Vote for People’s Choice by Nov. 10

Vote for People’s Choice Winner by Nov. 10


More than 400 entries were received for the 2020 Images of Lincoln Memorial Garden Photo Contest. Thank you to all who participated! A panel of professional photographers judged the entries in the Youth (age 15 and younger) and Adult (16+) in four categories: Celebrating Life in the Garden, Landscape, Wildflowers, and Living Creatures.


Please vote for your favorite for the People’s Choice prize from the eight winning entries below.


Get your vote in by Nov. 10!

Winning entries will be announced on Facebook starting Nov. 12.

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Why I’m a Member

“A big reason for families to join is the programming and education. It is just outstanding. The camps, the junior naturalist programs, Audra [staff environmental educator]. I wouldn’t be surprised if our daughter Lucy will be a naturalist for her career! We all love the Garden.”


  • Megan DeFrain with husband Chad, daughters Lucy and Pheobe

We’re asking members of Lincoln Memorial Garden (LMG) why they value their membership, whether as an individual ($40), family ($75), senior ($30) or other level. We’d love to share your story to encourage more to join. Send a message via Facebook or write to

In addition to exclusive member benefits—including discounts and reciprocal privileges to 330+ botanical gardens across the country—membership truly makes the Garden what it is today. The Garden receives no taxpayer funding to maintain its 100 acres, the mulched trails, bridges and buildings. Memberships and donations sustain the grounds, environmental programming and special events.

Already a member? THANK YOU!

Please consider giving a very unique gift to your friends and family this year—the yearlong gift of a Lincoln Memorial Garden membership. Learn more:


Cawley Meadow Turns 20

by Ann Londrigan


It was 2008 when Lincoln Memorial Garden held the Indian Summer Festival in the Cawley Meadow for the first time. Before then, this long-running and very popular family festival was held in what’s known as the “Historic Garden.” The original 60-acre parcel was secured by civic leader Harriet Knudson in the mid-1930s as the city was creating Lake Springfield, and its blueprint was designed by celebrated “Prairie Style” landscape architect Jens Jensen in 1936. It entered the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

Taking the Festival out of the woods and across the street was a bold but necessary move.

According to Jim Mathies, retired executive director of the Garden, the six-acre “Cawley Meadow” parcel had been given to the Garden in 2000 by Joyce Cawley following the passing of her husband Fred. Eight years later, after some major cleanup and planting the landscape, it was still mostly a large open space with little shade. And it was distinctly different from the tucked-in vendor booths along the Historic Garden paths with children’s activities spread out in the woodland openings. Who remembers turtle races in Council Ring 3?

“It was controversial,” says Joyce Munie, who served as secretary of the Lincoln Memorial Garden Foundation Board, along with president and 2008 Festival Chair Carol Herndon.

“We did surveys and exit polls,” she recalls. “We asked, ‘What did you like about the Festival?’ And many said ‘We hate it over there!’”

The bottom line was that the Historic Garden needed protection. In their October 31 letter to the editor in The State Journal-Register, 2009 Festival Co-chairs Munie and longtime volunteer Chris Davis wrote:

Lincoln Memorial Garden’s foundation is a nonprofit organization charged by the Garden Clubs of Illinois to protect and maintain the garden. The garden was placed on the National Register of Historic Places because it was designed by Jens Jensen, one of the foremost landscape architects of the early 20th century. We moved the festival across the street last year because we could no longer ignore the impact that the footsteps of 4,000 people caused to the trees and other plants within it. We thank all those people who joined us again this year at the festival and all our new visitors who discovered the garden for the first time. Without your generous support we could not continue the work of the foundation.

Today, Festival-goers love the Cawley Meadow space. The trees along the edges have matured to offer more shade, and each year more benches are added for seating areas. A bandshell was created as an Eagle Scout project with funding from Sutton’s roofing and siding company. Thanks to an army of loyal and hard-working volunteers, new activities—such as “Build a Scarecrow,” the Tree Troll Trail and the beloved Fairy Woodlands—“magically” appear each year.

“It truly looks like what a festival area should look like,” says Munie, who has continued to volunteer along with Davis after their three-year stint as event co-chairs from 2009 to 2011.

So, what did it look like 20 years ago? Mathies and Garden staff, including Larry Miller, along with many volunteers, inventoried the newly acquired property. Here’s a partial list of what they found, which triggered a professional review by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

  • A large step van truck
  • Three old farm tractors, a plow, disc and harrow
  • Two 20-cubic-foot dumpsters full of metal including barbed wire, rebar and 55-gallon drums all weighing 30,240 pounds
  • 100 tires
  • 12 appliances
  • Contents of a shed filling six 20-cubic-foot dumpsters and including glass, plastic, hardware, old bikes and unlabeled containers of grease, herbicide, oil, paint and insecticide


According to the EPA final report, “A crew of four Garden staff took about five weeks to clean up the area. This included dragging items out of the woods with tractors, tearing down the shed and mowing fields to find items hidden by the vegetation.”

It was a herculean effort for several years.

“From an EPA perspective, there was non-point source pollution with rain and snow and the different pollutants,” says Davis, a 30-year professional with the Illinois EPA and currently manager of the Watershed Management Section. “When we worked on the project identifying all the stuff on the site, it dawned on everyone that it was less than a quarter mile to the lake and chances [were] it would deliver pollutants through the Garden to the lake.”

So, much like the Ostermeier Prairie Center, the maintenance of the Cawley property is a stewardship measure.

Says Joel Horwedel, executive director of the Lincoln Memorial Garden Foundation: “Adding Cawley Meadow to the Garden’s holdings has allowed us the opportunity to develop a dedicated area for our annual fall festival and this important additional buffer to the Historic Garden.”


Chris Davis (left) with Joyce Munie, longtime Garden volunteers working the front gate at the 2019 fall festival






Cathy Slater, president of the Lincoln Memorial Garden Foundation, and past president and festival chair Tom Wilkin, look over the pristine Cawley Meadow grounds in the early morning hours before the start of the 2019 fall festival






The well-established half-acre wetland in 2019, first created through the work from January 14, 2002, to January 31, 2004, by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Lincoln Memorial Garden volunteers, under the U.S. EPA’s Source Water Pollution Control Program and the Federal Clean Water Act




Save the date for fall festival 2021! As COVID-19 makes holding events safely nearly impossible, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our annual fall festival this year. We are offering Fall Harvest Festival at-home craft kits for sale online for $10 each including some of our favorite festival activities including Build a Scarecrow, Tree Troll, Pumpkin Painting, Fall String Art, and Fall Wood Cookie Décor. Get details and shop online here:

Celebrating a Successful Prairie Restoration

by Kathy Andrews Wright


Before Mr. Shoub established his farmstead in the mid-1800s, much of Sangamon County was covered in tall-grass prairie, broken only by tracts of timber along rivers and streams and isolated prairie groves. The process of re-creating a tall-grass prairie began in 1995 when the Ostermeier family, owners of the land Mr. Shoub had originally farmed, allowed Lincoln Memorial Garden the use of 29 acres for a prairie restoration project that still blooms and flourishes 25 years later.


Thanks to a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), three prairie sites—the front prairie, middle prairie and back prairie—were planted with a mixture of grasses and forbs.


“As staff and volunteers were working to develop the prairie plots nearly 25 years ago, some 40,000 plants were planted over the course of two summers,” explains Larry Miller, head gardener for Lincoln Memorial Garden. “Most of the grasses and forbs were placed in the middle prairie, which is the largest of the plots. Across the front prairie, between the road and historic hedgerow, a belt of forbs, or wildflowers, were planted with the intent that a strip of showy, colorful wildflowers, such as cup plant, compass plant and purple coneflower, would create visual interest for passersby.”


Considerable effort was expended in developing the wildflower strip, and a lot of hand weeding took place to remove invasive exotics, such as thistle. Today, little remains of that wildflower strip, evidence that nature does as it desires.


“At the onset, the front prairie had a nice stand of scurfy pea (Psoralidium tenuiflorum),” Miller recounts. “Today this showy, herbaceous wildflower, which reaches heights of two to three feet and produces blue-violet flowers from late spring through late summer, no longer appears in the front prairie, but it does in the middle prairie, where it was not planted.”


Obviously planted with a different mix of native prairie plant seeds provided by the IDNR, the back prairie—located west of the berm—developed into a high-grade sedge prairie, containing a diversity of these grasslike plants that have triangular stems and small flowers that lack the showy petals of wildflowers.


After 25 years, the prairie contains an assortment of grasses and wildflowers that keep the landscape colorful throughout the growing season. Today, the focus is on allowing nature to take its course on species composition and instead minimizing the presence of invasive, exotic plants, such as giant ragweed, hemlock, thistle and sericia lespedza.


“To maintain a nice diversity of the colorful forbs, we burn the prairie in the fall or later summer, as research has shown that early spring burns promote the growth of grasses over forbs,” Miller explains. “Controlling sericia lespedeza is our primary concern now and entails spot chemical spraying, prescribed burns and mowing the prairie in mid-August to prevent the plant from going to seed.”


Miller sighs, noting that each stem produces in excess of 1,000 seeds.


“We have been managing for sericia for six years and have made a noticeable difference in the number of plants and the area where it occurs,” he says. “It will probably be another 10 years before we can confidently reduce our mowing program and let the fall prairie bloom.”


Miller is excited about the Garden’s participation in cutting-edge research underway by a team of researchers from the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield.


“Using drones, researchers are assessing the locations and severity of serecia plants on the Ostermeier Prairie and will produce a map that will minimize the labor-intensive, grid-pattern searches we now have to undertake,” Miller elaborates. “This technique is groundbreaking in the control of invasive species.”


Walk the paths of the reconstructed Garden prairie throughout the year to relish the ever-changing vista of the habitat that once covered much of the Prairie State. Take in the refreshing mint scent of the lavender-flowered, pollinator-friendly wild bergamot. Pause at the Prairie Observation Berm, binoculars in hand, to watch grassland birds swaying on the heads of cup plants while their melodious songs float across a sea of native prairie grasses. Give thanks to the visionaries who 25 years ago dreamt of a place where visitors could momentarily immerse themselves in what was once the prairie of Illinois.

Save the Date: Fall Festival 2021

As COVID-19 makes holding events safely nearly impossible, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our annual fall festival this year. We are offering Fall Harvest Festival at-home craft kits for sale online for $10 each including some of our favorite festival activities including Build a Scarecrow, Tree Troll, Pumpkin Painting, Fall String Art, and Fall Wood Cookie Décor. Get details and shop online here:

We also will be unable to hold our annual Holiday Market in November. We are hoping to welcome people back in early 2021 for Maple Syrup Demonstrations.

Our inability to host any of our annual fundraisers has been rough. We ask our Garden friends to please consider additional support this year to help make up for our lost event revenue.

We realize many are experiencing tough times, and so we remain grateful for what we do have. In July, the Garden was selected as the recipient of a donation from Reisch Charities. A special thank you goes to Jeff Egizii and Reisch Charities for supporting LMG during this difficult time.

If you haven’t been out for a while, the prairies and woods beckon. Come check out our new front entrance, the new Accessible Trail, and enjoy the fall colors!

– Joel Horwedel, Executive Director, Lincoln Memorial Garden

2020 Fall Newsletter

In this issue: Seasons Fall 2020

  • Celebrating a Successful Prairie Restoration
  • Happy Birthday, Jens Jensen!
  • Introducing New Foundation Board Members
  • Cawley Meadow Turns 20
  • Fall Festival Will Return in 2021
  • Why Be a Member?
  • Let’s Examine Dandelions
  • Thanks to Our Many Contributors
  • Welcome New Members
  • Memorials


Hours of Operation:

The Nature Center remains closed in 2020 for the health and safety of our visitors, volunteers and staff.

Garden Trails are open every day from sunrise to sunset. Please follow State of Illinois and CDC COVID-19 safety and social distancing guidelines for outdoor activities.

Check our Facebook page and website for updates.


Ostermeier Prairie at 25

by Ann Londrigan

Illinois’ first settlers gave it the nickname “The Prairie State” for its vast expanse of prairies. In 1820, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, close to 60 percent of Illinois’ 37 million acres were prairie lands. Here in central Illinois, trees could only be found in scattered sites called “prairie groves” or along waterways. Today, fewer than 2,500 acres of high quality prairie remain.

So, creating a prairie ecosystem alongside an established woodland made sense about 25 years ago, as part of the 1993 Plan for the Future of Lincoln Memorial Garden.

The plan involved many longtime Garden supporters, board members and community leaders, plus a $2 million capital campaign through the year 2000. Much of the effort centered on rejuvenating the original Jens Jensen-designed, 60-acre “Historic Garden,” including bridge renovations, a new map shelter, interpretive signs, plantings and clearing specific areas where trails had been lost. Council Ring #8, for example, was so overrun by forest growth that it had become hidden from view.

Grants from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) for erosion control and water filtration helped support work on the creeks and ravines running throughout the Garden and along East Lake Shore Drive, all leading into Lake Springfield.

The ambitious plan would nearly double the size of the Garden over the next 10 to 15 years. It included the purchase in 1995 of the 29-acre Ostermeier farm, now known as the “Ostermeier Prairie Center,” to protect and buffer the Garden, support existing wildlife and provide habitat for endangered species.

“Acquiring the Ostermeier land was a big step of expansion for the Garden and programs,” says

Kent Massie of Massie Massie & Associates, consultant for the 1993 plan. “There was concern at the time about the prairie project taking resources and focus away from the Historic Garden.”

A bigger concern, ultimately, was creating a natural buffer for the Garden’s fragile ecosystems from increasing traffic and plans for residential development. It got very political.

Building a prairie

The Ostermeier property was a mid-1800s farmstead with two small corn and bean fields, an old barn, a two-story home, some sheds and a dried-up pond. How to begin transforming it into tallgrass prairie?

According to Massie, the agricultural land had to be treated and burned to get things started. It was the pond project—messy as it was with dump trumps, track hoes and a purposely broken dam to rebuild—that gave the prairie its blueprint.

“We got a grant to help do the pond,” recalls Massie. “It was drained and dug out and became the fill material for the prairie. It all had to dry out for a year before it was shaped and mounded.”

The plan called for winding trails inside and along the border, restoration of a historic hedge row and development of a high point in the center where the two fields come together to serve as a lookout.

A grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources funded the professional planting of the prairie with a mix of native grasses and forbs, including wildflowers. This expanse of prairie was designed to complement the smaller patches of prairie in the Historic Garden, which Jensen designed as more meadow than tallgrass prairie, according to Massie.

Additional grants funded the trail around the pond, observation decks and boardwalks.

Adds Massie: “The serpentine route of the trails was designed so you can take school groups out into the middle of the field to experience the Illinois prairie, where you couldn’t see anything but tallgrass and sky, the way most of Illinois looked at one time.”

A few setbacks

Like scenes in the popular documentary “The Biggest Little Farm,” wildlife can take over what you’re trying to create in nature.

Massie recalls the story of rebuilding the pond with grant-funded native plant species for bank stabilization and wildlife habitat.

“We had volunteer days to plant the pond, student EPA interns helping us, and all these trays of expensive aquatic plants,” says Massie. “The geese came along and ate it like a smorgasbord. That was a nightmare keeping the animals away.”

Invasive species are another battleground.

Says Joel Horwedel, executive director of the Garden since 2013: “Early in my tenure we realized that we had lespedeza in the prairie, and we started the process of trying to eliminate it.”

Lespedeza (bush clover), like many invasive species, can overcome traditional prairie plants. Mowing, controlled burns and spot application of weed killer are tools used in this battle, which can take 10 years or more.

He adds: “It’s a lengthy process that we are still in the middle of, but you can now see a better balance of flowers and grasses.”

A place to learn

Environmental education has been a core mission of Lincoln Memorial Garden since its creation in the early 1930s. The Ostermeier Prairie Center has become a hub for learning about the prairie ecosystem.

“Just like a tract of forested timber is important, so are grassland prairies,” says Horwedel. “The deep-rooted prairie plants help control soil erosion and offer a sea of pollen-rich plants for our many pollinators. In turn, the insects attract birds and other animals who thrive in this habitat.”

“It has become a well-established prairie with nice species diversity,” he adds.

The Native Wildflower Demonstration Garden, completed in 2012, advances this education mission. It was built by Master Gardener and Master Naturalist volunteers with the University of Illinois Extension Logan/Menard/Sangamon in partnership with Lincoln Memorial Garden. Visitors can learn about native wildflowers and grasses that thrive in full sun and do not require a lot of water or fertilizer.

The site is registered by Monarch Watch as an official Monarch Waystation providing milkweed, nectar sources and shelter to sustain monarch butterflies as they migrate through North America.

Says Horwedel: “Prairies are an amazing habitat hub. They provide food and shelter to a vast array of birds and insects, many of which are threatened due to the loss of so much prairie habitat.”

“It remains one of the best places where the public can go to see the prairie in this part of the state,” says Massie. “People can walk down its paths and experience and learn from the programs offered by the Garden. It’s a landscape Lincoln would have experienced.”

He adds: “The 1993 plan took a big step for the Garden to become a regional nature education center.”

Reflection: In time of crisis, family seeks solace in the Garden

by Katharine P. Eastvold

We could tell he was looking at us from across the meadow. As my four children began clambering down the large tree near the Redbud Trail, he moved to the path but stayed on the far side of it, watching and waiting. My kids hit the ground and ran down the trail to the lake at breakneck speed. Only then did the younger boy cross the wood-chipped path and begin to climb the tree we’d just left.
At any other time, it would be highly unusual to see kids politely taking turns climbing a perfectly spacious tree. Even childhood hijinks must yield to public health precautions these days. But as we plunged down to the lake and then up into the cool woods again, the familiar and comforting overwhelmed the new and jarring.
A deer paused to evaluate our intentions and then, satisfied, resumed her munching.
Geese flew overhead.
We reached the stream trickling down to the lake, and my kids jumped over it in turn, the littlest one falling short and splattering mud on herself. They walked back over on rocks, arms out for balance. I snapped a picture and then closed my eyes and listened to the sounds around me, felt the welcome warmth of the returning sun.
Spring is my favorite season at Lincoln Memorial Garden. The sap begins to flow, new birds appear, and finally nature makes good on all its promises as the trees leaf, wildflowers bloom and temperatures rise. Ironically, as if to spite the virus wreaking havoc in our human lives, this year’s spring was perhaps the most beautiful, the most utterly luxuriant I’ve ever seen. Or maybe I was just paying more attention.
Either way, being able to hit the trails in the Garden – even with the Nature Center closed and in-person programs canceled – has soothed my and children’s anxiety like nothing else. Our routines have been upended, our plans canceled, our support systems set at a distance and made subject to the whims of an internet connection. As a society in crisis, we’ve been thrust into fight-or-flight mode, performing triage on our own or our neighbors’ short-term needs, with no time or space or capacity to gather, even to mourn our dead. That nature calmly exists in this beautiful place a few miles from the city — caring little for the microscopic invader that has changed our lives, but simply responding as always to the lengthening days — is a powerful balm to the human soul.
Of course, we miss being able to congregate with other families at the Garden or hike with my kids’ Scout troops. My children will definitely miss Ecology Camp. It’s disappointing not to be able to pop by the Nature Center to buy a gift at the Split Rail Shop or ask a volunteer what kind of birds those are out on the water. But the majesty of the trails, the trees and the great stone council rings endures. Generations from its founding, this place still offers respite and grace to a world greatly altered in the past 80 years and changing with cruel rapidity over the past four months. It only goes to show that when you plant a garden, you never know what good purpose it may serve.