We have relocated to Illinois. We are about 40 miles northwest of Chicago in a village called Barrington Hills, horse country. There is a lot of space directly around us, forest preserves, trails for dog walking, and the Fox River. Our house is across the street from a farm and a block away from the river on a wooded lot. We have fenced in a large portion for our cinco perros to run and play. In Puerto Rico, I found tropical plants were quite large and fearless of dog traffic. Here, I am a little skeptical that I can have such luck. My plan is to keep it wild. I seeded bare areas with a native blend of grasses that is reaching a medium height of 8-10 inches and is keeping the dog paws cleaner. Spring was mud season where we spent a majority of our time wiping off bellies and feet.

As for a plan, I am intrigued by a phrase I heard describing a yard as a “jeweled lawn.” I got to thinking about this and like it. I am trying medium to tall grasses with flowering plants interspersed. This will take years, but I am starting now. We are woodland. I have spotted some things already, like trillium, ferns, fleabane, daylily, and a bunch of natives I am learning all about. The aim is for plants that reseed wildly, and so far, I think that nature is already doing some of that for me! These plants will be mowed over making walking paths that follow the dog runs throughout the yard. I am also creating human paths with entrances and exits more towards the interior of the yard.

Grasses and Fleabane
Virginia waterleaf already established in the woodland landscape inside the fence.

The “jewels” I am adding this year either by seed or small plantings.




-shasta daisy




-liriope/turf lily/mondo grass

-sweet Joe pye weed

-bell flower

-wild geranium


-black eyed susan



-Solomon’s seal

I have 5 beds I started by covering in cardboard. I have some tomato, eggplant, pepper, herbs, and flowers in them. They really are laying in a break in the trees and get less than adequate light, but things are trying.

Every garden is an experiment, and this one, I am going pretty blindly into. We got here mid winter. I have guessed at plants and trees as they slowly show their true selves. The first year is always observance. So far, I am pleasantly surprised at the natives that were already here. All in all, this is a curated wild space, something I am looking forward to getting deeply immersed in.

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