On what started out as a lovely, sunny, start to the official summer season, I began my journey west on Interstate 80. I was on my way to an anniversary celebration at Pizzo & Associates, LTD in Leland, Illinois, when, 50 miles into my drive, and with 30 more miles until my exit (thank goodness for Google maps and GPS!), the skies turned ominous – YIKES.
But there was no turning back now, I was too far invested to give in to a “little” storm.
A few minutes from arrival, I could see that the clouds were clearing, and the sun was going to try to make an appearance that afternoon. And so it did (sort of), the rain passed and the celebration went on.
Jack Pizzo, center left, enjoying the celebration
Pizzo & Associates are ecological restoration contractors and native landscape specialists, including green roofs, bio-swales, and ecologically sound stormwater detention basins. In the words of Jack, himself, he’s “connecting landscaping to the landscape.”
Some folks gathered in the propagation house where a few outside vendors set up tables and liquid refreshments were served.
There was a book signing by landscape architect, Daniel Weinbach, for his newly published book, Trees 4 Seasons – A Visual Guide , and the beverage area had a nice selection of beers, wine, and ciders made by Jack himself, and a friend or two.
While I grabbed a sample of the Jack’s (potent)Pear Cider, I joined Kyle’s tour of the facilities, which started in the newly constructed propagation house.
Here, seeds are started in flats, holding 128 plants each. These will soon be potted up in to flats of 34 and grown on until ready for sale.
Upon exiting the protection of the greenhouse, umbrellas were opened and we checked out the seed collection plots. Most of the 40, former farmland, acres that make up the nursery, have been restored to wetland and prairie, and are under a conservation easement that will keep the land in its current, restored, condition in perpetuity.
Another stop on the tour was a plant sales area. Here, one could purchase individual plants, or trays of preselected “NativeScape” kits. Included where kits of salt, drought, and shade tolerant plants, as well as , rain garden, butterfly garden, prairie garden, and rock garden kits. The rock garden kit looked especially interesting, as the plants selected were of a shorter stature – a good choice when adding native flowers and grasses into an existing landscape bed.
The plants in this kit could find a home in any front yard landscape.
A green retaining wall system was also on display. Here, different plants, including strawberries, various sedges (Carex sp.), and Alumroot (Heuchera americana) were tucked into the nooks of soil between the concrete, interlocking blocks.
On top of the wall, Prairie Dropseed grass (Sporobolis heterolepis) was planted.
However, a twining vine, Virgin’s Bower (Clematis virginiana), seemed to be the all out winner when it came to coverage. A very exuberant grower to be sure. It made me wonder how our native Hops Vine (Humulus lupulus/ H. americanus) would do in this situation. In my garden the hops form a solid wall of green on my four foot high, vegetable garden fence. It has the ability to grow 20+ feet in one season, before fall frosts knock it back to the ground, only to come back the following spring with renewed vigor!
Back inside, and at the end of the half dozen, or so, speakers that afternoon, State Representative, Bob Pritchard recognized Jack’s 25 years in business in Illinois, by presenting a him with a certificate of achievement.
Finally, just after 6pm, the roasted pigs, along with corn on the cob and a variety of salads, where ready to feed the mass of hungry well-wishers.
So Midwest cloudburst be damned, it was a great afternoon of speakers, tours, games, food, and drink. Congratulations to Jack and his staff for not only putting on a great event, but for the work they do throughout the year. Thanks!