Story Time: How We Got Started

Gini Tumbles into Wild Things 

In 2005 I looked around with eyes wide open. What I saw could not be unseen though many of us try to. Thus began my quest to be a part of nature that assists rather than assaults. It has made me the eccentric one. Then I found a whole room full of eccentrics!

I became certified in Permaculture Design, and as a teacher. I received education as a master naturalist, and as a master gardener, but it is through Wild Ones that I have been able to join a movement that allows me to put it all together.

I have a 2 lot suburban home that before we bought it sported a manicured chem lawn with the big box store landscape design of the year and at one point a pool in the backyard. It was nice, and I saw a blank canvas.

For me the transition to native is underground. Among the newly planted apple trees is a native specifically planted to be the trees’ nitrogen source. They become the most striking iridescent purple/blue splash of Spring. It attracts me and the bumblebees. I have a small chair of easy access just for the purpose of sitting and watching the play between bee and flower at that spot.

In another area is a riot of milkweed, mountain mint, annise hysop, and whatever else that I don’t remember right now. I have it listed somewhere. It is the shelter for the bug, bird, and frog water source. As the hawk that swooped down one day revealed it’s water source for rodent too. Glad they get what they need outside rather than coming inside the house. Every season the spot changes as the plants dance underneath, first one leading then another. I delight in giving visitors an annise leaf and watch as recognition of the flavor dawns.

Going native does not mean going all prairie. Prairie is only one part.

Bonnie’s Backward Burrough
Bonnie moved into a nice, neat, and tidy suburban neighbourhood. It was everything she and her husband were hoping for. Trim, green lawns and the color schemed fleur de l’année. Then she met people who planted with natives and she went to the wild side! Alas the neighbourhood association will not permit her to do like she really wants to but she has still managed to plant small, colorful natives in strategic places throughout her yard. She loves watching the hummingbirds, bumblebees, and butterflies that find her yard in the dearth of gated suburbia.

Fran’s Meditative Journey
Fran had need for quiet. He was able to find perfect quiet. About 25 years ago he bought a corn/soy field and over the years converted it back into the prairie it used to be.  Some of the seeds of the original prairie were still there despite all the years of corn/soy mono-cropping over head. With the first burn they came back out. He has nursed them, brought in other seed, and native tree and shrub. He has even created a savannah.  Sometimes he just stands and looks. There it is. The rare prairie plant, a gift of the wind or bird. One never knows from whence it came. A gift of life renewed.

Sheldon’s Evolving Backyard
In my 72 years I’ve done most types of gardening. Many years ago, while attending the Chicago Garden Show, I stopped at the booth of “Art and Linda’s Wildflowers” and picked up informational materials about prairie/native plant gardening. I became fascinated. After visiting some prairie restorations, and buying and reading the appropriate books, I decided to give it a try.
In 2006 I killed 200-300 square feet of bluegrass in my backyard and seeded that area with buffalo grass. Once the buffalo grass got started I purchased 12 little native forb (flowering perennial) plants from Art and Linda, and planted them. My prairie/native plant “garden” is now over 5,000 square feet, with several types of grasses and sedges, over 30 types of forbs, and multiple native trees and shrubs. The area now pretty much takes care of itself, expanding each year on its own, with more and more forbs due to self-seeding.
I pick up ideas from the demonstration gardens at The Midewin Visitors Center and add new things every year. Wild Ones meetings have given me many great new ideas. I have now incorporated natives in other “traditional” garden areas.