Tour An Illinois Woodland Garden
Creating the right environment
The key to Barbara's success is not only what she grows—it's what she removed. When Barbara and her husband, Bob, bought their Barrington Hills, Illinois, property in 1991, buckthorn and garlic mustard choked the woods. For two years, Barbara slashed back the invasive buckthorn in the winter and pulled the garlic mustard in early spring. To counter deer, the Wetzels fenced the entire property.
As a result, Barbara's plantings have thrived, and many wildflowers have spread on their own, including Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) and blue-flowering woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata and P. stolonifera). "The deer used to eat them, and I never saw blooms," Barbara says. No blooms meant no seeds, so the natives couldn't multiply.
By pruning trees and removing cottonwoods and wild cherries (which showered branches during storms), the Wetzels created an airier canopy. "Our woods are quite bright in early spring," Barbara says.
Pictured: An arbor supporting summer-blooming clematis and honeysuckle leads to a prairie garden.