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Consider Native Plants

Whether you’re starting a new garden or adding to your established plantings, consider including native trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers.  Planting native species benefits your individual yard, neighborhood and greater region.  Native varieties thrive because they have evolved in our climate, are accustomed to our temperatures, soils and rainfall levels. Once established, less water is needed which not only saves on water, but also on your water bill!  Equally as important, native plant species have co-evolved with the native animals in our area. Native plants have the highest quality pollen, berries or seeds and provide the right insect host materials. You’ll find more butterflies and birds will come visiting as your native species grow!

Flower Garden with Native Plantings

An example of the importance of planting natives:  A native oak tree is the single best tree that you can plant; some native oak species for our area include burr, white, swamp white, and pin oaks.  Oak trees support over 600 different species of insects! Native maples also support over 400 species of insects and are another great native choice!  The insects dependent on these trees go on to pollinate or feed up the food chain. Contrarily, ginkos are not native to North America and support zero insects.  What does this mean? Why does this matter? Raising just one clutch of chickadees to adulthood requires 6,000-9,000 caterpillars. Without native trees and plants supporting native insect populations, then native wildlife such as the chickadees will have no food source.  Native choices matter.  (Doug Tallamy)

Nurseries have remarkably increased their offerings of native flowers and plants over the past several years. See our list of local nurseries.


Plant suggestions can be found in our sections on Butterfly Gardens or our plant list.  A great online resource is the Native Plant Finder created by the National Wildlife Federation. 

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Creating a Butterfly & Pollinator Garden

Monarch Butterfly on a Coneflower
Honeybee visiting Purple Salvia

One of the greatest things you can do is choose plants that benefit our pollinator friends, specifically insects such as butterflies and bees, as well as hummingbirds. The key for a successful pollinator garden is to utilize many native species of flowers, as not all flowers are created equal.  Native flowers from our region have the highest desired nectar for our indigenous insect population. Hybrid flower varieties often have lesser quality nectar, as well as possible petal structures that inhibit insects from accessing the nectar.


Planting for pollinators involves planting nectar-rich flowers as well as host plants for insect (usually butterfly) larvae.  It can be as simple as planting a pot with a few native selections, or as involved as planting native flowers throughout your yard! This doesn’t mean ripping out wonderful cultivars that are already established in your yard.  Natives can integrate beautifully into existing gardens.


If you desire to plant for butterflies, milkweed is a must for Monarchs.  For the yard, Swamp Milkweed (asclepias incarnata) and Butterfly Weed (a. tuberosa) are highly recommended rather than Common Milkweed (a. syriaca), which is a very aggressive spreader.  Black Swallowtails are common residents which prefer parsley, dill, fennel and rue.  Cone flower (echinacea purpurea) is one of the best nectar sources for butterflies.  Once you've created your butterfly garden, visit to register it as a Monarch Waystation! (Certain requirements need to be met.) 

Planting gardens for bees simply requires a variety of nectar-rich flowers that span the seasons, from early spring when they wake up to late fall prior to winter.  Early pollen sources are essential and include flowering bulbs in addition to native trees such as dogwoods, redbuds, serviceberries, witch hazel, and pussy willow.  Good additions for late fall nectaring include black-eyed Susan, sedum and the aster family.


Hummingbird attraction requires much of the same, with emphasis on red, tubular flowers, such as Cardinal Flower (lobelia cardinalis), red petunias and bee balm.  Salvias and butterfly bush (which is non-native) are also attractive to hummingbirds.


See additional information about our Kennicott Butterfly Garden at The Grove or in our books and online resource list.

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Yellow Tiger Swallowtail on Zinnias

Establishing a Compost Bin

Composting is easy.  Many people have a misconception that a compost pile smells bad. On the contrary, it smells great!

Compost Bin Location:  It can be anywhere, but it's convenient to set the bin closer to the back door. That way it's accessible to dump kitchen waste all year around. Many make the mistake of putting it in far corners of the yard which is difficult to reach in inclement weather. Ideally, it should receive 4-6 hours of daily sun, but shade or sun can work, too.

Compost Bin

Building a Compost Bin:  Anything can be used that allows for air circulation. Homemade versions can work as well or better than commercial varieties. It can be made with 3 wooden pallets, or 4 metal poles that have hooks that hold green plastic snow fence. A three-side design is nice to hold your pile, leaving one open side for access. The bottom should be loosely dug dirt allowing earth worms access to the pile. You’ll also need a pitchfork.


Spring Start:  In the spring, trim down all your perennials, then rake, or blow, the remaining fall leaves, to the center of your lawn. Mow over this many times. This is your compost starter!  The first cut grass of the season is especially long and thick and can be composted (but after that you should leave the cut grass on your lawn).  Turn the pile weekly with a pitchfork. 


Adding to your compost: 

Materials: Some grass clippings; weeds*; dead headed flowers; plant thinnings; fruit and veggie kitchen scraps; leaves; bush trimmings; small branches; paper; cardboard; soil from old pots; crushed egg shells; coffee grounds; dead house plants; nut shells.

Note: A diverse mixture is best to create rich compost.

Note: Meat cannot be added to a compost pile. Similarly, pet waste cannot be added. 

*Weeds:  Weeds that have gone to seed, or propagate by runners, should be added with caution. Similarly, plants with disease should not be added to compost piles. 


Miscellaneous Tips: 

Kitchen Scraps:  Keep a plastic container in the freezer for kitchen scraps, adding to the pile when full.  This helps to keep fruit flies away by not having the scraps on the counter.

Turning the pile:  Keep a pitchfork in the pile and try to turn it weekly. Don’t fret if you can’t get to it. It will break down on its own eventually. Compost Helper can be bought at garden centers, which helps speed up the process.

Multiple Piles:  It helps to have 2 piles: one from the previous year to use when planting in the spring, and one to be adding material to during the growing season. 

Using the Compost:  Shovel from the bottom of the pile to use for planting. It will be beautiful, dark, rich soil. You'll wonder why you didn't start a compost pile years ago!


More helpful information can be found at:

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Creating a Rain Garden

If you have an area in your yard that remains soggy after rains, a low spot that floods, or a downspout that ejects torrents of water, a rain garden might be a solution.  If you have extensive flooding or water flow that needs to be slowed down, you may want to consult a landscape architect or rainwater expert.

Rain gardens are comprised of plants – typically but not necessarily natives – that have extensive root systems and a high tolerance for wet conditions.  Some plants have roots that extend down almost 16 feet!  Besides absorbing some of the excess

Rainwater Garden

water, this deep root system opens the oft-compacted soil which allows water to filter down and away more efficiently. Rain gardens can be quite lovely, but plant choices need to be determined based on the area’s sun exposure.


Planting a water-loving tree or shrub is an alternate solution, but should be chosen carefully for appropriate tolerance of moisture and sun exposure.


Helpful Links:

Illinois DNR Rain Garden

Wisconsin DNR Rain Gardens

Iowa Rain Garden Design and Installation

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Rain Garden

Using Rain Barrels

Rain barrels are designed for catching rainwater from gutters, called rainwater harvesting. This water then can be used at a later date to water plants (inside and out), add to a pond during hot months, and even wash the car or windows.  Setting up a rainbarrel system provides double benefits: (1) keeps rainwater out of the overtaxed rainwater sewer systems; and (2) uses less municipal water for gardens and landscaping. The village of Glenview has a rainbarrel program, which is not currently listed on their website; call the Village for more information.


A word of caution that water collected is not potable.  Caution should be used if water is to be added to a pond with fish, and/or if used to water vegetables and other edibles.

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Rain Barrel

Plants We Love

Under construction


Local Places to Visit

The Grove, a National Historic Landmark - Glenview

Techny Basin – Glenview

Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie – Glenview

Wagner Farm Museum & Community Garden Plots - Glenview

Chicago Botanic Garden - Glencoe

Morton Arboretum - Lisle

Garfield Conservatory – Chicago

Lincoln Park Conservatory - Chicago

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum – Chicago

12 Secret Gardens and Parks in Chicago 

The 22 Most Beautiful Parks in Chicago 

Middlefork Savannah Forest Preserve - Lake Forest

Elawa Farm – Lake Forest

Wilder Park Conservatory - Elmhurst

Friendship Park Conservatory - Des Plaines (managed by Mount Prospect Park District)

Oak Park Conservatory - Oak Park

Cantigny Park - Wheaton

Anderson Japanese Gardens - Rockford

Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden - Rockford

Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens - Rockford

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Gardens with Fountain

Books about Natives:

  • Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L. (2011).  The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants.  Ohio University Press.

  • Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L. (2017).  Midwestern Native Shrubs and Trees: Gardening Alternatives to Nonnative Species: An Illustrated Guide.  Ohio University Press.


Information about Monarchs:

Backyard Ecology:

Doug Tallamy has written fascinating, understandable books that challenge us to think of restoring our lost habitat one yard at a time. Consider reading:

  • Tallamy, Douglas W. (2009). Bringing Nature Home. Timber Press.

  • Tallamy, Douglas W. (2020). Nature's Best Hope. Timber Press.

  • Tallamy, Douglas W. (2021). The Nature of Oaks. Timber Press.

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Books & Website Resources

Red Bee Balm

Local & Online Retailers

Garden Shed Tools


Chalet Nursery -Wilmette

Pesches Flowers - Des Plaines

Reds Garden Center -Northbrook

Lurvey Garden Center – Des Plaines

West End Garden Center – Evanston

Weiss Ace Hardware – Glenview  

      (Weiss Ace Annual plant sale: Mother's Day Weekend)

Leider Greenhouses and Garden Center – Buffalo Grove

Pasquesi Home and Gardens – Lake Bluff

Gethsemane Garden Center– Chicago

Al’s Autobody and Arboretum – Hostas beyond your imagination in Walworth, WI

Neighboring Garden Club Plant Sales:

Many ​neighboring garden clubs host sales. We are happy to post them on our calendar of events. Contact us with your garden club's information. 

Online or Catalog:

North Shore Plant Club

Springhill Nursery

Longfield Gardens


American Meadows

Peony’s Envy

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds

Monarch Watch Milkweed Market

Gardener’s Supply Company (online and catalog)

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