Library’s native prairie garden inspires book

by Tammy Swanson
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Public Library has had a well-kept secret, one that is growing and ever changing. But now the library wants everyone to know its secret—a garden of native prairie plants.

Located on the west side of the new library, the garden showcases the types of flowers and other plants that graced Illinois’ open land hundreds of years ago. Library officials chose a native prairie design for the grounds to enhance the new building’s architecture.

“When we were making the building design plan, we wanted to incorporate landscape around the building that was complementary to the designs that we had that were sort of a barn and farmyard atmosphere,” Library Director Beverly Holmes Hughes said. “We wanted to use native plantings as much as possible and incorporate some trees that are not as common in someone’s backyard.”

The garden is a combination of native Illinois grasses, shrubs, trees and wild flowers. Bachelor buttons, shrub roses, corn poppies, larkspur and showy goldeneye are just a few of the wild flowers patrons can see as they walk or drive past the garden.

Holmes Hughes describes the garden as an evolving ecosystem.

“It just really changes its aspect day to day, as different flowers come into different growth stages,” she said. “It’s gone through almost a color wave.”

Patrons and other visitors to the library can enjoy the garden in every season.

“With the native growth area, the intent being that the taller grasses are visible as a winter landscape as they catch or hold the snow,” Holmes Hughes said. “It is really a year-round event.”

Karen Benesch, a library volunteer with a horticultural degree, helped identify and photograph the wild flowers in the garden.

“It was starting to grow, and we weren’t really certain what were weeds, what would grow into plants,” Holmes Hughes said. “We were looking for some expert opinion on that. Karen volunteered to come out and take photographs and identify them for us.”

The result was a book available for patrons to view anytime at the Adult Ask Me Desk. The book has increased patrons’ awareness of the garden.

“It has been popular,” Holmes Hughes said. “People who enjoy gardening and maybe don’t have the space to garden anymore really enjoy coming to see the flowers.”