Deb's Big Backyard

  Deb's Big Backyard

Grass Less: Making the Big Switch to Landscaping with Native Plants


Photos and video courtesy of Kevin J. McCarey


by Deb Quantock McCarey


About a year ago, at an informative talk about butterfly gardening at the inaugural meeting of the West Cook Wild Ones in Oak Park, I had a watershed moment about grass.


I realized that the weedy turf in my front yard parkway was getting in the way of my next phase of where/what/how/why I grow.


Afterwards, I connected with butterfly gardening expert Stephanie Walquist, and many of you watched the educational youtube video we did.



For my landscape, the first big switch to planting pollinator-attracting native and perennial plants came four years ago, when a microburst took out several trees in my neighborhood, including the ones that had been shading my growing space.


Since then, ever frugally DYI, I must say, I have installed an evolving native specimen garden where bees are especially enjoying the Bee Balm, Mountain Mint, Catmint, Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Salvia and Sedum, and a range of other plants and prairie grasses.


Out there seeing this guy made me glow and giggle, hoping he would be back with lots more friends.



In early June, I began taking my trowel to the parkway.  Why?  Well, it was an unsightly scrum of weeds and beat-up grass and now is being transformed to a way station for pollinators, thanks to the repurposed bricks I used for the border, and a few plants that needed dividing anyway.



BTW, in Oak Park, parkways seem to be the last frontier for a gardener.


And, throughout the Village gardeners are removing their grass to do things like this: In my neighborhood, an industrious urban farmer is growing a strawberry patch.



I have seen small and massive prairie gardens that take my breath away year-round.



By this time next year, I'm hoping my postage stamp size parkway will mirror any one of those public-view gardens, in its ecological biodiversity, as well as growing verve.


'cause I think making the big switch to a native landscape is trending for the right reasons, I'm blatantly plugging the next West Cook Wild Ones meeting, Sunday, June 22, from 2:30 PM 'til 4 PM in the Priory Campus, Room 259 at Dominican University in River Forest, where landscape consultant Kelsay Shaw will share his secrets about "Transitioning to a Native Plant Garden," in the front, back or side yard, I suppose.


Go on, it's a Sunday afternoon, so sit in... unless, of course, you are too busy sowing, feeding, watering, weeding and mowing your water inefficient patch of so-called pristine green at home.


Meanwhile I'll be relaxing with a lemonade, sans lawn mower, enjoying the free dance of bees, butterflies and birds, in my front yard, foundation to curb.


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