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.
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.