This summer, Shirley Heinze Land Trust has been hosting weekly workdays at Meadowbrook Nature Preserve, mostly focusing on cleaning up the native gardens at the front of the preserve.
The first of these gardens was planted when the organization moved to the new office in 2013. The Friends of Shirley Heinze planted a 250 square foot garden to exemplify the kind of native landscaping that the group promotes through the Bringing Nature Home program.
That same summer, a Girl Scout troop planted a butterfly garden near the trail head. These have become a much appreciated place for staff, volunteers, and visitors alike to enjoy looking at wildflowers, learning about native species, and observing the birds, bees, and butterflies that visit.
In 2016, the sidewalk to the office building was replaced, and with the construction came another opportunity to expand the gardens near the building rather than replacing the grass. Volunteers helped to plan the layout of the garden and install new plants.
Then, in 2017, the Purdue Extension of Porter County approached the organization with a rain garden project. The edge of the forest near the parking lot had become very overgrown with invasive plants after a lot of young ash trees died, and it was a perfect corner to collect the runoff from the parking lot in a rain garden. A couple of workdays later, including help from the Valparaiso Rotary, and we had another beautiful native garden at our doorstep.
That fall, Groundwork Indy stayed at Meadowbrook while they were volunteering at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and in return, they planted some extra plants that our stewardship department had received from The Nature Conservancy. These were planted along the back of the office where they are enjoyed by the birds that visit the feeder, and the seeds are collected by stewardship staff and volunteers to be spread in restoration projects.
Using native plants in landscaping provides food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other pollinators, while also being beautiful to look at. As the plants used are adapted to our local climate, they are less work to maintain after they are established - they don't need to be watered, and as they fill in the space, they need less weeding than traditional flower beds.