Good stewardship of the land calls for healthy, sustainable landscaping. The Morton Arboretum is applying ecological principles and good land management practices to our natural areas, gardens, and special attractions. Community associations such as condominium association and homeowners associations also can use hardy trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers to create attractive landscapes and healthy natural areas that may demand fewer resources (water, fertilizers, soil amendments, etc.) than traditional landscapes.
Sustainable landscaping can pay off in:
- Lower maintenance costs over the long-term
- Better storm water management
- A healthier place to live
- More functional and pleasing landscapes
- Support for the region's biodiversity
- The satisfaction that comes from good land stewardship
- Tax incentives, depending on locality
Sustainable landscaping uses hardy native and non-native trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers in a naturalistic design that works in harmony with nature. Many of these plants are strikingly beautiful, and you can combine them to have continuous color and interest all year long.
When the land in our region was timbered, plowed, and converted to farmland, our native trees and plants lost most of their natural range. While natural landscaping is gaining in popularity, some native plants are hard to find. The Arboretum purchases some of its plants from local nurseries that specialize in natives. We are also reproducing plants from seeds gathered on our site.
Pond Management and Shoreline Protection
A challenge of many large land owners is managing natural and manmade ponds to improve water quality, reduce erosion, and retain stormwater, yet at the same time reduce drastic fluctuation in water levels. Careful monitoring of factors such as lake levels, groundwater levels, suspended sediment, and fish species can provide important baseline information.
In 2004 the Arboretum's Meadow Lake was drained, dredged, and regraded to accommodate water from our state of the art pervious parking lot. Native plants were installed to help protect the shoreline, help absorb excess nutrients and water, attract desirable wildlife, and deter undesired birds, such as Canada Geese from diminishing water quality. These plantings included solid drifts of rooted-floating and emergent plants and mixed drifts of wet-mesic plants. At least one plant species provides color and texture throughout the year. This project won an award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Chicago Wilderness in 2005.
Turf grass takes a tremendous amount of resources in terms of manpower, mowing, watering, fertilizers, herbicides and reseeding or re-sodding. Plus, there are many health issues associated with the chemicals needed to maintain lawn areas, especially for young children. Community associations may consider the costs and benefits of switching to more natural practices of turf management — or even reducing the amount of turf grass in the landscape.
Many new subdivisions were built on farmland without a tree in sight. The soil often suffers from compaction from heavy construction trucks. Newly planted trees often do not survive. If lots were already wooded, established trees can be severely damaged by the construction equipment, but the effects don't show until years later. Old oak trees are especially vulnerable to root compaction and competition from sod.