The front yard is bordered on the opposite side next to the driveway with what is called a "Rain Garden". This is an area of native plants which are somewhat water tolerant. The downspouts from a portion of the house are connected to this area so it is automatically watered by rainwater falling on the roof. The average house roof collects approximately 1000 gallons of water for every one inch of rain. The rain garden allows this water to be collected, cleaned by the roots of the plants, and returned to the local groundwater table rather than being drained off of the property into the Fox River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico with its attendant pollutants. Some of the more unusual plants in the Rain Garden include the Great Angelica, which is a biennial and does not appear every year, as well as the Green Headed Coneflower, and the unusual Rattlesnake Master with it's yucca like appearance.
In the center of the front yard is a native semi shade, or savanna, area featuring the type of plants that would have been found in lightly wooded areas in Illinois prior to European settlement. This includes native penstemon, monarda, purple coneflowers, coreopsis, giant hyssop, and various asters, goldenrods and grasses. The thistles are the native thistle, which are not invasive. There were original three native bur oak trees here which were toppled in the early 1990's when a "micro burst" hit them during a violent thunderstorm.
The fence in the front is variously called a "squiggly fence," "worm fence," or "snake fence" and was commonly used in early settlements to hem in livestock without having to construct a post and beam fence. Logs were typically split from local trees and laid out in this fashion for a quick and easy, yet effective, fence. Native bushes are planted on the inside portion, including a native climbing rose (Rosa settigera) and native flowering plants have been placed on the outside portions in a massed fashion by species. Woodland plants are located under the two remaining oak trees near the road. (There are plans to widen the road to three lanes, but that hopefully will not affect them).
To the side of the central savanna native planting, which was done with seed, is another planted area done with plants, again featuring partial shade tolerant species, including the native St. John's Wort.
There is a long row of black walnut trees in the center of the front yard. These were planted probably in the 1920's as they do not appear in the early photograph on the display in the barn. We have an aerial photograph taken around 1950 which shows them in roughly their present height but not nearly as large in diameter so my best guess is that they were planted when the property was being rented out in the 1920's. Many plants do not grow under walnuts as they emit a substance which inhibits the growth of certain other plants. We are advised that most native plants are not affected and we have planted a group of native bushes and some native woodland plants to test out what will grow there.
On the far left of the walnuts as you look at the house is a Northern Catalpa tree that was planted by my parents when they married in the late 1930's. These trees are native to America but are a bit north of their range here. They were quite the rage in the mid 20th century .and you will see many of them around the area but they are not long lived and this one is starting to die out. Plants at the base were rescued from a local site that was about to undergo development and is now a lawn.
To the right and in front of the catalpa is a pitch pine, which is native to the Appalachian Mountains. During the frontier era, peddlers would travel with their wagons to the recently settled areas selling pots and pans and other items. They would bring with them seedlings from these trees to present to the lady of the house and she would typically plant them in the yard. Therefore they became known as "peddler pines." You will see them as well all over the area, usually in front of very old houses. They do not reseed well in this area so you can tell the age of the house by these trees and vice versa. The tree in this yard probably dates from the mid 19th century.