How to Thrive in Winter’s Gray Days

by C. Eliana Brown, RORG Director

The Red Oak Rain Garden is designed to look good year-round. You should go visit it. But, even I — who loves being outside — can’t make myself go on those bone chilling cold, gray January days. What do you do then? Lately, I have noticed that the gray daylight is starting to peak over the 5 pm horizon. To me, this gives a glimmer of spring. If you really want a glimmer of spring, you need to peruse a plant catalogue. And the Red Oak Rain Garden has some suggestions. Grab a hot beverage and settle in! 

Our plant supply came from four nurseries: Pizzo Native Plant Nursery, Possibility Place, Midwest Groundcovers, and North Creek. For our fall 2020 planting, we added one more: Brent & Becky’s. All of them were great to work with and provided wonderful plants. Their websites contain a plethora of information and abundant pictures for you to peruse and dream about the gardening “season” to come.

Pizzo Nursery* Owned by University of Illinois alum Jack Pizzo, this nursery is a wholesale grower specializing in native plant plugs and is known as an established and reputable grower with over 30 years of experience in ecological restoration science. See their retail partners to purchase. And check our their Facebook page for a behind the scenes look at the nursery – even in winter.

Possibility Place* Specializing in growing plants native to Northern Illinois since Connor Shaw founded it in 1983, this nursery supplied nearly all RORG’s shrubs. Their website has a plant finder search tool that you can spend hours on. It features wonderful photos and info by botanist Kelsay Shaw. Also check them out on Facebook. They do sell to the public and also work with East Central Illinois Master Naturalists for a tree and shrub sale in the fall.

North Creek North Creek strives to promote sustainable outdoor environments. As a wholesale propagation nursery, they specialize in growing starter plants or plugs of perennials, ornamental grasses, ferns, vines and shrubs with an emphasis on Eastern US native plants. Check out their resources link.

Midwest Groundcovers An almost overwhelming selection that expands beyond native plants, this website has a plant finder, videos, and a section featuring our hero, inspirational landscape designer Piet Oudolf. You can spend hours on this site. Alas, keep in mind that they only sell wholesale.

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs And now for something a little different. When landscape designer Layne Knoche needed a bulb supplier for the fall 2020 planting, we asked Extension Horticulture Educator Martha Smith for advice. One of her suggestions was Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. This website is NOT about native plants, but it includes bulbs that can complement early spring native plants. Legendary designer Piet Oudolf (him again) does this at places like the Lurie Garden. We recommend perusing Brent and Becky’s website and be inspired by Piet (and Layne).

Hope you enjoy your virtual trip to these wonderful nurseries. And go dream about all the plants you’ll add to your landscape in 2021!

*Pizzo Nursery and Possibility Place are both RORG Foundation Donors.

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