Why we do what we do

Our mission at Red Stem Native Landscapes is to bring people and nature together using the most current principles of ecological landscape design. Our native landscapes support birds, bees, and butterflies, address water issues, and sequester carbon. Since 2013, Red Stem has designed and built hundreds of gardens, combining aesthetics with knowledge of soils, hydrology, light conditions, and native plants.

A well-cared-for native garden is a special place. Flowers bloom in waves of color and grasses sway in the wind. Majestic or delicate, colorful or subtly textured, each of our native plants has a personality honed from its long-held place in our ecosystem. And there is a native plant palette for virtually any type of soil, sun exposure, or moisture level. But the beauty of bringing native plants into your property is only the beginning. Native plants are the basis of a healthy ecosystem. By replacing lawn, imported shrubs, and annual flowers in our landscapes with native plants, we support the full lifecycle of our butterflies, bees, and birds. Red Stem sees water issues as opportunities. Using deep-rooted native plants, paired with simple but powerful design techniques, we turn the water flowing through your property into a resource that nourishes your garden. Rain gardens bring their own beauty to the landscape. By reducing flooding and refilling aquifers, they also help repair the natural water cycle that our buildings and paving interrupt. Through our gardens, we are helping to change the adversarial relationship between humans and nature, turning our cities and towns into landscapes that are integrated into and nourish our ecosystems rather than interrupting them.

 Red Stem Native Landscapes believes in paying all our employees a living wage and rewarding excellence with promotions and growth opportunities. We provide subsidized health insurance, paid vacation, overtime pay, and professional development opportunities. 


Monica Buckley

Monica leads the Red Stem Native Landscapes management team while keeping her hand in garden design. Monica’s fascination with wildlife and habitat began in her dad’s garden where bees, butterflies, and birds frolicked and flourished. She earned the Master Naturalist certificate from the Morton Arboretum, took classes in landscape design and management at Chicago Botanic Garden, and was lucky to have a great mentor in native plant gardens, Art Gara of Art and Linda's Wildflowers. In 2013 she left a career in publishing to open Red Stem, hoping to fill the Chicago area with beautiful, peaceful native gardens where wildlife could find increasingly scarce food, shelter, and breeding space. Monica enjoys working with the talented community that is Red Stem’s growing staff, and when time permits, reading and hanging out with the
grandkids.

Carolina Escrich Hochman

When Carolina’s company sent her to Chicago from her native Buenos Aires, her colleagues came to rely on her for All Problems Excel. Since joining Red Stem in 2017, she has expanded
her formidable skill set and now basically keeps everything on track at Red Stem, with responsibilities from running the financial systems and bookkeeping to personnel management, scheduling, and vendor relations. Carolina’s top priority has always been to be dependable and professional and to perform high-quality work, and we love how that translates into team efficiency and great customer service. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing and spending time outdoors with her husband and two kids.

Alesia Hunter

Alesia makes sure that Red Stem’s designers and installation teams have all the native plants they need. Having joined Red Stem in 2019, she is responsible for sourcing plants from our network of suppliers and for supervising the nursery team. Her degree in environmental biology from Beloit College and her previous positions as propagation crew leader and sales and consulting associate at Prairie Moon Nursery make her uniquely qualified for this position. Not content to rest on her laurels, though, Alesia is currently developing our retail plant sales division, which will be open throughout the growing season. You may even see her helping out at installations as she learns more about the design process. Her love for plants comes from her grandmother, who had a beautiful rose garden. After hours you can find her walking her dog, spending time with friends and loved ones, or curled up on the couch watching a movie. 

Joanna Lake Erenberg

Joanna is an artist and designer specializing in ecology, native plant design, and permaculture. Joanna takes great joy in creating landscapes that connect people to the grounding power of our natural world while expanding habitat in the Chicago area.  Before coming to Red Stem in 2019, she worked for a small Evanston-based landscaping company and then ran Solstice Gardens & Design with her husband for nine years. As part of Red Stem’s management team, Joanna manages the design division and contributes to the ongoing development of the company. In her free time, Joanna cooks and grows edible and medicinal plants with her family.

Betsy Seff

Betsy joined Red Stem’s landscape design team in 2021. When creating garden designs, she draws on her earlier career as a graphic designer. She learned about native plants and wildflower garden management while working at a suburban Chicago nature center, where she was fascinated to see how native plant communities and wildlife function together in prairies, woodlands, and wetlands—as well as gardens and parking lot islands. Betsy has also taken courses on botany and garden design at Chicago Botanic Garden. In her spare time, she volunteers at her kids’ school gardens and as a Master Gardener Intern with University of Illinois Extension in north Cook County. She also loves to read and draw. Betsy hates running, but sometimes does it anyway.

Elizabeth Cady Olney

Liz is a designer, artist, and ecology nerd focused on reimagining our civilization’s relationship  with nature, from adversarial to collaborative. Liz caught the native plant bug in 2008 while doing conservation work with Americorps in Oregon. In addition to landscape design, in her eclectic career she has sold trees and shrubs, worked in stormwater management, mapped urban butterfly habitat, surveyed trees, and sold recycled art supplies. She began working for Red Stem in 2020 and has a Master’s of Landscape Architecture. You are likely to see her doing site visits by bicycle. Her favorite plant is Silphium laciniatum.

Ida Harden

Ida’s interest in plants and plant care was nurtured from an early age, starting with growing bean plants in her mother's kitchen. She gained additional knowledge exploring the forests of Illinois and northern Wisconsin and working on native habitat restoration crews and conservation efforts throughout the region. With knowledge in native plant identification and habitat and a degree in natural resources from Northland College in northern Wisconsin, Ida came onboard Red Stem in 2020 as a garden steward. Since then, Ida has joined the Red Stem design team as a designer assistant, helping to organize details for the designers and acquiring information from potential Red Stem clients. She loves to sew and read when she has the time.

Hugo Soto

A resident of the Chicago area his entire life, Hugo grew up in a landscaping family, helping out wherever he could from a young age. He discovered that working outdoors was what he loved, and as the years went by, he continued to develop the skills that would serve him well in various roles in the industry. As manager of the Red Stem installation crew, he applies those skills and his natural leadership ability, along with a great sense of humor, to inspire and encourage others to be and do their best.  In his spare time, Hugo likes biking, fishing, and pretty much any activity that puts him where he loves to be: in the great outdoors.

Baran Balkan

Baran supports the Red Stem design process with his formidable skill set, which includes 3D drawing, sketching, modeling, and color rendering, both freehand and computer-aided. Since joining Red Stem in 2020, he has enabled quick turnaround on designs as needed. In his free time, Baran enjoys working on and taking care of his rooftop deck and extensive container garden—a lush and relaxing retreat for summer night dinner parties and outdoor movie screenings.

Eve Alexander

Eve works behind the scenes as the plant management team’s muscle, caring for the inventory and keeping the nursery in shape. She derives much satisfaction from having her hands in the soil, getting up close and personal with Red Stem’s multitude of plant species and the pollinators they attract. Her background in early childhood development and her prior work as a preschool teacher translate well to the patient and often messy work of caring for tiny plants. Eve is an Illinois Master Naturalist intern and delights in learning about the unique ecology of the Chicago region. She spends as much of her free time as possible having adventures in the Forest Preserves of Cook County and along the lakefront with her daughter.

Red Stem Service Area

We primarily work on Chicago's north side and in the near north and west suburbs.

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