Friday, April 29, 2011

Prairie Garden Progress

The black of a late winter burn has been replaced by the green of spring growth. One purpose of the prairie garden is to allow me to learn about the various growth stages of the plants native to Blue Jay Barrens. Burning makes it possible to observe the plants at their first sign of development. Many of the plants emerge much earlier than some people think. The bare area in the foreground is where I sprayed glyphosate herbicide to eliminate some encroaching Bluegrass and Fescue. Forbs that were dormant at the time I sprayed, are now beginning to show.

Some plants are doing too well. The broadleaved plant in the center of the photo is Western Sunflower. It spreads out into the lawn and persists even when mowed. It’s an uncommon plant in Ohio, but the aggressive nature that it displays makes me wonder why. The strip of dead grass in the center of the photo was made when I sprayed around the perimeter of the garden. I do this every year or two and expand the garden by about eight inches in all directions each time I spray.

This is the spot that was protected by the wet towel when I burned. The hole is from a rabbit that nested here last year.

The most common plants in the unburned spot are seedling Oxeye Daisy. It appears that the fire did a good job of killing these invasive exotics across the rest of the garden.

Black Medick seedlings are still prevalent in some areas. I was surprised when large patches of this plant died following a heavy frost. New seedlings continue to emerge, but it was interesting to learn of this susceptibility to cold temperatures.

Purple Coneflowers do well here, but they always look a little pale in the spring. This doesn’t seem to hurt their ability to produce an attractive floral display later in the season.

Four years ago, I threw a handful of Butterflyweed seeds into the garden. There are now several plants mature enough to bloom. Having a variety of attractive blooms in the garden helps in my attempts to convince people that this is not just a weed patch growing in the front yard.

False Gromwell is one of my favorites. The plants seem to have a life of only a few years, but they are now self perpetuating in the garden. Several plants produce seed and new plants appear each year.

The red stemmed plants are Round-podded St. John’s-wort. This plant also seems to be a short lived perennial and entire patches will vanish after a few years. Development of new patches keeps pace with disappearence of the old and the plants are always present somewhere in the garden area.

I started four False Aloe in pots and transplanted them to the garden in 1995. One died, but the other three are still present. Some years they exhibit multiple crowns and other years it’s just a single top. Deer will occasionally eat the plant down to ground level with a corresponding lack of vigor in the plant the following growing season.

There are seveal False Aloe seedlings scattered around the garden. It took 12 years before any but the original plants flowered and produced seed. Now there are about eight mature plants flowering on an annual basis.

The Nodding Wild Onions are doing well. So far, nothing has eaten them from the top or the bottom. I hope that trend continues. I’d like to see the onion become established in the garden. It’s funny that this plant can sometimes fill a person’s yard, but it has a tough time surviving here.


  1. Hi Steve...I'm glad to see that your pyromania
    disorder has payed off with a multitude of new and plants, even where you "through in the towel" : } looks ok!!

  2. Hi, grammie g. Sometimes I'm lucky at growing plants, as well as using the bathroom towel in my projects without getting caught.