A group of volunteers spent a recent Wednesday morning helping to beautify downtown with plants native to Illinois.
The idea bubbled up from members of DSI’s Design Committee, who worked with master gardener Susan Helm to develop a plan and find grant funding to conduct a pilot program in downtown’s planters.
A key member of the group is Michael Higgins, who recently won a Sustainable Springfield award for the work he’s done to utilize his Maldaner’s Restaurant rooftop to achieve sustainable goals, including installing solar panels, a beehive and a native plant container to support native pollinators. Energy use at the restaurant has been reduced by 20% over the past five years. Take-out containers are provided in compostable containers and most recently plastic straws were replaced with paper straws, the first downtown business to make the switch.
For the downtown planters project, Higgins, Helm and Erin Svendsen of SAA collaborated with the Illinois Native Plant Society, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the City of Springfield to develop their plan. They successfully won a grant from the Springfield Civic Garden Club, which donated proceeds its Annual Plant Sale to garden-related projects for a charitable organization.
The newly-planted planters will beautify the downtown area but also serve two other important functions: saving the City of Springfield money by utilizing perennials and attracting pollinators, which are an important part of the ecosystem and have been diminishing. The different species of plants used range from flowers like Coneflower and Poppy Mallow to plants like White Sage and Prairie Dropseed. Along with these plants native to Illinois, the downtown planters project added herbs for texture and pollinator value.
Each pot is essentially an entire pollinator garden. You can find them on both sides of 6th Street from Monroe to Adams Street. They are also on Adams Street between 6th and 7th Streets. Depending on the success of this first pilot project, look for an expansion to other planters in the downtown area in the coming years.