The Monarch butterfly population has been in decline, but the Illinois State insect is getting some unlikely help with their migration in the western suburbs. At the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center, which features a Horticultural Gallery on their 150-acres of Audubon-certified grounds, waystations are attracting Monarchs on their annual trek south. Due to the spirited efforts of hotel staff and horticulturalist Karen Paquin, who has created an official on-site Monarch habitat, the beloved pollinator is dropping by in significant numbers.
“It’s encouraging to see so many Monarchs enjoy our beautiful grounds,” said Paquin, who spearheads the sustainable ecology program at Oak Brook Hills, an IACC Green Star/Gold Status hotel. “Our Horticultural Gallery not only educates guests on what’s in balance with our native region, but all these pollinators are helping the property’s ecosystem flourish.” The resort is also home to a successful Honeybee program, which includes several on-site hives that house close to a half million more pollinators.
Monarch butterflies, which are crucial pollinators, migrate 1,500 miles, from central Mexico to Canada, every year and need stopover sites, with food and shelter, along their way. In order to be designated a certified Monarch waystation, sites along the Monarch’s path must meet or exceed certain requirements, including: a minimum number of milkweed and nectar plants, proper drainage and soil type, certain garden size, correct exposure to sun, plant proximity (for shelter), and appropriate management. More information on the Monarchs can be found at www.MonarchWatch.org/waystations.
In addition the Monarch Butterfly and Honeybee programs, some of the other features of the Horticultural Gallery at Oak Brook Hills include:
- Foodscaping Garden: an educational garden highlighting a new type of edible landscaping using vegetables in an ornamental as well as a functional way.
- Chefs Garden: true chef’s sourcing gardens that incorporate vegetables and herbs specifically for executive chef Sean Patrick Curry’s kitchen which promotes “modern farm cuisine.”
- Drink/Cocktail Garden: a garden containing herbs specific to infusions and cocktails for the hotel bar. Examples include Elderberry Bushes for a signature blend of house-made signature teas.
- Audubon education: members of Oak Brook Hills’ horticultural and grounds team host local middle schools, educating students by discussing green initiatives and joining together for Audubon projects such as installing special landscaped areas.
- Prairie restoration: or prairie “reconciliation” – as Paquin puts it. The development of the native areas on the golf course will take them back to the way they used to be.
- Native Bird Boxes: Screech Owl boxes, Hawk Platforms, Bluebird boxes and positioned around the estate to encourage native bird sightings and protected habitat.
- Planting of Fruit Trees. Varieties include Chicago Hardy Fig, Persimmon, Pear and Cherry. The harvest is used in the resort’s culinary and bar recipes.
- Continual division and relocation of existing perennials around the property: By making the perennial beds the best they can be, Paquin is helping to create a new aesthetic in blooming gardens