how to create wildlife habitats

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Prairie Garden Portion of the Wildlife Habitat in Riverwoods, Illinois

This is a large project started in 2004 when Buckthorn, Spruce and Arborvitae were removed to make room for the garden. A large semi-circular, ugly asphalt driveway was dug up in front of the house and a new, nicer one constructed. This left the whole front of the property like a big construction zone mess. Here is how it looked in the Summer of 2010.

Naturally, this garden was certified by the Conservation Foundation as an earth-friendly place.

All of the grass lawn was removed from the front of the house. A good-sized grass portion was left in the back for the owners' dogs to play. The property abuts a large drainage swale and golf course in the back which is mostly wooded. Deer roam here constantly and are fearless. They look at you like you are crazy if you try to shoo them away.

Prairie plants fit together like pieces of a puzzle to create a beautiful mozaic. The secret is to use smaller clump-forming plants that do not go crazy.

Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium (lower right) looks like some sort of cactus but is common to the prairies of Illinois.

Mountain mint, Pycnanthemum virginianum (lower left) is not really a mint and does not grow in the mountains, but is extremely fragrant.

Toby keeps an eye out for friendly wildlife (friendly to him).


Wild Quinine, Parthenium integrifolium, (left) is one of my favorites. It has a closed white flowerhead that somewhat resembles a cauliflower. It was used to replace quinine during World War One.

Prairie or Pasture Rose, Rosa carolina, (right) has small pink flowers and sharp thorns. Don't plant it next to a path like I did here or you will be sorry. It spreads aggresively by rhizomes and is supposed to grow to a height of one to three feet. The people who write these flower books should learn how to use a ruler.

Sedges resemble grasses but are different in many ways. The have triangular-shaped stems. Sedges have edges. They have very pretty seedheads which appear early in the year. Sedges are generally small and are mainly found in shady or wet areas. They are clump-forming and do not change color in the Fall. Sedges are attractive and interesting and compliment any garden.

Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa, is an absolute must in your garden. It is a very strong attractor of butterflies and bees. It has beautiful lavender flowers, is very fragrant and is used to make Earl Grey tea. Usually the flowerheads are covered with insects. It is grows three to four feet, enjoys sun to light shade and flowers late in the Summer. As you can see it forms large clumps.

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