Post office, gardeners reach prairie planting compromise

 
 
Updated 8/3/2018 5:41 PM
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  • Volunteer gardener Carolyn Finzer of Naperville says "a huge part of my heart is bruised" because a prairie pollinator garden she has cultivated for 10 years at the post office on Ogden Avenue in Naperville will be removed. But she is grateful she gets to continue the prairie plantings inside two island planters in the facility's parking lot and relocate other plants before the original garden is replaced.

      Volunteer gardener Carolyn Finzer of Naperville says "a huge part of my heart is bruised" because a prairie pollinator garden she has cultivated for 10 years at the post office on Ogden Avenue in Naperville will be removed. But she is grateful she gets to continue the prairie plantings inside two island planters in the facility's parking lot and relocate other plants before the original garden is replaced. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Jim Kleinwachter, program manager with The Conservation Foundation in Naperville says he appreciates the fact the postal service plans to accept his input into future landscaping plans to replace a prairie pollinator garden outside the Naperville post office on Ogden Avenue.

      Jim Kleinwachter, program manager with The Conservation Foundation in Naperville says he appreciates the fact the postal service plans to accept his input into future landscaping plans to replace a prairie pollinator garden outside the Naperville post office on Ogden Avenue. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

A pollinator garden at the post office on Ogden Avenue in Naperville won't be growing much longer.

But the lead gardener, a conservationist and postal officials say they've reached an amicable conclusion that will continue to provide prairie plants and welcome butterflies and bees outside the facility at 1750 W. Ogden Ave.

The plan is to give gardener Carolyn Finzer of Naperville until this fall to remove and relocate any plants she wants to keep from flowers, grasses and ground covers planted near the building, while simultaneously seeking bids for new landscaping outside the entrance.

The plan allows Finzer and fellow gardeners to use two island planter areas in the parking lot as pollinator gardens in the future.

Jason Howard, post office operations manager, said all parties agreed the islands "would be a great place for all the customers to drive by and take a look" at the prairie plants and be a part of pollinator attraction efforts.

"We want to make sure that we still provide the feel of nature garden areas and also the specific flowers that make Naperville different and part of the community," he said.

Finzer said the prairie plants growing in the islands will need to be swapped out because they are "a random assortment" of peony bushes, lilies and coneflowers. She plans to replace them with other plants, such as milkweed to attract monarchs, which she'll transplant from the long, narrow strip of prairie she has tended west and south of the building.

"There is hope that part of what's in the garden will be saved and then relocated in the two island areas," Finzer said.

Jim Kleinwachter, program manager for The Conservation Foundation in Naperville, said he also appreciates the postal service's willingness to accept input from his organization and Finzer as officials decide who to hire and what to plant next outside the building.

"They're giving us the opportunity to remove any plants that we wanted to keep and have some input in the new design," Kleinwachter said. "That is all we can ask at this point."

Kleinwachter previously certified the pollinator garden in the Conservation@Work program, but said the space is too big for Finzer to maintain largely on her own, and it no longer represents a good example of native plantings for a work environment.

"It's much too wild of a prairie for a front entranceway," Kleinwachter said.

Finzer said she's the first to admit the display is "an eclectic assemblage of plants." But she's saddened that the garden must go.

"Certainly a huge part of my heart is bruised right now because I did devote 10 years to these gardens and bringing plants in that were all rescued," Finzer said.

Yet life is a cycle, Finzer knows as a gardener, and she said she's trying to accept the fact the pollinator garden must re-emerge in new form.

Howard said the post office also has offered another, larger area on the north side of the building as a potential prairie site, should Finzer or other gardeners want to use it. Finzer said she's not interested in the space for now, but she will work to relocate the plants from the entrance and refresh the gardens inside the islands.

"I think that's a good alternative," Kleinwachter said.

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