Scott and Rebecca Olson Create An Oasis for Native Wildlife In Their Urban Neighborhood

By Mark Luthin, NLI Trustee


As Rebecca Olson greeted us in the driveway of her Rockford home, I immediately noticed patches of native wildflowers mixed in with their beautifully landscaped and nicely shaded front yard. Shortly, however, my eyes caught sight of the prairie that she and her husband, Scott, have established on the south side of their property.

The Monarda (Bergamot), black-eyed Susans and purple coneflowers were in full bloom. As we (Mark’s wife Laurie went with him) wandered over to this intriguing site, we couldn’t help but notice the constant movement among the flowers. Bees! Lots of bees! All sizes of bees were buzzing around, particularly among the Monarda. And look right there! It’s a humming bird moth. Unfortunately my phone was in my pocket, and I was too slow to capture a picture of the little guy. But, it was pretty cool. The blazing stars are nearing their blooming stage, and the asters and goldenrods are waiting for more fall-like conditions, but the three species of milkweed, including butterfly weed, common and swamp, were in full bloom. I imagine there are many happy monarchs around the Olson household. We did see a great spangled fritillary, sipping the nectar of a purple coneflower.

Rebecca explained that the far side of their prairie is a rain garden. They diverted their roof runoff which allows the rain to soak into the ground more slowly, rather than going straight to the city sewer. Marsh marigolds and spotted Joe-pye weed were a couple of the plants that came with the muck that they brought in. Of course, the Joe-pye weed did not stay where it was supposed to, but it sure looked nice on the upland side of the prairie.

Rebecca then showed us her back yard, which has numerous native trees and shrubs. One smaller prairie plot was established where a giant tree had fallen. Switch grasses and mountain mint almost hid Rebecca from our view as she wandered to the other side.

Mayapples and Canada anenome

The shaded areas closer to her home on the north and east side showed remnants of mayapples and Canada anenome, and we could see where spiderwort had jumped across some lawn to insert themselves amongst the hostas. Early in the spring, the blue bells are quite prevalent, although this late in the season there was no trace of them.

Helping our pollinator friends by planting native plants is something any homeowner can do. Rebecca and Scott have native plants blooming from early spring until late fall, with a constantly changing landscape, right outside their door. What a treat it was for us to visit NLI’s newest Conservation@Home recipient.


The Olsons’ prairie


Purple prairie clover


Butterfly milkweed


Great Spangled Fritallary on purple coneflower


Foreground: Black-eyed Susans, middle: wild bergamot (Monarda)


Prairie blazing stars close to blooming (Liatris)


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