Chris French and Catie Vernon stand next to their Conservation@Home sign on April 1, 2024. Photo: Mark Luthin

A Conservation@Home Story

By Mark Luthin, NLI Trustee and Vice President

It was a cold, damp April day with rain showers and snow in the forecast. As Catie Vernon started showing off her native plant beds, her enthusiasm helped warm things up. Having just bought their first house in Rockford last spring, Catie and her partner Chris French immediately started tearing out undesirable non-native plants so they could be converted into native plant beds.

As fall approached, they bought at least 18 species of native plant plugs, hoping to get them established prior to the onset of winter. Even on cold and rainy April 1 (2024), a number of the plants were showing signs of life. Prairie Smoke was in full bloom, and the Pennsylvania sedge looked well-established. Prairie phlox was poking out of the ground, as was Jacob’s Ladder. Catie was able to identify all the spots where other plugs were planted, and anxiously looked for any hints of green coming out of the ground.

Prairie Smoke , Photo: Mark Luthin

Replacing the hostas that the previous home owners seemed to favor, Catie and Chris (and their neighbors), will enjoy blooms from early spring with their prairie smoke, wild geraniums and woodland phlox, through summer with their prairie coreopsis, royal catchfly and wild petunia. Their floral show will continue late into the fall with blazing stars, goldenrods and asters.


Catie assured me that they’re not done, yet. She ordered many more plants from Wild Ones this year, perhaps “going a little overboard”. Chris just smiled. Future plans may include putting in a small rain garden as well as creating bigger flower beds on both sides of their house. As the soil warms, and the sun shines more robustly, Catie and Chris will no doubt enjoy the daily changes in their little flower beds. As the plants become more established, the bees and butterflies will as well.

For information about Conservation@Home, Work or School click here.

Pennsylvania sedge, Photo: Mark Luthin








Catie’s trunk full of native plants. Photo: Catie Vernon


Newly planted with native plants. Photo: Catie Vernon









Newly planted with native plants. Photo: Catie Vernon

Español »