Des Plaines Park District

The Horticulture Blog

Liz Vogel, our staff Horticulturist is posting a series of articles on seasonal plantings and landscaping at the park district, along with some tips to try in your home garden.
Follow the blog each month on Facebook.

Posted April 8

First in the series by horticulturist Liz Vogel.

Photo of an Adrena Bee on a Willow, by Liz.

Spring is a very important time of year for pollinators. Small native mining and cellophane bees—both of which are quite small, solitary, and live in the ground—are some of the first to emerge on a warm sunny day to forage among the early spring flowers. The park district is introducing many native flowering species to our garden beds, and those will help feed these bees and many other tiny visitors.
Here are just a few of the wonderful native spring flowers that might work well in your home landscape: Dodecatheon amethystinum (Amethyst Shooting Star), Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium), Hepatica acutiloba (Sharp-lobed Hepatica), and Polemonium reptans (Jacob’s Ladder).
We’ll be bringing you more information about our horticultural activities across the district every month via social media. If you have questions, be sure to post them here. We’ll respond as soon as we can, which might take a day or so during this busy planting season. Happy gardening!

Posted May 3

Second in the series by horticulturist Liz Vogel.

Photo by Liz.
Among the spring flowers growing in the park district gardens is the lovely native Phlox divaricata or wild blue phlox. This plant, along with Anemone cylindrical, Zizea aurea, Allium spp. and other early wildflowers, picks up where the redbud trees, seasonal tulip, and daffodils leave off. Blues and purples are common among native spring flowers, and the bees that forage among them use the unique markings at the center of many flowers as a type of runway or beacon–pointing to where the sweet nectar reward of each flower is stored. Many bees come out early in spring, even before we start to see butterflies. Because bees see mostly in blue, green, and UV light, they can easily pick up on these colors and markings as they buzz by the flowers moving in the wind. (Photos by Liz.)
For more on how bees see, visit these websites:…/pollinators/animals/bees.shtml…/glowing-flowers…
For more info on native vs. cultivars in the garden:

Posted June 3

THE HORTICULTURE BLOG: Drought Tolerant Natives
Third in the series by horticulturist Liz Vogel.

Baptisia spp. cultivar at the park district Greenhouse on Maple Street. (Photo by Liz)

This spring started with unusually hot and dry conditions, which had our landscape crew running quite a bit to keep all of our new plantings watered and happy until they began to settle in. Fluctuations in temperature and moisture are nothing new here in Illinois, and many plants have evolved nicely to accommodate these rather dramatic swings. Roots systems of some native plants, such as Panicum virgatum (switch grass))— a mid-size grass that fits well in larger gardens or as a backdrop to smaller species—can reach 10–15’ into the soil. Though we marvel at much of what is happening above ground with colors, textures, and flowers that attract a host of insects and birds, some of the real work is being done below the surface where large root systems work to cycle water and mine for nutrients. The regeneration (dead organic material in the soil) is what feeds microfauna and helps to create healthy soil.

As you plan your new garden and garden additions, give some thought to integrating these and other drought tolerant grasses and wildflowers into your landscape. Until next time—keep gardening! Liz.

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)
Sporobolus heterolepis (prairie dropseed)
Carex pensylvanica (pennsylvania sedge)
Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed)
Baptisia australis (blue wild indigo)
Ruellia humilis (wild petunia)
Echinacea pallida (pale purple coneflower)
Liatris punctate (dotted blazing star)
Symphyotrichum sericeum (silky aster)

A deeper dig into soil life and structure:

US Botanic Garden Exposes Secret Life of Roots:


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