April Showers

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“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,

One clover, and a bee, And revery. The revery alone will do, If bees are few.”
Emily Dickinson

Here in Northern Illinois, we have had a particularly cold and wet March. And now, twelve days into April, it seems as though the weather will never warm or dry up. I really should not even whisper a complaint about either the cold or the precipitation after coming off one of the hottest and driest summers in the past thirty years. This coveted moisture is part of spring. It turns the dormancy of winter into signs of spring green. As I write this post, the daffodils are rapidly breaking through the soil’s surface to the fanfare of croci’s petals of purple, gold and white. Slowly too, the native plants are awakening, as hints of green foliage begin to appear at their crowns. Spring is my favorite time of year. The temperatures are mild and the earth is fragrant. Life begins anew.

Now is a perfect time to plan and order plugs for spring prairie planting. Here in Northern Illinois, the soil will have sufficiently warmed and dried out enough for planting by mid-May. In the meantime, by day you can prepare the soil for planting by removing invasive plants and by night, design your prairie garden. As you plan, be sure to select plants that will create a complex and diverse plant community comprised of many different species of grasses and forbs. The theory behind establishing an ecologically sound and thriving prairie landscape was discussed in a previous post titled Restoration in Progress.

Native flora does not grow in isolation from the other organisms around them but are connected to the other living things in their habitat so it also important to select ecotype native plants or seeds. The importance of ecotype native plant selection was presented early in a post titled, Ecotype Native Plant Selection. Local ecotype plant materials originate in, and are native to, a 250 mile radius in one’s geographic region. Below you will find a list of upcoming native plants sale with ecotype plants from within the acceptable range for Northern Illinois prairies.

Citizens for Conservation 17th Annual Native Plant, Shrub & Tree Sale Saturday, May 4 • 9:00 am to 3:00 pm CFC Headquarters – 459 W. Highway 22, Lake Barrington, IL

Lake County Forest Preserve District 16th Annual Native Plant Sale Saturday, May 11 • 9:00 am to 3:00 pm Sunday, May 12 • 10:00 am to 3:00 pm Independence Grove Forest Preserve – 16400 W Buckley Road, Libertyville, IL

Lake Forest Open Lands Association Go Native Plant Sale Saturday, May 18 • 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Mellody Farm Nature Preserve – 350 North Waukegan Road, Lake Forest, IL

Conserve Lake County Native Plant Sale All Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays from May 17 to June 9 • 8:00 am to 3:00 pm Almond Marsh Forest Preserve – 32492 N. Almond Road, Grayslake, IL

If you are overwhelmed by the idea of designing a prairie garden, Prairie Nursery offers some beautiful, pre-planned prairie garden designs that fit every soil and sun condition. Whether you choose to plan your own prairie garden or use a pre-planned garden both the earth and the gardener will be transformed and renewed. Happy planning and planting.

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