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Wild Ones Handbook

A Brief History of Wild Ones

Wild Ones is a direct outgrowth of a natural landscaping workshop offered by the Schlitz Audubon Center of Milwaukee, Wis., in 1977. A nucleus of nine people became intensely interested in this new concept of native plants as an alternative to lawns. A camaraderie developed during the lectures, tours, and digs, but it was two years later that an organization sprouted. Gini Lindow had a 'wild' idea that blossomed into Wild Ones -- Natural Landscapers, Ltd. Our resident expert, Lorrie Otto, taught us much about the natural landscaping philosophy -- organizing yard tours to help us with planning our yards.

We are no common 'garden variety' garden club, but a fast-growing, non-profit organization encouraging natural yards with a sensitivity to land use in harmony with Nature.

Winter programs include how-to-do-it sessions, seed exchanges, and presentations by experts in prairie, woodland, and wetland restoration, and members profiling their own projects. In the spring, summer and fall we are out on yard tours, woods excursions, and digs (rescuing plants in the path of development). Annually, each chapter offers a "help me" day of consultation at various members' properties. Late summer is the best time to view prairie restorations, and that's when we take note of where we will return for seed gathering in October.

Beyond exchanging seeds and rescuing plants, we patronize the reputable native plant and seed companies that have taken root. We do all these joyous things in an effort to grow a diverse and eye-pleasing collection of native species on our own land. In July 1979 there were just nine members. 

As of spring 2003, there are 3,000 Wild Ones household, business and not-for-profit organization members in 46 states of the United States and Canada.  We have 40 local chartered chapters, several seedling chapters working toward charter and a large group of partner-at-large members.

Welcome to Wild Ones and a Heritage of Stewardship 

Members and friends of Wild Ones have watched and participated in a journey of delight as they followed the natural landscaping movement. At first it was just the artists who were courageous enough to break the cruel fashion of lawns. Not only were the landscapes flat, bleak and shaved, but shrubs were not free to display their own shapes or bear flowers and fruit at the ends of their branches. Young trees were pruned to look like bushes on top of long broomsticks. Mature trees were sprayed with biocides which killed songbirds, butterflies and multitudes of other breathing, moving life forms. However, it was the aesthetic impoverishment which empowered these artists in the early '70s to defy the weed laws (conformity laws) and decorate their yards with diverse, tousled, communities of life.

In Milwaukee, it was Ruth Grotenrath, Mary Berry, Emeline Krause, Tula Erskine, Rochelle Whiteman and I who flaunted our front yards of flowers and their pollinators. Soon Nature lovers and birders joined with their own models. Finally, concerned scientists added to the chorus, calling for islands and corridors of native landscapes to protect genotypes and endangered species.

All the while there were a few graduate students who literally made it their business to provide us with native seeds and plants grown in their own nurseries. Today we name with pride and gratitude: Ahrenhoerster, Boehlke, Smith to Diboll, Kopitzke to Glass, Powers and Wade. During these times not only was it difficult to get support from neighbors and officials, but information on how to do it, where to do it and why we should do it was hard to find. Oh! My Goodness! My Goodness! What a gift this Wild Ones Handbook would have been then.

May this new generation learn from this handbook and treasure it, while making a lifetime commitment to being good stewards as we heal our Earth!

Natural Landscaping Is

... more beneficial than toxic - choosing organic methods over poisonous ones ... more enlightened than trendy - reviving ecosystems rather than planting indiscriminately ... more joyous than tedious - growing ever-changing plantscapes instead of mow-me-every-week turf grass. 

In this handbook we are presenting the current wisdom regarding natural landscaping techniques. However, native plant culture and propagation theories continue to develop. You are encouraged to attend Wild Ones chapter meetings where knowledgeable individuals will keep you abreast of practices that work best in your locale. If your area does not yet have a chapter, you may form one. Request chapter information by writing to: 

Wild Ones - - Natural Landscapers, Ltd. Exit disclaimer
P.O. Box 1274
Appleton, WI 54912-1274
Tel: (920) 730-3986
Fax: (920) 730-8654
Toll-Free: (877) FYI-WILD
EMAIL: info@for-wild.org

This special issue represents the work of many pioneers of the natural landscaping movement. The people whose names follow have earned our appreciation for putting on paper the why-for's and how-to's of natural landscaping.   

On behalf of our readers, thank you to: 

  • Annette Alexander
  • Pat Armstrong
  • Pat Brust
  • Carol Chew 
  • Neil Diboll 
  • Barb Glassel
  • Darrel Morrison
  • Lorrie Otto
  • Mandy Ploch 
  • Joyce Powers
  • Bret Rappaport
  • Gloria Stupak
  • Don Vorpahl
  • Alan Wade
  • Wendy Walcott
  • Rochelle Whiteman
Fox Valley Area Chapter for originating the idea for this handbook
and Wild Ones' very special:

- illustrator, Lucy Schumann
- editor, Joy Buslaff 

To become a Wild Ones member or to purchase Wild Ones products (handbooks, t-shirts, yard signs), contact your local chapter or request current pricing information from the Milwaukee address shown above. 

Wild Ones Handbook is published on an as-needed basis. One copy is made available with each Wild Ones membership. Additional copies may be purchased through chapters or by writing to: 

WILD ONES HANDBOOK Exit disclaimer
P.O. BOX 1274 

Wild Ones - Natural Landscapers, Ltd. is a non-profit organization with a mission to educate and share information with members and community at the 'plants-root' level and to promote biodiversity and environmentally sound practices. We are a diverse membership interested in natural landscaping using native species in developing plant communities. 

Wild Ones - Natural Landscapers, Ltd. was incorporated in 1990 in the State of Wisconsin, under the Wisconsin Non-Stock Corporation Act for educational and scientific purposes. Wild Ones is a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation under Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is publicly supported as defined in Sections 170(b) (1)(iv) and 509(a). 


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