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Meet Ana Vitek of Garden Botany in West Suburbs

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ana Vitek.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I guess I would say have always been very interested in plants and I have been gardening for a long time.

I started gardening when I was little. My parents gave my brother and I our own gardens to take care of, they encouraged us to garden. Mine was about 4 feet by 8 feet to work with. From there I graduated to helping tend the tomato beds after school got out for the summer. I remember pretending the tomatoes were trees and digging irrigation canals thru them to sail my action figures around in their canoe. About the same time I would keep records in a spiral notebook on how the houseplants were doing. I had numbered them all and I kept detail health records on them so I knew that perhaps number 5 had a growth spurt or was not feeling well and needed extra attention. I would record when they were watered or pruned.

My educational background is quite diverse. I have a degree in Horticulture from the College of DuPage. In addition to that I hold a Master’s Degree in Art from the Art Institute of Chicago and a Bachelor’s Degree in Art from Columbia College. I have also had quite a bit of variety in my career. I have worked as an Ornamental Horticulturist at the 500-acre Cantigny Gardens Estate and Golf Course and at the Morton Arboretum in the plant production department. Before creating garden designs, I worked as an illustrator and interface designer, working on computer games.

I love combining my horticultural knowledge with my creative art and design skills when I work with my clients. I believe in working with the environment to build healthy organic gardens that are both good for the planet, good for our families and pets and good for local wildlife!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It’s never a smooth road really. When you are dealing with living dynamic things like plants many variables can change your outcome every year. Thou everyone wants to believe gardens are magic, the truth is they take a good deal of planning and caring. They don’t just happen on their own.

Plants can die from overwatering or under watering or too much heat or insect damage or unknown reasons. That is okay; it is just the way things are. You can’t control everything that happens outside. Nature is not static. It is dynamic and always changing. This is what makes gardening both amazing and demanding. Gardening in Chicago can be a challenge at times. We have both extreme cold and extreme heat. Also, everyone tends to get excited to garden in May each year and demand can be hard to keep up with. But really good organic gardening is a year round pursuit not a do it once in May and you are done thing. That sounds nice even to me, but it is just not realistic. Everyone always asks me what I do in winter? For me winter is always surprisingly short. Getting ready for the growing season takes a lot of planning. Good gardening takes planning and good gardens take time to develop.

Please tell us about Garden Botany.
I think my passion for plants and gardening sets me apart. I am an organic horticulturist, garden coach and garden designer. I work all around the Chicago area, both the city and the suburbs. I practice sustainable organic gardening. I am really passionate about plants and helping people build connections to the natural world in their own backyards. Whether it is growing organic vegetables for their families, and harvesting their own carrots, kale and tomatoes or experiencing their first hummingbird visit. For me, it is all about building healthy relationships with the natural world. Working with nature not against it, I use using organic fertilizer and pest solutions when problems occur. I focus on native plants, especially trying to introduce some of the species that attract songbirds, butterflies and hummingbirds. A good organic garden can give you a lot of peace, comfort and beauty in an increasingly crazy world. I spend a lot of time listening to my clients. It is helping build the relationships between people and the natural world that gets me excited.

We have a lot going for us in Chicago. It is a beautiful place. I love the plants of the region. The cycle of the natural year is so dramatic here. The seasons are so different. I love it when you can see the changes take place every day as we move thru the year. I love it when the first baptisia blooms, the coneflowers start to bud, the monarch butterflies begin to land on the milkweed, and the hummingbirds show up each year looking for nectar. The details of the natural year never fail to amaze me.

I want people to know they can make a difference. The choices they make can help the other species we share our environment with. Every little bit of organic gardening and planting to help butterflies and songbirds adds up. If all of us were using organic fertilizers, and were more aware or our choices and how they affect other species we share the ecosystem with as consumers we could achieve dramatic positive changes to the local environment. I believe every little bit helps.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I remember very early on, watching my Grandpa train and tie his cucumbers in his garden on the south side. He would have masses of dill growing too, I remember how amazing it all was and how fast everything grew each year after winter, suddenly the dill and cucumbers would be taller than me, and it always smelled so good to be outside in the garden.

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1 Comment

  1. Marlene Vitek

    July 26, 2017 at 4:55 am

    This is a great article and you may think me a bit prejudiced but Ana is a wonderful organic gardener and her gardens are all beautiful and useful!

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