A rare landscaping for a business

On my way to find a dental office on McFarland Road, I spied a large one-story office building with tall, waving prairie grasses massed in its landscape. Hoping it was the dental office, I drove into the parking lot. “Little Dental House on the Prairie,” I thought to myself. The golden grasses swayed in the hot wind, causing the building to look earthen or like a stone mound. It was not the dental office I was looking for; it turned out to be the Blue Cross-Blue Shield office. Quickly, I wondered if all Blue Cross-Blue Shield offices across the country echoed the native landscape, or was it left up to each locale. I got out to examine the restoration closer, and I found it was dominated by prairie grasses. The grasses were Indian grass, big blue stem, little blue stem, switch grass, and prairie cord grass. The restoration in front of the building occupied a wet gully and the banks on each side of it. Prairie cord grass was growing in the bottom near cattails and red dogwoods. The little blue stem grass was near the top of the banks because it can tolerate drier soils. There was a small variety of prairie flowers near adult size. They were yellow coneflower, hoary vervain, stiff goldenrod, purple coneflower, boneset and evening primrose. Butterflies and birds moved about the landscape. Painted ladies and monarchs were the most common butterflies. The birds were represented by redwinged blackbirds, common yellow throats, killdeer and a migrating semi-palmated sandpiper. I went in the front doors of the building and asked the receptionist people, “Who is responsible for the nice landscape?” “That would be Doug Brandt,” said a lady at the desk. “It was his idea to go native,” said a different front desk person. “The Brickman Group did the landscaping,” said the same person. I later found out that the Brickman Group was a large landscaping outfit from the Chicago area. I talked to Doug Brandt later that week on the phone, and he filled me in on the landscaping details. Doug said Blue Cross-Blue Shield on a national level has a rich tradition in landscaping its businesses, though there’s no directive to plant in native themes. Blue Cross-Blue Shield’s corporate offices’ landscaping in Chicago is tremendous, but mostly non-native, according to Brandt. Doug Brandt decided to go native on the Rockford office landscape for the beauty of it and to save critical dollars on lawn care, which includes a near-zero watering bill. This year, the prairie flower numbers in the Rockford BC/BS building landscaping were low. However, the numbers will increase steadily because the Brickman company planted a vast number of prairie forb seeds represented by more than 30 species. The flowers take a few years to mature. Most prairie flowers don’t reach adult size until two or three years because they spend much energy in the first few years growing a long taproot to reach water during typical droughts like the ones we have seen lately. Hats off to Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Rockford. Maybe I’m wrong, but I know of no other business in Rockford with a prairie restoration landscape. Some businesses have had prairie before they started building, but all those landowners lucky enough to have prairie have destroyed them in their business land makeover. P.S.—Sierra Club, please check out the Blue Cross-Blue Shield building before you pick your Fantastic Five. Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associate’s degree in science and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!