For the first time, a prairie-style native plant gardener got the City of Chicago to back off a $600 fine for “uncut weeds”.
The violation was issued in September of last year, and the fine withdrawn by a city hearing officer in December. The background story, by Margaret Tazioli, appeared recently in the online journal Block Clubs Chicago.
The gardeners in question, retirees Pete and Noreen Czosnyka, were growing prairie plants with big personalities on their tiny city lot, including Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum), Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum), and Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii).
Ironically, the Czosnykas were given their native plants free by the Chicago Department of Environment. (What’s that about the left hand not knowing about the right?)
Prevailing in court required considerable effort by the Czosnykas. They had to get an attorney. They had to pay for documentation showing that their garden was not infested with rats. (Why do so many people think that prairie-style gardens are full of rats? The city inspector simply made this assumption without seeing any actual rodents of any kind.)
Also, they demonstrated that prairie plants have value in the sense that people pay actual money for them. Finally, the Czosnykas testified that their garden was carefully maintained – cut back, deadheaded, weeded, etc.
Let’s hope that the City of Chicago inspectors will learn a lesson from this, and that other gardeners will not require a day in court to save their native plants. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that Chicago’s official motto is Urbs in Horto – city in a garden.