Getting on the Prairie Path

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

After attending FRED 2013 (Frederick Law Olmstead in Riverside Education and Design) symposium last month, and while there hearing what  all-around gardening pro and native Berwynite Roy Diblik had to say about a few local prairies, I had to see for myself it it was true.  

Even though he is not a prairie gardening purist, Diblik did have a few suggestions for gardeners like me who are experimenting with the feasibility of growing a variety of native prairie grasses in a smallish urban landscape with what I hope is adequate sun. 

For anyone who is an avid gardener, or gardener of any grade, and doesn't know about Diblik's "know maintenance" approach, they should consider taking a road trip to his native and perennial farm in Wisconsin, pick up one of his many books, or hop on the el into Chicago to stroll through Lurie Garden, or one of his other public spaces he's designed to experience his philosophies, and of course the year-round beauty of what he puts into place.  

Or just go on a prairie crawl this October, as we have been doing.  Our first stop was Wolf Road Prairie, which has all browned up beautifully by now.  Happily, it is a quick drive from here, about 15 minutes due west.

Last weekend we headed to Schulenberg Prairie at the Morton Arboretum where we witnessed groupings of trees turning shades of yellow and orange, plus a patch of prairie land that took our breath away. 

On tap for us is the Gensburg Markham Prairie, which is about 45 minutes south, and down the road will be a few of the projects affiliated with The Wetland's Initiative's open space project to learn why wetlands are more valuable wet than dry.  For us, that will mean an afternoon spent at the Dixon Prairie (it is preserved on 15 acres of land and has six prairie ecosystems) via the Chicago Botanic Gardens, which is an anytime jaunt for plant people, and a great haunt for the entire family, especially in October, with the festivities of Halloween heating up.

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