Native plant design screw-ups from the Conservation@Home coordinator's yard

You put spiderwort where? Great idea, Sarah.

Looks pretty, doesn't it? Meet Ohio Spiderwort, or  Tradescantia ohiensis. 
I was well acquainted with this plant from my explorations in the prairies around McHenry County. There is nothing quite like the blue-purple blooms of spiderwort dotting our local prairies in early June. So when I replaced an area of non-native plantings, what better plant to edge the area with, right? WRONG. See below picture (with random dog in background).

This is a case of a plant being beautiful in a large prairie where it experiences competition from other plants that limit its growth, but when put on the edge of a garden setting, it gets HUGE, floppy, and reseeds itself heavily. Blooms beautifully, but quickly becomes crazy and readily outgrows its limited space. What was I thinking, right? Basically, this was a spur-of-the-moment decision that wasn't well thought-out. I love spiderwort, I want to see it everytime I step out my front door, end of story.This is in a prominent place in my front yard, and I knew I needed to rectify the craziness that was Spiderwort Edge Mania. So this April, I transplanted lots of spiderwort into the center of a larger prairie garden, where it provides pollinator habitat, beautiful color, and is staying a normal size (under 3 feet) due to dense plantings around it. I've lined the edge of the original area with  Prairie Smoke (Geum Triflorum) , which is a "well-behaved" early blooming prairie plant that will have attractive foliage late into the year, thus suppressing weed-growth. How do you know ahead of time what plant species to choose for certain situations? Do your research. Consult websites like  Prairie Moon , or simply do a google search with key words,"growth habits of spiderwort in a native garden setting." If anything mentions "aggressive spreading," believe it. If the typical height of a plant is listed as 3 feet, you can add a foot to that in a garden setting with many species. You can also email the Conservation@Home coordinator, who promises that she will not hesitate to share her native gardening failures so you can avoid making the same mistakes. Have any garden fails to share with the rest of us? Email them to Sarah! We've got to keep it real, folks. Not all garden designs immediately pop out of the ground in the desired fashion.

Conservation@Home Featured Property: Logan and Sophia Gilbertsen

Meet the Gilbertsen family! They have lived at their 103-year old home in downtown Algonquin for 3 years, which is located across the street from the Fox River. Due to their location next to the river and Logan's experiences as a water resource engineer, utilizing native plants to control water runoff, attracting beneficial wildlife, and participating in the Conservation@Home program was a great way to help educate others about sustainability. They've even helped neighbors remove European buckthorn from the nearby Fox River shoreline! The Gilbertsen family is a great example of using native plants not only to make your property more attractive, but to serve a function as well.

Remember that you can encourage homeowners, businesses, and other community groups to use the Conservation@Home ideas on their property, big or small. TLC is happy to offer presentations on C@H and many other environmental topics. Call 815-337-9502 or email Sarah Michehl at As the season progresses, email us updated pictures of your environmental features!

The Land Conservancy of McHenry County | | 
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