Go Green Wilmette has always been an advocate of planting native plants in suburban yards and gardens, but about four years ago the group realized that places to purchase native plants were few and far between on the North Shore.
That scarcity inspired Go Green to establish its own native plant sale in partnership with the Wilmette Park District, which has been going strong since. This year’s sale will be held on May 12 at the Lakeview Center in Gillson Park. The sale will boast about 60 species — mostly perennials —as well as about a half a dozen trees and shrubs that are beneficial for bird habitat.
“They provide habitat and it is a neat, simple thing people can do,” Karen Glennemeier, a board member of Go Green Wilmette, told DailyNorthShore.
Native plants in suburban yards provide a stepping stone for pollinators as they head to larger, natural areas like the Cook County Forest Preserve, Glennemeier said. Migrating birds fly thousands of miles and need a place to stop, rest and eat, and native trees and plants tend to host more insects and other creatures for birds to eat.
The sale will have plenty of showy plants for purchase, such as blazing star, which blooms pink and purple in the summer. “It’s dramatic little fire works in your garden,” Glennemeier said.
Go Green isn’t the only North Shore organization advocating going native.
Lake Forest Open Lands is holding its annual “Go Native! Plant & Tree Sale” on May 12 at Mellody Farm Nature Preserve. Open Lands started selling plants about 15 years ago, but decided to focus on native plants, trees and shrubs when emerald ash borer hit, Peter Gordon, director of land management and operations for Open Lands, told DailyNorthShore. The tiny green beetle was first confirmed in Illinois in 2006, and spread quickly through suburban areas, ravaging local Ash tree populations.
As people began losing trees, Open Lands recognized the opportunity to encourage the community to plant native. According to Gordon, an Oak tree can support about 400 species of moths and butterflies. He also said that native plants require less water, fertilization and maintenance, once they are established.
While many people steer clear of native plants because they fear an unruly garden, Gordon said native plants can also be utilized to create a formal, organized look. At Open Lands’ sale, arborists, ecologists and landscape architects will be on hand to steer people toward the appropriate plants.
The Grove will also be hosting its annual plant sale on May 19 which includes many native plants.
“This is a perfect opportunity for The Grove to not only provide a service for people who enjoy The Grove, but also people who want a habitat for native wildlife. That is part of The Grove’s mission – to preserve a part of Illinois cultural and natural history,” Judy Beck, vice president and conservation chair for The Grove Heritage Association, told DailyNorthShore.
The Grove added a native plants section to its annual sale about 10 years ago, to encourage people to go native. Over time, there has been uptick in interest. “It’s really interesting to see how many people now come in and are interested in specific natives and know more and more about it,” Beck said.
For instance, more people are interested in purchasing milk weed, because an increasing awareness that the plant attracts monarch butterflies, Beck said. “There is a demand for it and people are listening and it means our gardens are all getting healthier,” she observed.
This year The Grove is also partnering with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to give away free Oak saplings. Oak trees are thirsty plants that are a great way to take stormwater out of the system, Beck said. The initiative is part of MWRD’s “Restore the Canopy” project.
The Lake County Forest Preserves is also hosting a native plant sale which boasts a large variety of plants on May 12 and May 13. Rain barrels and compost bins will also be for sale on May 12.
Here are some of the native plant sales happening in May around the North Shore:
Go Green Wilmette, May 12, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Lakeview Center, Gillson Park, 800 Gillson Park Drive, Wilmette. Free parking is available in the beach parking lot off of Lake Avenue. For more information go to www.gogreenwilmette.org.
The Grove, May 19, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., 1421 Milwaukee Avenue, Glenview. For more information go to www.glenviewparks.org.
Lake Forest Open Lands, May 12, 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Mellody Farm Nature Preserve, Lake Forest. For more information go to www.lfola.org.
Lake County Forest Preserves, May 12, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and May 12, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Independence Grove at the North Bay Pavilion, 16400 West Buckley Road, Libertyville. For more information go to www.lcfpd.org.