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When an Evanston homeowner, birder, and photographer learned about the devastating loss of monarch butterflies due to habitat loss, she became motivated to take action.

“I can only control what’s in my own yard,” Tamima Itani said, and she wanted to use her yard to create a sanctuary for pollinators like butterflies, bees, and birds.

She knew she would need help to create strategically placed pollinator plantings and chose James Martin Associates (JMA) for the job. Together they determined that turf – which does not attract pollinators – should be removed and replaced with native plantings with winding gravel paths throughout.

This lack of grass meant that she would no longer have to mow or water the grass to keep it looking green, which reduced gas emissions, water usage, and the application of herbicides. She and her landscaping company would only have to focus on the garden beds.

Photo Credit: Tamima Itani

Itani sought plants native to the Chicago and Illinois region, such as common milkweed, palm and burr sedges, black-eyed susan, white woodland aster, and other local plants that were known to attract pollinators.

Although she wanted to create a haven for these important pollinators, she also wanted it to look organized and coordinated, which required a trained eye and plant knowledge. JMA designed individual garden areas that incorporated large drifts of plants and flowers so the insects and birds did not have to travel long distances to pollinate, and kept them looking neat and orderly as well.

JMA also created interconnected gravel paths that allowed her to observe individual plants during flowering and other stages of their growth cycles as well as to photograph the pollinators without disturbing them.

Photo Credit: Tamima Itani

“You can have a native plants garden that looks polished and finished,” Itani said. “My neighbors and friends say how much they admire the work that’s been done.”

After everything was planted in June, she expected the process of attracting pollinators to take quite a while but was pleasantly surprised when she started seeing caterpillars in August. Eventually, beautiful monarchs and swallowtail butterflies emerged from these cocoons, and by September, she was seeing bees and dragonflies as well.

To date, she has documented 67 bird species that have visited her pollinator garden, including the American goldfinch, the ruby-throated hummingbird, and the northern cardinal. During spring and fall migration, warblers, Baltimore orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks make frequent visits.

Photo Credit: Tamima Itani

Itani stressed that if homeowners are not able to commit their entire property for native or pollinator-friendly plants, they can easily create corners or circles that incorporate them. She believes this could easily apply to businesses as well.

“I think this kind of landscape would especially appeal to commercial sites, since they won’t have to mow or water the grass,” she said. “And typically we only have to weed every other week during the summer.”

Evanston is trying to get certified as a City Wildlife Habitat, and part of the certification requires the city to show that they have a certain number of properties with native plants.

Itani is happy to contribute to this cause: Her yard is now certified as a Wildlife Habitat. By having this type of landscape, “You are rewarded with exuberance, joy, and color,” she said.

She hopes to see more of her neighbors in the Chicago area incorporate gardens that take pollinators such as birds, butterflies, and bees into consideration.

Photo Credit: Tamima Itani

Itani is doing her part to provide a sanctuary for them, and as a bonus, is delighted to be able to take pictures of these incredibly important and beautiful creatures.

“I love being able to spend time among the plants, flowers, insects, and birds,” Itani said. “My whole yard feels alive now.”

Contact James Martin Associates to learn about creating a pollinator garden for your home.

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We are thrilled to share that Jim Martin, President and Founder of James Martin Associates (JMA), recently received an award from the Illinois Green Industry Association (IGIA) at the 13th Annual Chuck Tosovsky Memorial Tribute Dinner. Jim was honored for his outstanding emphasis on education and mentorship over the past 40 years.


Martin graduated with honors from the University of Illinois in 1972 and was a scholarship recipient all four of his years there. Since graduation, he has been an Annual Fund Contributor to the Department of Landscape Architecture.

He became a member of the President's Council of the University of Illinois Foundation in 1992 and also served as a visiting professor in 1987. Upon Professor Terence Harkness's retirement, Martin created the Terrence Harkness Lecture Endowment Fund for the Department of Landscape Architecture.

As additional evidence that Martin places strong importance on mentoring and teaching, James Martin Associates has awarded over 30 scholarships to students in the field of Landscape Architecture and has trained more than 120 industry professionals through its internship and management training programs. This focus on scholarship and mentorship led to Martin's nomination at the annual IGIA gala.


The event attendees had nothing but accolades for their fellow green industry professional, such as this statement from Ann Tosovsky of Home Nursery:

Congratulations and thank you Jim for your ongoing support of the IGIA and the green industry of Illinois. Thank you also for your continued commitment in supporting the legacy of my dad and other forefathers who made the pursuit of public policy efforts and legislative initiatives a top priority to ensure the continued growth and sustainability of our nursery and landscape industry. As a proud sponsor of GIPAC and the Chuck Tosovsky Memorial Dinner, we are thrilled to be honoring you this evening.

The event was celebrated with other professionals in the landscape industry, team members from James Martin Associates, and Martin's family. All funds raised were given to the Green Industry Political Action Committee (GIPAC), an organization that supports lobbyists for the nursery and landscape industry.


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Vernon Hills, Ill.—

In conjunction with Kids Against Hunger – Fox Valley, the Winnetka/Northfield Rotary Club, the Volunteer Center in Winnetka, and the Winnetka Community House, over 400 volunteers packed an astounding 100,000 meals for needy children in Nicaragua.

The Winnetka Community House provided the space for this annual food packing event, which has been chaired for the last six years by Heidi Sibert, Landscape Architect and Senior Vice President at James Martin Associates (JMA), a Vernon Hills landscape management company. As a Rotary member, she chairs the committee dedicated to this event, ensuring that all tasks are carried out in the year leading up to the event

Sibert became involved in Rotary seven years ago when she learned about the mission of Rotary International and their efforts to help those in need throughout the world. “We’re very involved in the Winnetka and North Shore communities, and we saw this as a great opportunity to help out with the local chapter,” said Sibert. “The culture at James Martin Associates definitely encourages us to give back.”

Funds were raised through local Winnetka businesses, Rotarians, and the volunteers. James Martin Associates sponsored a table that was staffed by employees and clients, including Sibert. It was a “wonderful team building experience and the day was full of fun and laughter,” Sibert said.

Volunteers ranged from children and teenagers to adults. They worked in 2-hour shifts, packaging foods such as rice, soy, and dried vegetables. At the end of the day, 14 sealed pallets were loaded onto a truck headed to North Carolina where the food was shipped to Nicaragua to feed those in need.

“I can’t say enough about Heidi’s Herculean efforts and attention to every detail to ensure this event provides the volunteers an efficient yet meaningful experience that achieves our ultimate goal of feeding over 100,000 starving individuals,” said Barbara Tubekis, Executive Director at the Volunteer Center. “We sincerely appreciate her and James Martin Associates’ support.”

To get involved in next year’s event, contact [email protected].


About James Martin Associates, Inc.

James Martin Associates, located in Vernon Hills, celebrates over 40 years providing commercial and residential customers with comprehensive snow and landscape management services. The company is an industry leader in commercial snow management and specializes in providing innovative and award winning landscape design, installation and maintenance. For more information about James Martin Associates, please visit www.jamesmartinassociates.com.



Ashley Atkinson-Leon

James Martin Associates


[email protected]

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As houses become larger and yards become smaller, the area in which rain can be absorbed has been shrinking in recent years. Homeowners are also incorporating features such as outdoor kitchens, patios, and other outdoor living features that do not necessarily include green space.

While public storm systems are designed to accommodate a certain amount of rain, heavy rainfall can cause the sewers to become overloaded and deposit water back into the property or even into basements and foundations. One way that homeowners have been mitigating this overflow is through the use of rain gardens.

Rain gardens offer a creative and visually appealing way to control rainwater runoff on your property. Some homeowners choose to incorporate native flowers such as blazing star, bee balm, great blue lobelia, and other plants that can tolerate both standing water and long periods of dryness, but a dry streambed is another option that can be used to divert and manage rain water as well. 


One of our clients, whose house was designed by the award-winning DeBaker Design Group, struggled with drainage issues on their property and wanted to incorporate natural features like stones and boulders to help mitigate the runoff. After determining the location of underground utilities, we carved out an area that measured about 3-6’ deep and arranged the underground pipe to discharge excess water into this area.


We then filled in this naturally low area with gravel.


Finally, we carefully arranged a variety of colorful rocks and boulders on the surface, disguising the underground drainage basin. 


Now, rainwater organically flows into this area and holds the water until it can be absorbed into the ground or is evaporated by the sun. This process only takes a few days and does not attract mosquitos or other insects that need at least seven days for their eggs to hatch. Rain gardens can potentially even help with filtering out pollutants in the environment.

Downspouts and sump pumps can be diverted into rain gardens being used as overflow containment areas. The key is to keep water out of your home’s basement and your neighbor’s yard as well.

For those who would like plants incorporated into their rain garden, the graveled area simply needs a layer of soil near the surface that can be planted with specific perennials and shrubs that tolerate wet and dry conditions.


Whether you’d like a dry river streambed or a traditional garden lush with plants, rain gardens can easily and inconspicuously be designed to fit into your existing landscape. Plus, many municipalities offer incentives such as rebates to help offset the cost of installation. Check with your local village for more information.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you incorporate a rain garden into your landscape.

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