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GARDEN MAIDEN: Riding the New Wave in gardening

Movement focuses on structure, form and texture of gardens

I find in times of total destruction, creating something fresh and on purpose lends a quick path toward healing the loss.

This entire season fits the bill of futility. Wet, cold, gray and nearly July before we see lush growth and vibrant blooms. With Independence Day upon us, I’m declaring freedom from the beat-up of comparing yesteryear, blowing up visions of early summer harvest and lighting up a burst of inspiration from others as I aim to still gain something remarkable this season.

Have you heard of the New Wave gardening movement? Recently, while blending my tall grass prairies with upright blooms of salvia and airy tufts of prairie smoke, it was mentioned to me that my focus on shape and texture, while holding form long past bloom time, is relevant to a method of garden landscaping made known to the world by Dutch designer Piet Oudolf.

With a bit of research and recollections of my walks through the Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millenium Park, I am surely drawn to his method of designing grand-scheme gardens using a guiding principle of interplay between structure, form and texture above colorful blooms. Also called New Perennial gardening, this method gives the gardener a prairie base for framing blooms throughout the season while withstanding hardiness in the zone for overwintered wildlife harbor, too.

Oudolf’s work is on display all over the world, with several gardens within field trip distance! To be inspired by his gardens, head to Midwest Groundcovers. The landscape and plant supply company will host its 50th anniversary open house Wednesday, July 24, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at its St. Charles Nursery, 6N800 Route 25, St. Charles. The event is open to the public, where guests will have access to industry experts and tours of the propagation nursery and a walking tour of 12 display gardens, including the Piet Oudolf New Wave garden emphasizing the form, texture and natural harmony of plants selected for zone 5 hardiness. Get the details and register in advance by visiting

For actual face time with the renowned garden designer, register for the Perennial Plant Association’s National Symposium in cooperation with the National Garden Bureau and All-America Selections to be hosted in Rosemont from Sunday, July 28, through Friday, Aug. 2. Piet Oudolf’s 2 1/2-acre Lurie Garden on the Chicago lakefront will be one available tour for participants after the keynote speech by the designer himself on Tuesday morning. Other topics include prairie grasses, perennials and fall bulbs, trends in design and going native. Registration closes Sunday, July 21, so visit to sign up now.

A local gardening impact

While Ottawa is taking a break from the America In Bloom competition, our avid local gardeners never stop. Joining the Ottawa Garden Club is a way to gather and share our skills, passion and personal perspectives that keep our community growing and beautiful. Ottawa Garden Club meets at 7 p.m. the last Tuesday of each month at the Fox River High Rise, 900 Canal St., Ottawa. All ages and any level of interest in gardening are welcome to join, no green thumb required!

Members gather monthly to learn from area and regional experts with recent topics being zen rock garden design, forcing tulip bulbs, container planting and, just this month, private tours of member gardens. Our year runs from September through August. Dues are $15 single; $25 couple. The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 30. The program will be “Roamin’ The Prairie,” presented by Brian Dose and Andy Star, of Prairie State Nursery. The Harvest Potluck will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27.

Instead of a June meeting, our garden club hosted a private tour of a few members’ gardens. As much as witnessing the private collections and hearing stories of how the specimens came to be so prized, I equally relished the exchange of energy between host and members as new ideas and old adages melded. Another great event is the member only plant sale held each May. 

For published inspiration, visit our club’s free little library at the corner of La Salle and Jefferson streets in downtown Ottawa. Donations of your garden reads can be put directly in the book station or given to any garden club member.

To join the Ottawa Garden Club, contact the Outreach Committee by calling Sue Coughlin at 815-488-8559 or Sarah Fahlmark at 941-286-8318.

Become a Master Naturalist

If personal achievement is what’s next for you, consider becoming certified as a Master Naturalist. Botany, wildflowers and forest conservation are just a few topics covered during this extensive training.

For 2019, the University of Illinois Extension is partnering with Starved Rock State Park this fall to offer a 10-session training program at the Starved Rock State Park Visitors Center. Classes will be every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., from Sept. 3 through Nov. 5. The fee is $250, and space is limited, so sign up. Registration ends Friday, Aug. 23. Contact Meg Overocker, program coordinator, at or 815-433-0707 to start the application process.

1 act can change a life

Remember, just one inspiring act of gardening can change a life. Maybe only the life within the seed, but more than ever perhaps the life of one who witnesses your garden’s beauty or is nourished by a bountiful harvest you share. My love and light is with the many families in suicide prevention outreach during this largely overlooked farming crisis in the Midwest. As my heart breaks into pieces, I am especially grateful to hold space for the dynamic lessons of nature in my gardens and abroad, especially as it becomes an immediate opportunity to overcome disaster and total defeat. 

Share your gardening inspiration resources with me at

Did you know...?

Of the 2,000 eggs a female frog lays, only around five of the froglets that transform from tadpoles will actually become frogs.

HOLLY KOSTER is a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener who resides in Grand Ridge. She can be reached by emailing; via Twitter, @gardenmaiden9; or on Facebook,

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