What are Native Plants?
A native plant has a lineage that evolved in our region over thousands of years. Before European settlement, these plants covered the millions of acres of prairies, woodlands, savannas, marshes, beaches, and other habitats that made up the diverse Chicago region. Because they evolved to thrive on every type of local soil, in all sorts of light situations, on slopes and flatland, and in every moisture gradient the area had to offer, there is a suite of native plants for pretty much every kind of modern landscape. Native plants are surprisingly good at flood control, at drought resistance, and at thriving without chemical input. They’ve been doing all that for thousands of years!
Along with the plants evolved the insects, birds, turtles, frogs, snakes, and mammals of the region, many of which are now hard-pressed to survive, with decreasing habitat availability, fragmentation of habitat, chemical contamination, and invasive plants overtaking many “preserved” areas. That’s why, at Red Stem, we want the birds and frogs to sing and the butterflies to flutter, and we dream of cities and suburbs cloaked in beautiful gardens full of native plants that provide a haven, not just to all those creatures but to human ones, too.
Why Use Native Plants?
- Native plants bring a host of benefits aside from their natural beauty.
- They do not yield the traditional landscape—the lawn-and-shrubs-and-annuals model that is considered ideal only when the landscape is mowed and sheared to look the same all year round, then watered and treated with chemicals.
- Native plants offer the ambiance of the prairie, the woodland, the open savanna under oaks, bringing a sense of Midwestern place to your garden and neighborhood.
- Native plant roots can go as deep as 20 feet into the ground, and plants with such roots growing alongside others with more fibrous roots work together to create a spongy environment that soaks up water, directs it to the water table, and cleans it as it goes.
- Native plants host the caterpillars of native butterflies, providing protein so that birds may raise their young.
- Native plants are pretty, ever-changing, and unique to the region in which they evolved.
Native Gardens Are:
- Beautiful. Your garden will bloom in waves of color throughout the year.
- Good for native wildlife. Butterflies, birds, and bees native to our region need the plants they evolved with to complete their lifecycles.
- Quiet. Less need for mowing and blowing, so your neighborhood gets quieter with each native garden it hosts.
- Water conserving. Deep-rooted natives prevent runoff. Where they are established they serve to direct rainfall to the water table, with soil organisms purifying it along the way.
- Affordable to install. We work within your budget and can spread the development of your dream garden over months or years.
- Economical to maintain. No need for pesticides or fertilizers—which pollute our waterways and soils.
Our Promises to You
We blend the principles of good design with knowledge of soils, hydrology, light conditions, and native plants to create unique and beautiful gardens full of life and ever-changing in color and form.
Whether yours is a simple curbside planting or a larger outdoor space where hardscapes complement plantings, Red Stem’s mission is to make sure you are absolutely delighted with your new garden—and that you stay that way for years to come. Here’s what we bring to that mission:
Passion for what we do. We simply love creating gardens and outdoor spaces that showcase the trees, shrubs, vines, and wildflowers that are native to our region. We get ridiculously happy when a client reports sighting 37 bird species in one summer in her little city backyard. We hear it all the time because that’s what happens when you provide native habitat.
Determination to please you. We listen closely—even if you don’t say much—to find the sweet spot where the charms and benefits of native plantings and sustainable building practices meet your sense of aesthetics and your needs and desires. We take into account your architecture and the surrounding light, water, soils, and contours, to provide a garden unique to you and your home. Then we stay in communication—at every stage of your project.
Respect for you, your neighbors, and the environment. We make every attempt to solve your problems, bring you the beauty of the natural world, and provide lasting value, leaving your environment healthier for you and your family and friends.
The steps to creating your new native plant landscape
- Consultation. The first step to creating your beautiful new garden is a walk through your property and a conversation during which you tell us what you love and what you don’t, how you would want to use your space and what your preferences are. We share our excitement about native plants and the life they bring to your garden, we look at the soil and existing conditions. You give us a copy of your plat of survey and we decide together what sort of drawing, if any, your project requires. These initial consultations are $90.
- Design. Design services are billed hourly, the fee dependent upon the level of expertise required. Designs can range from a simple line sketch to a complex master plan in color with construction documents.
- Installation. We take your project from start to finish and leave your property in great shape before we go each day and at the end of the project. In addition to our native plant installation crew we use the services of fine craftspeople as needed to provide everything your project requires.
- Stewardship. Native plant gardens require less maintenance than traditional landscapes, and once established do not require watering except during periods of drought. They require no fertilization and no pesticides. But, to survive weed incursion the first two years and to look their best thereafter, native plant gardens require a regimen of stewardship that might include weeding, trimming, moving or removing plants, and spring and fall cleanup. We strongly encourage you to sign up for our stewardship program, which will be tailored to the particular needs of your garden.
What Red Stem can do for you.
Red Stem Native Landscapes will build a garden that will make you and your family happy! Our projects include:
- Rain gardens
- Butterfly and pollinator gardens
- Gardens on clay, sand, or gravel
- Gardens for shade, sun, and partial sun
- Stone and brick work
- Pergolas and trellises
- Rain barrels and cisterns
- Compost tea applications
The Conservation Foundation certification
Red Stem Native Landscapes, Inc., is authorized to certify gardens on behalf of The Conservation Foundation, a Naperville-based education and conservation organization established in 1973 to preserve open land and promote conservation.
The Foundation’s Conservation @Home and Conservation @Work certifications allow homeowners and businesses to post a TCF sign signifying their property has eco-friendly landscape features and letting passersby learn about how their landscapes benefit wildlife and promote water conservation efforts. Red Stem helps extend the reach of the program into Cook and Lake counties.