"Perennial" gardening in Illinois

I am new to gardening, but one thing that worries is...
On one hand I see all the wild grasses and forested areas where vegetation grows on it own. On the other the gardening shops sell us things that require constant attention and often fail!
I'd like to get into perennials that are suited to the native climate of this region (Northern Illinois).
I'll appreciate any advice on suitable books as well as gardening shops. I am Chicago but don't mind few hours' drive if necessary.
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Well, not necessarily for plant lists, but for inspiration I highly recommend the book "Noah's Garden" by Sara Stein. She has a follow up book called "Planting Noah's Garden."
The first place you should look is here:
http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/~kenr/prairienativelinks.html
I also garden using native plants and well adapted others which are not invasive to the native land. There are many plants you can use which are beautiful and require either a clean up trim once or twice a year and some mulch with a side dressing of a good organic granular fertilizer.
As you garden more, you will see clearly what will grow in your garden and I suggest if it needs fussing with added water or soil conditioning you eliminate that plant.
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Newbie wrote:

see here:
<http://web.extension.uiuc.edu/state/hort.html Cooperative Extension Service.
Also, see what programs are going on at the Garfield Park Conservatory, and the Lincoln Park Conservatory. They will sometimes have "native plant" classes.
Google is your friend. try "Chicago gardening" for starters. then "native plants Illinois prairie" or some such
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This is also a good opportunity to interact with your neighbors and a local gardening club. Many things that do well and are native to an area need to be thinned each year. This creates an opportunity to share plants. People who garden generally enjoy talking about it and sharing their knowledge - as well as their plants.
There are a lot of urban gardeners. Keep your eyes open and stop to chat...
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"barbie.gee" wrote:

You can add the following:
Chicago Botanical Garden in Glencoe, just north of Chicago.
Morton Arboretum just west of Chicago.
Midwest Fruit Explorers (www.midfex.org) Many members in Chicagoland.
Sherwin
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