Community Associations: Sustainable Landscaping
Create beautiful, healthy neighborhoods
Good stewardship of the land calls for healthy, sustainable landscaping. Just as The Morton Arboretum is applying ecological principles and good land management practices to our natural areas, gardens, and special attractions, community associations can use hardy trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers to create attractive landscapes and healthy natural areas that may demand less resources (water, fertilizers, soil amendments, etc.) than traditional landscapes. Be assured that your commitment to sustainable landscaping is a wise investment. Your "green" choices 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
New Advisory Group!
The Morton Arboretum is coordinating an advisory group of community associations, property management companies, landscape architects, natural resource professionals, and others. The group's mission is to educate, encourage and support community associations to become effective stewards and advocates of their urban environments. If your community association is considering employing sustainable landscaping practices, contact Community Tree Program.
This advisory group benefits from the expertise of our partner natural resource organizations. The group is working to compile information specifically for the needs of community associations. Community association professionals, such as members of the Community Association Institute, will help the group present the information to their peers.
Here are resources to help you make choices about your urban landscapes and be better prepared to evaluate proposals from contractors. You can find additional resources in the Woodland Wheelbarrow.
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.
Plants Tolerant of Wet Sites
Plants for Shady Sites
Woody Plants Tolerant of Wet Sites
Native Shrubs of the Midwest
Native Trees of the Midwest
Spring Wildflowers of the Arboretum
Summer Prairie Plants
Landscaping with Native Plants FAQ
Creating Habitats and Homes for Illinois Wildlife
vPlants, Herbarium records of The Morton Arboretum, Field Museum, and Chicago Botanical Garden
Find more Plant and Tree Selection ideas, including non-native hardy plants that are suitable for our climate
Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America, Gary L. Hightshoe, Van Nostrand & Reinhold Co., New York, NY 1998.
Nature's Heartland-Native Plant Communities of the Great Plains, Bill Boon and Harlen Groe, Iowa State University Press, 1990.
Plants of the Chicago Region, Floyd Swink & Gerould Wilhelm, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL, 1994.
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.
Main Parking Lot: Paving the Way for a Cleaner Environment
EPA and Chicago Wilderness award-winning area projects: (Find descriptions at www.epa.gov/greenacres/awards.html)
Harbor Springs Property Owners' Association
Madison Club Homeowners Association
Danada Woods Townhome Assoc., Naperville, IL
Highland Lakes Homeowners Assoc., Highland Park, IL
Nantucket Cove Homeowners Assoc. , Schaumburg, IL
Crossings at Wolf Creek Community, Plainfield, IL
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 with nary 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.