Thursday, July 8, 2010

Prairie Garden

Some people assume that I spend my days idly walking through the woods and fields of Blue Jay Barrens, but that scenario doesn’t seem to match reality. I actually have a full time job that keeps me busy most days and many evenings. I also choose to devote a good bit of time to my family and there are, of course, the normal things that manage to use up a good portion of anyone’s spare time. This leaves little time for exploring and my walks very often resemble a frantic scramble. So to make it possible to visit certain elements of the property on a daily basis, I have made attempts to bring some items close to the house. One such attempt is my front yard Prairie Garden, now in its 16th year.

The seeds that went into establishing this garden were all collected at Blue Jay Barrens, so species like this Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, represent the genotype that developed naturally at this site. Not all of the plants in the garden produce showy flowers. I purposely tried to include as many showy bloomers as I could in an effort to convince people that this isn’t just a weed patch that I can’t get the mower through.

The Prairie Garden has been established long enough to have taken on a life of its own. Species composition changes each year. Some species disappear entirely for several years and then suddenly reappear in large numbers. This White Wild Indigo, Baptisia alba, bloomed profusely last year. This year it sent up flower stalks that bore no blooms. Having these plants growing close to the house allows me to take a few minutes to watch their daily progress and learn how weather and other factors affects their development.

Some species have colonized the garden on their own. The only grass I planted here was Sideoats Grama, a short prairie grass. These thick leaves belong to Indian Grass. I’ve found that Indian Grass can be quite aggressive in conquering new territory and this trait is being demonstrated in the garden.

The plants of the Prairie Garden attract a variety of insects. The number of bumble bees seems to have increased considerably over the past few years. I’ve got plans for a glass backed bumblebee box that can be anchored to the outside of one of the house windows. Each year I see fertile bumblebee queens searching for nest sites and I have convinced myself that I can persuade one of these individuals to take up residence in such a box. Then I can watch the colony develop through the summer.

Naturally you can’t have a prairie garden without including some Butterflyweed. This plant was added about five years ago by throwing the seed into the garden during the fall.

My Nodding Wild Onion project has produced a single flower head this year. That’s one more than I had last year. I’m going to give any resulting seed some special attention. I’d like to have more of this plant.

For some reason, the blazing star flower stalks develop as weird, twisted sculptures. The plants out on the barrens don’t grow this way, but they are also much shorter than these in the garden. One of the problems with growing plants in a garden that gets even minimal care is the robust growth that results. Some of the plants grow so large that they bear little resemblance to the plants growing out on their own.


  1. I'm just loving it! Anyone who reads your blog KNOWS you aren't just idly wandering the property or being too lazy to mow your front yard!! ~karen

  2. Beautiful flowers. No, I didn't think you were just going out to take images of flowers, streams, bugs every morning. :)

  3. I'm just too lazy to comment tonight.

  4. Steve what a direct and honest man you are !! lol : }

  5. grammie g - I'm going to print that comment so I can show it to people who don't trust what I'm saying.