The 2014 Oak Park/River Forest Native Garden Tour will showcase 11 gardens with a variety of landscaping techniques and applications of native Illinois plants.

Get to know some of the amazing native plants on our tour! Their unique names reflect their highly evolved structures and functions, as well as their historical uses by first peoples and European settlers:  Swamp Milkweed, Purple Love Grass, Northern Dropseed, Little Bluestem, Switch Grass, Aromatic Aster, Golden Alexanders, Wild Blue Indigo, Rattlesnake Master, Stiff Goldenrod, Purple Coneflower, New England Aster.

Garden Site Descriptions

We won't reveal the addresses of our tour just yet, but here's what you can expect to see along the 11 exciting stops of the self-guided tour. The bike tour will feature six of these stops. This mix of public and private gardens, each carefully planted and lovingly tended, demonstrate the beauty, versatility and function of native plants.

Mixed Company - This garden marries natives with non-natives to showcase a lovely old church.  Birds, bees, butterflies and even dragonflies flit across the entrance to prove that all God's creatures are precious.

Ginger's garden

Block Party - This space, located on the grounds of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County Headquarters, highlights native plants on its northwest corner while utilizing the entire block in various ways to accommodate humans.  Our tour registration and closing events demonstrate this space's versatility.

Living Lawn Free - Lawn? Yawn! The entire front yard of this private home has been transformed by a spectacular arrangement of native trees, grasses and flowers. This homeowner gets  exercise in the gym instead of mowing a lawn.

Butterfly Haven - Native and non-native flowers enthrall humans and butterflies alike.  This yard strives to feed all types of butterflies in all stages, with host plants for caterpillars, as well as nectar sources for the long noses of our flitting friends.

Startup Garden – Be inspired to begin to plant natives by touring this brand new garden.  A rain garden enjoys water from the home’s downspout, and the parkway features more native plants.

Purple bee balm

Party in the Parkway – The parkway along Jackson is devoted to attracting, feeding and sheltering insects and birds. This gardener is not a purist about natives, although native species are chosen over cultivars.

Wetland Wonders - This marsh includes three plant communities: prairie, sedge meadow and "emergent" (plants' roots are in the water and leaves are in the air). This four-year-old, 9,500 square-foot area includes 56 native plant species that support a variety of animal and insect life and absorb and filter stormwater runoff from the rest of the park.

 Plants with Wet Feet - This gardener has created three bioswales to channel rain to water-loving wetland plants; a fourth one is being built behind the white pine, right next to a new worm composting bin. This 90% native garden is also certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation and as a Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch.

What's Blooming Now - These gardens, featuring plants from oak savanna and prairie habitats, continually bloom from March to November. We humans aren't the only visitors who enjoy fall flowers; see if you can spot butterflies, bees, insects, other pollinators, birds and small wildlife that enjoy the nectar, pollen and vegetation.

More Than a Pretty Face - These stunning habitat gardens were created in response to the severe decline of Monarch butterflies and other pollinators. Look closely and you will see that native grasses and plants feed butterfly caterpillars, provide seeds for birds, and nesting material and habitat for solitary, native bees. This time of year, adult butterflies may visit nectar plants, too.

Pretty as Petunias (without the work) - This recently renovated home landscape harmoniously blends new, eco-friendly home design and native plants. Featuring both a dry, sunny prairie and a rain garden that handles the home's sump pump overflow, this stop has something for everyone.