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Reviving History: A Showcase of Native Prairies in Yard of the Week

In the heart of Kendall County, about 60 miles west of bustling Chicago, landscape architect Bob Hursthouse and his wife, Robbi, embarked on a remarkable journey. Their idyllic country homestead, nestled on approximately 1.5 acres, beckoned with the promise of history and the allure of nature. Bob’s vision was clear: to bring back the land’s former glory, reminiscent of the oak and hickory savannas and tallgrass prairies that once thrived there.

Contents

The Vision Unveiled

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The result? A breathtaking landscape that encapsulates the essence of native prairies while harmonizing with their Craftsman-style home. Hursthouse Landscape Architects and Contractors led this remarkable transformation, resulting in a Yard of the Week that showcases the potential of native flora and intelligent landscape design.

Planting the Prairie

The journey began with a commitment to establish a prairie meadow. Nestled in front of their home, this meadow flourishes with pollinator-attracting native plants. Delving into local flora, Hursthouse and his dear friend Grace Koehler, an expert in native plants, meticulously curated a plant palette that was a testament to Kendall County’s native species.

With over 40 native species of pollinator-attracting plants, the meadow came to life. Big bluestem, golden Alexanders, and resplendent fall sunflowers now grace the landscape, reaching heights of 7 to 8 feet.

Designing with Nature’s Challenges

The challenge lay in accommodating the varied climatic zones within the prairie meadow. From dry, south-facing soil to shady areas under clusters of burr oaks, Hursthouse and Koehler tailored their plant selections to each microclimate, ensuring a thriving ecosystem.

A Tribute to Jens Jensen

A circular stone fire pit area pays homage to landscape architect Jens Jensen, known for his contributions to the Prairie movement. Located at the edge of the property, it serves as a nod to Jensen’s iconic council rings and creates a serene gathering space. It’s a fitting tribute to a Midwestern legend.

Beyond the Prairie

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The landscape transformation extended beyond the prairie. Bluestone elements were extended to the porch floor and steps, creating a seamless transition from the driveway to the front door.

While the majority of plants are native, two exceptions were made for the irresistible allure of Korean spice viburnum and Tiger Eyes sumac, a hybrid gem.

The centerpiece of this landscape is a captivating fountain, a sanctuary for prized koi fish. With a depth of 3 feet and a diameter of 10 feet, this feature not only fulfills a practical purpose but also pays homage to the historic sugar kettles of the past, repurposed into fountains and planters.

Outdoor Living at its Best

The transformation isn’t confined to the front yard alone. A new bluestone patio serves as an outdoor haven. Complete with a dining area, a gas fire pit, and a grilling station, it’s an embodiment of country living. The grilling station’s face, designed to resemble a Shelby Cobra car grille, adds a touch of whimsy that complements the home’s architecture.

Thanks to the 25-foot grade change of the property, the patio’s backside now boasts a granite retaining wall, granite columns, and a cobbled-granite planter that terraces the back lawn. Bluestone coping accentuates the fire pit and planter, enhancing the overall aesthetic.

Conclusion

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"Yard of the Week: Native Prairies Inspire a Designer’s Landscape" is not just a showcase of stunning design; it’s a testament to the power of restoring native ecosystems. Bob and Robbi Hursthouse’s journey exemplifies how a passion for history and a reverence for nature can transform a property into a living work of art.

This Kendall County landscape serves as an inspiration for those looking to bring a piece of the prairie’s history into their own backyards. By weaving together the threads of architecture, native flora, and thoughtful design, the Hursthouses have crafted a landscape that stands as a beacon of sustainable beauty in the heart of the countryside.

Further Reading Options

What is a structured prairie garden?

A structured prairie garden is a meticulously planned landscape that combines the aesthetic appeal of a traditional perennial garden with the use of native prairie plants. This garden style can take various forms, such as an island garden nestled within a lush lawn, a decorative border lining a wall, fence, or building, or even a themed garden showcasing specific textures or colors, such as serene whites or delicate pastels. By blending the charm of classic garden design with the resilience and natural beauty of prairie flora, structured prairie gardens offer an enchanting and sustainable way to enhance your outdoor space.

Are prairie plants good for xeriscaping?

Are prairie plants good for xeriscaping? Absolutely. Many prairie plants exhibit impressive drought tolerance once they’ve taken root, rendering them perfect candidates for xeriscaping projects. In regions where water restrictions prevail, a prairie garden serves as a both practical and aesthetically pleasing solution. To enhance the charm of your xeriscape, consider pairing these hardy plants with rustic garden art or structures, such as a weathered wood bench or a meandering stone pathway.

What can you do with prairie plants?

What can you do with prairie plants? You can enhance your garden in various creative ways by incorporating prairie plants. Consider pairing them with charming garden art or structures, such as a weathered wood bench or a meandering stone pathway. By implementing these ideas, you can infuse the allure of the majestic prairie into your garden, crafting a space that’s both visually stunning and ecologically beneficial for local wildlife.

What is a native garden?

What is a native garden? A native garden is a thoughtfully curated space that harnesses the power of indigenous plants, flowers, and grasses to invite and support a vibrant array of birds, insects, and wildlife. Its purpose extends beyond aesthetics, as it plays a pivotal role in the restoration of natural ecosystems. Native plants, in essence, are those that have evolved in harmony with a particular region or environment, flourishing without the need for human intervention.

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