial insects. We welcome many species of bees and butterflies in Illinois, but don’t forget that wasps, flies, moths, bugs, and spiders are important too.

Pollinators are active from the first thaw past the first frost. Plan on nectar rich native flowers as a quick and easy food source for your insect population. Choose wildflowers thoughtfully so that you have blossoms spring to fall. For example, shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia) blooms in April and is favored by bumblebees. Asters (Symphyotrichum sp.) can bloom well into November and offer an important late season stock up for migrating butterflies. Choose a variety of flower shapes to attract the most diverse array of species. Remember to add some milkweed species for monarchs, too! Read More…

Raingardens: A Sustainable Solution

Picture7Raingardens can be a beautiful addition to your site and will attract beneficial pollinators while controlling storm water and run off. By choosing a wide range of native plants, you can enjoy flowers from spring into fall, stunning fall color and unique winter interest. You’ll also create habitat for butterflies, bees, birds, amphibians and more.

Some native plants are particularly suited to a raingarden environment where they may be inundated for periods of time and then experience drought. Deep roots hold soils in place and allow for greater drought tolerance. For a sunny raingarden, consider swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), wild bergamont (Monarda fistulosa), swamp rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), to name a few. For a shadier site, don’t forget the sedges! Their cascading foliage and handsome seed heads add dimension in a shade raingarden. Try palm sedge (Carex muskingumensis), awl-fruited sedge (Carex tribuloides) or brown fox sedge (Carex vulpinoidea). Read More…