As winter ends, you may be eagerly thumbing through seed and bulb catalogs, looking forward to springtime and warmer weather. We at The Conservation Foundation are looking forward to an exciting new project we’re calling Garden Refresh! This spring, we’re redoing the garden beds on the east and south sides of the Clow Education Center at our McDonald Farm headquarters in Naperville. In those beds, we will be planting native flowers and grasses to create a garden that is both beautiful and environmentally friendly.
It’s been quite a few years since we planted these beds. Some plants prospered and grew too big for the space while others died out and left bare spots and openings for weed seeds to sprout. This spring, we will remove and replant the remaining vegetation and add in new plants. The revitalized garden beds will serve as a model for homeowners, hopefully inspiring visitors to incorporate native plants into their own gardens.
To create beautiful and healthy garden beds, you should intentionally select and arrange your plants. The first step is to measure the garden beds and draw them on paper. It’s most useful to draw your beds to scale. We used a scale of 1/4 inch on paper to 1 foot in real life. As we place plants in our design, we consider the height and shape of the plants, keeping in mind their full-grown form. Typically, taller and bushier plants will best fit closer to the foundation while smaller and shorter plants will fill in the rest of the garden.
Based on the amount of sunlight and soil moisture in the area, we will choose native plants best adapted to those conditions. Plants are like all other living things—they need optimal conditions to thrive. Finally, we will plant the garden in May when both air and soil temperatures are warmer.
We encourage native plants since they are well-adapted to our climate. Therefore, they can survive our winter freezes and summer dry spells. Also, native plants are important to wildlife, particularly insects and birds, and are useful for soaking up rain water, which reduces stormwater runoff.
A native garden doesn’t have to be all or nothing. This yard incorporates native Virginia bluebells and eastern redbud into their landscaping while keeping a few non-natives like tulips.
Want to learn more about the Garden Refresh project as well as tips for designing your garden this spring? Join us for our webinar, “Garden Refresh: Designing a Native Garden,” on March 31st at 1 pm! The presentation will cover the native plants we chose for our garden, why we chose them, and where they can be purchased. This is an opportunity to learn how to spruce up an overgrown or barren garden space and help the environment at the same time. Register for the webinar here.
Throughout the process of revamping the native garden beds, we will document the journey through blog posts, pictures, and videos. We hope you’ll enjoy following this project throughout the summer and into the fall!
Written by Nancy Cinatl