Elgin prairie garden in Nature’s Garden magazine

Pat Hill front garden

Prairie flowers blaze with color in the front yard of Pat Hill's Elgin home.

           Pat Hill thinks our landscapes should reflect our natural heritage, not be just “McDonald-ized” renditions that use plants that can be seen anywhere in the country.

           “I show people how to connect with the natural world around us by planning an exuberant, sustainable, diverse, carefree garden that reflects the place we live in,” she said.

           Exuberant, diverse and carefree are certainly good words to describe Hill”s own yard, where she has planted native plants in a traditional garden style.

           “I just think it”s incredibly beautiful, and it is also so bountiful,” she said. “It attracts bees and butterflies and is so colorful. There”s nothing subtle about it. I also like the feeling that these plants were here before the Europeans came. It gives me a sense of pride.”

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           Hill was working as a real estate agent when she decided to leave that field in 1982 and do what she always wanted to do. She started taking classes in ornamental horticulture at McHenry College, and launched her landscape design business. Her business grew, and then she decided to start specializing in perennial gardens. Shortly after that, prairie”s caught her eye.

           “I had seen the prairie at the Chicago Botanic Garden and then Sears did their prairie garden at their property in Hoffman Estates. I went out there to look at that a lot,” she said.

           Hill hooked up with another friend who had a prairie garden, and they visited the Schulenberg Prairie at Morton Arboretum, attended the Nature Conservancy”s annual prairie festival, and visited Horlock Hill Prairie in St. Charles. “I would go there with my camera and notebook and take pictures and notes,” she said.

           She started taking classes specializing in native plants at St. Charles Park District and read cover-to-cover the books on Chicago area native plants by Dick Young and Floyd Swink.

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“I finally came to the conclusion that you had to do this [use of native plants] all the way,” she said, and launched her business Pat Hill Prairie Garden Design.

           Her yard is a perfect example of that. In the front yard, http://www.phpaide.com/?langue=fr it is a designed prairie, using black-eyed Susans, mountain mint, prairie blazing star, cup plant, wild quinine, nodding wild onion and rattlesnake master, among others. In a savannah area, she uses Joe-Pye weed, black-eyed Susan, white snakeroot, Short”s aster, elm-leafed goldenrod, various sedges and woodland grasses, foxglove beardtongue and purple coneflower. All of this surrounds a 1927 restored Sears house on the west side of Elgin.

           “I wanted a historical house with a yard so I could garden, and this is perfect,” she said, explaining there was no landscape to speak of when she moved in. Now,

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her corner yard explodes with interest year-round.

            Hill also designed the award-winning display “Garden of the Great Spirit” for the Plain Dirt Gardeners that won best of show, among other honors, at last year”s Chicago Flower & Garden Show at Navy Pier.

           Native plants aren”t only beautiful, they also provide habitat, and are good for the environment, says Hill.

           “Their deep roots draw down to prevent flooding and run-off,” she said.

           Hill encourages people to learn more about native plants and to use them in their yards.

           “Midwesterners don”t know all of what”s available,” she said. “We have to develop our own look.”

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