Shrub Display Garden
Hickory Knolls Discovery Center
St. Charles Park District

Shrub Display Garden Hickory Knolls Discovery Center St. Charles Park District

The Right Kind of Garden…

by Trish Beckjord, RLA

What makes a garden sustainable? Out of the many answers to this question, I think the first and most important is how will the ongoing management needs of your garden match your interests, time and capabilities?

Many people have the mistaken belief that a native plant garden requires no maintenance. Or that there is a magic plant that will out-compete everything else and reduce the amount of maintenance time. !f you can just find it, all your worries are over!

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we wish it, we can’t make this true. Adding native plants to your garden is important for a whole host of reasons. While there are little to no watering or fertilizer needs in a mature native garden, and deadheading isn’t needed, gardening tasks such as weeding, cutting back, and managing what’s reseeding and where are important ongoing tasks in any garden.

Do you like to garden? Getting your hands in the soil? More importantly, do you have time? It is a great goal to create a native pollinator garden but perennial gardening is time and labor intensive, and requires the most plant knowledge.

If you are interested in supporting pollinators, remember many depend upon native trees and shrubs for various parts of their life cycle. Trees and shrubs flower, produce seed and often have attractive fall color and winter interest. They also provide cover and habitat. Used together wisely, a native tree and shrub garden can be very attractive and much easier to care for with less time needed for maintenance.  

See these resources for some great ideas.

Bringing Nature Home. Dr. Doug Tallamy. Best Bets: What to Plant (to attract moths and butterflies). All the species listed are also native to the Midwest.

Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines of Illinois. Dr. John Hilty. This website includes a great discussion of the fauna supported by each species.

Native Trees and Shrubs for Pollinators. Limited information but helpful.

Selecting Plants for Pollinators. The Pollinator Partnership and North American Pollinator Protection Campaign

8 Must Have Native Shrubs and Trees for Midwestern Fall Color. Epic Gardening.  Be patient with the ads on the website. The information is good and taken from Midwestern Native Shrubs and Trees: Gardening Alternatives to Nonnative Species: An Illustrated Guide by Charlotte Adelman and Bernard L. Schwartz

Native Trees and Shrubs. Midwest Groundcovers