Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Welcome to the Plano Prairie Garden

If you are here for the first time because of the story about my prairie in the Dallas Morning News, thanks for the visit. Feel free to look through my posts and photos from the last year and a half. Check back again in the future. I usually have one or two new posts a month.

If you are a return visitor to the Plano Prairie Garden, check out the story with the link above.
Backyard 08-10-10
I started this blog in January of 2009 as a journal of my prairie garden. I never intended for it to be public, but, of course, everything on the internet ends up becoming public. That is how Curtis Ippolito, the writer of the story, found out about my garden.

My yard is not typical for Plano or for most suburban neighborhoods. A couple of years ago, I started removing all the St. Augustine and Bermuda grass from my yard and began planting plants that are native to Texas.
Most of the plants in my garden grew in this area before cattlemen, farmers, and developers changed the landscape. The majority of plants most people grow in their yards now come from Asia, Africa, and other foreign lands. Unfortunately, many of these plants are escaping captivity and invading our native, wild areas.

By planting a variety of native plant species in my garden, I created a mini-ecosystem around my home. My garden attracts more songbirds, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, and lizards than marigolds, begonias, and St. Augustine ever could.

I know my garden is not to everyone’s tastes and that is OK. But before you totally dismiss it, take a look at some of the plants. You do not have to convert your entire yard like I did. You can use native plants in a formal landscape of lawn and flowerbeds. The advantage to the natives is that many do not require as much water and care as most of the common landscape plants that you pick up at the home center.

Eryngium leavenworthii from seeds collected by a railroad track on Waterview Parkway in Richardson.

Keep in mind, Texas is a big state with vastly different climates. Just because a plant is native to Texas does not mean it will grow well in your garden. A plant that is native to Houston or El Paso may not grow well in the DFW area, but then again, it might. You need to know your plants. Go to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for more information about native plant species.

By the way, the DMN story says I do not water my garden. I actually do water when the soil is really dry. In fact, the sprinklers are coming on in the morning. This streak of 100+ degree days makes a prairie a little crispy.

Backyard 08-10-10

36 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the publicity your prairie has received! Let's hope more folks follow your lead...

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  2. "We have the yard of the past, and he has the yard of the future,". Beautiful! This could not be a more fitting comment to describe your garden. Congratulations Michael on getting much desrved publicity. I have been a fan of your blog for a while and am now more inspired!

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  3. Congrstulations on being in the news, and thank you for being such a great spokseman for native plants!

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  4. I followed the link from the article to your blog. Beautiful! I have been slowly planting more natives in my backyard in Brooklyn, NY. Your yard is an inspiration. Let us know if any neighbors follow suit!

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  5. I had to laugh out loud when I read the story in the paper this morning. Decades ago I tried something similar in Plano, which I dubbed the "Suburban East Plano Prairie Ecology Project." I'll admit that it wasn't particularly well planned, but I had Texas dandelions, wine cups, blue bonnets, gaillardias, prairie verbena, Indian blanket, morning and evening primroses, and bits of things that I'd nicked from the Outdoor Learning Center down the street or on backpacking trips to other prairie locales.

    Anyway, one morning I awoke to a bare yard. One of my neighbors, a well-meaning fellow with a tractor, had mowed it down in the dark. Not long after that, people in Richardson started sowing non-native wildflowers in the medians and along the freeway, but that's about as wild as things got until fairly recently.

    Thirty years later, I live on a half acre in the old part of McKinney, and dedicate a small portion of it to just being wild. What grows there is what the birds plant--although you've persuaded me to consider a more orderly approach. I love what you've done to your place, and I hope a lot of folks read the article and emulate your efforts. I'll be muddling through your archives and snitching ideas, although I probably won't actually do anything about it until the weather turns. But thanks for the inspiration!

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  6. Saw the article in this morning's DMN. We too went native in Plano back in 2004. A link to a photo album depicting our backyard is at

    http://margetanddave.myphotoalbum.com/view_album.php?set_albumName=album01

    We also a winner and participated in the 2007 Dallas Waterwise Tour and subsequent tours in 2008 and 2009.

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  7. What a delightful way to spend nearly an hour this morning reading through your entire blog. I'll be checking back.

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  8. Don't know if you are familiar with blogs "Digging" and "Rock Rose" in Austin, but they are wonderful. I have longed for a north Texas blogger who uses natives. Keep it up.

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  9. Christy and Dave thanks for the comments. I have admired your NativeDave landscapes for some time. I wish I had the money and the labor to recreate some of your projects. I especially like that backyard pond in far north Dallas near Preston and Campbell.

    Michelle, isn’t it good to see some positive stories about native landscapes for a change?

    Martha, thanks for stopping by and for the additional comments on your blog. Check back again for updates.

    Owlfarmer, that is a great story. I look out my windows every morning and sigh with relief that no one with a tractor decided to mow down my prairie. I don’t know if I have any ideas worth snitching, but let me know if you find one.

    Dr. Dave, I visited your yard the first year it was on the Waterwise Tour. Very nice. I have thought about getting my yard on the tour, but I never seem to be finished with my projects. I think of new ones before I finish the old ones.

    Anonymous 1, I am glad you enjoyed the blog. Check back again.

    Anonymous 2, I check in on Digging and Rock Rose on a regular basis. I think Pam at Digging is the Queen of Garden Bloggers. Curtis, the writer of the DMN story, found my blog through a link at Digging. I made a comment to him that I was no Pam Pennick when it comes to my blogging skills.

    Thanks to everyone for all the kind and supportive comments.

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  10. What? I am being dubbed Queen of Garden Bloggers? I'm still laughing over that designation, but thanks to you and Anonymous for the nice words about Digging. And it's cool that the reporter found you through my blogroll.

    Anyway, I just read the story and looked at all the pictures, and it's just terrific. Congrats on the well-deserved publicity. Your prairie garden is bold and inspiring, and I bet you make a few converts now, even if not in your own neighborhood.

    Your own pictures in this post tell the tale better than anything though. Just look at how great your August garden looks. Those plants are made for weather that makes other plants wilt and sulk.

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  11. I see your Snow on the Prairie blooming and showing through! I love natives and have so many myself. Great job!! What a wonderful yard!

    The Native Plant Society of Texas is having its annual symposium in early Oct. in Denton- you should attend! Lots of fellow native plant lovers. https://npsot.org/
    Shauna

    Shauna

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  12. Congratulations to another wise person who is concerned for our wildlife and water usage. I live in Parker, home of Southfork, and have 2.5 acres. I did the same thing 13 years ago. One acre is wildflowers and the rest native with plantings mostly bought from the Heard Museum at their native plant sale. I also have a fountain and decorative pond. The result it beautiful colors all year round and a plethora of birds, reptiles and insects.
    A suggestion is to have the state certify your property as a wildlife habitat through the Texas Parks and Wildlife. I did this, as well as the backyard habitat certification from the National Wildlife Federation.
    How anyone can prefer boring green to the beauty you have created is a mystery. Thanks for helping to spread the word.
    Nancy

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  13. I love love love your yard. And now I want to pick your brain. Did you use a tiller when you started the conversion in your backyard? Or did you turn it all by hand (shovel)? Thanks in advance, Ann

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  14. Michael I'm so glad you're getting the recognition you deserve from your educated and responsible gardening. I hope North Texas will take your idea and run and we can have homes with sustainable, dynamic, wildlife-supportive landscapes like yours.

    Pam,

    I love your blog! One day after reading everything on it, I looked through your regional blog roll and that's how I found Michael's blog and have been a loyal reader for a year or so. Then, when I had the opportunity to do some freelance writing for the DMN, I knew Michael's prairie and story would be a great one. And I agree completey with Michael, your new designation should be Queen of the Garden Bloggers. Yours is at the top of my blog roll.

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  15. Michael, glad to see some good press on your yard. I too have a native garden and feed the birds. I have a neighbor who will not speak to me because the extra wildlife leaves droppings on his shiny cars. I even placed my feeders on the opposite side of the yard. Oh well, you just can't please them all.

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  16. I just saw the story on DMN. Love your garden. I have one garden in my yard that is native. I would like to remove all of the St. Augustine and go totally native. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  17. Hi Michael, This is Lora from the swaps. I love your prairie. I am still working on my transformation to a lot of natives, but have been sidelined since right after the Calloways spring swap with cancer. Hoping to get back at it this fall.
    The Desert Willow as well as the Horsemint and grasses I got from you are doing great. The willow is blooming! I love it. Look forward to seeing more of your yard.

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  18. Michael,
    Could you post a picture where your yard transisions into your neighbors. I've struggled with the seperation from my plantings and my neighbors grass/bermuda grass (wire grass)medium
    space between our driveways. Thanks!

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  19. great job. keep up the good work.

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  20. I'm a return visitor, already familiar with your blog. When I picked up the Guide out of the DMN that day and saw the article, I thought "can this be the guy on the blog?" I didn't have to read far to realize IT WAS YOU! Congrats on the article, I hope it will inspire others to follow suit!

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  21. I also read the article in the DMN, and just love this! Am slowly (very slowly!) transforming my yard into native plants along with antique roses in Carrollton.

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  22. Pam, Queen of the Garden Bloggers, thanks for dropping by and for the comments.

    Shauna, my snow on the prairie is just starting to bloom. I had one plant last year and two seedlings sprouted this spring. I hope I have more next year. I was aware of the NPSOT symposium. It looks interesting.

    Nancy, you 2.5 acres sound great. A pond may be on my project list sometime in the future. I have three certifications for my yard. The NWF backyard wildlife habit you mention, a similar certification from Texas Parks and Wildlife, and a Monarch Waystation certification. Links to the organizations are available on my June 14, 2010 post for anyone that is interested. http://planobluestem.blogspot.com/2010/06/monarch-waystation-certification.html

    Ann, I used a shovel to scrape the grass off my yard. It was a long, slow process. I lightly turned the soil with a turning fork and mixed in some lava sand, expanded shale, and compost, but not nearly as much as normally recommended. I do not recommend tilling a lawn to prepare a garden, especially if you have Bermuda grass. If you till, you will drive the underground rhizomes deeper into the soil and you will have a never ending battle removing the grass.

    Curtis, thanks for the comments and the great story. You are getting lots of good exposure.

    Anonymous, why doesn’t your neighbor put his shiny cars in his garage?

    Moggie, you are lucky if you just have to remove St. Augustine. It is much easier to remove than Bermuda. I had a mix and the Bermuda was much tougher to remove.

    Hi Lora! I was just thinking about you the other day when I was doing some work around the sumac I got from you. I hope you have a speedy recovery so you can get back to gardening. I have not seen anything on the Calloway’s website about a fall swap this year. The swaps are a fun way to share extra plants that you would otherwise throw out. Wishing you all the best.

    Anonymous, I am still working on the transition between my prairie and my neighbor’s lawns. I started out with a 3-4 foot wide border of lawn grass around my front yard prairie. You can see some of it in my May 26, 2009 post. http://planobluestem.blogspot.com/2009/05/sesame-street.html . I am in the process of removing the border grass and I will move the edging (interlocking concrete) to the property line. I will post some details when the weather cools and I resume this project.

    Bill, thanks. The work is not complete.

    Hi Nola. Yep, it’s me. Who else calls their suburban yard a prairie?

    Anonymous in Carrollton, natives and antique roses are a great combination.

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  23. Have you had any issues with the property standard nazis in plano? We have issues with them for a variety of things. We we discussing what we could do with our front long so we didn't have to constantly mow it (we have a very hilly front yard), but are worried about dealing with property standards because if everything isn't uniform it seems, they get after you.
    Any thoughts on this?

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  24. Great article in the paper! Great blog! You are very inspiring. My wife and I hope to do something similar one day. Now we are content with gardening native plants and flowers, composting and harvesting rain through our DIY barrel. Its a start!

    DO you ever have an "open house" or offer tours to guests who want to make a sunday drive for a visit to check out your work firsthand? Would love that opportunity.

    One other question--is this your hobby or are you a professional?

    thanks

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  25. Anonymous with the hilly front yard, I have not had any problems with code enforcement. I think the city’s main landscaping concerns are grass that is not mowed and trees with low branches over streets, sidewalks and alleys. You have additional rules to abide if you are subject to a HOA. Good luck. Check with code enforcement if you have any concerns.

    Next Anonymous, Dallas Water Utilities organizes a waterwise garden tour in June of each year. It is open to cities that purchase water from Dallas, which includes Plano, so I may try to get on that tour some day. Here is their website. They will begin posting tour information early next year. http://www.savedallaswater.com/index_english.htm.
    I am not a professional, but I probably put in enough hard labor hours to qualify.

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  26. Congratulations!!! So glad about the publicity for your prairie--inspiration is good and people need to see what natural beauty they can create.

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  27. Congratulations! You have the most amazing native garden I've ever seen! I just moved in from Argentina and was researching to create a native garden too. I study birds, so I'd love to have lots of them visiting my yard. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

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  28. Thanks Anonymous. Good luck creating your native garden. You don't say where you are now, but if you are in Texas, www.wildflower.org is a great source of information about Texas native plants.

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  29. You garden is so beautiful and your neighbors have a wonderful view! Do you ever give presentations to groups? The Garland Chapter of the Native Plant Society would be very interested in hearing how you got started.

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    1. Thanks Melissa. I wish I could look across the street and see what my neighbors see! I have never given a presentation about my garden other than what is presented here. I don't even know how the pronounce the names of most of the plants I grow. And I had no formal plan. Everything I have done and will do is trial and error.

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  30. Hi! I'm the Anonymous above from Argentina. I live in Richardson, in the north area, so I guess I'm very close to where you live. I've been looking to your list of species and photos and I'd love to have all of them in my garden too!!! they are so beautiful!! I know you have posted a list of resources about where to find the plants. I am kind of lost, and not very sure where to start. Right now, I have only decided on 2 spots in my front yard that get lots of sun where I would like to start...first small...and then who knows! I guess I should start with just a few plants at the beginning. Do you know of any places where I can start looking for those plants now? Or should I just wait until spring? It seems one of the sites (Heard Museum)from where you get some of your plants will not be doing the spring sale this year due to the water restrictions. Thanks! and thanks for the link you sent!

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  31. Hello, no longer Anonymous, Constanza. Yes, it sounds like you are very close by. Some fairly nearby nurseries that should have some natives in stock right now are Shades of Green in Frisco, Rhodes in Garland, and North Haven Gardens in Dallas. If they have any now, they are probably leftovers from last year and are probably dormant. They will all be getting new plants in soon. Remember that native plants don't usually like to be in pots and may not look all that great in stores. Native plant sales will be starting up next month. I will post a list of dates when I know them. I did not know about the Heard not having a sale. The Calloway's Nursery on Custer between Park and 15th will be hosting a plant swap on April 14. It is in my neighborhood, so I will probably go to share some natives. I have been to a couple of these and most people will share their plants even if you don't have anything to trade. I have a list of my plants in a spreadsheet. I will post them here some day, but it will require retyping since I have not found a way to post a spreadsheet. If you want to send an email to me at ppgblog at verizon dot net, I will send a copy of the spreadsheet to you. If you have not seen my 10-16-11 post, it includes a list of plants that survived the drought last year.

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    1. Constanza, I was just looking at the North Haven Gardens website, NHG.com. They just got a shipment of natives and they are giving a free class on natives today (Saturday) at 2:30.

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  32. Hi, I found the "before and after" photos of your yard on the Texas Bee Watchers website. Fantastic work! I'm collaborating with the Encyclopedia of Life to create a set of "bee observer cards" to teach people about native bee diversity and biology. I would love to include your garden (before and after) photos on the card about bee conservation. Would you be willing to share the photos? If so, please contact me at jrykken@oeb.harvard.edu Cheers, Jessica (ps. I was in touch with Kate Bacon at TBW and she said she passed on my request to you as well)

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  33. Found you through Dallas Garden Buzz. What a wonderful restoration of a bit of our earth! Hope you help start a new fad... You may have answered this elsewhere in your blog: Do you plan to try any human food plants? -- Aggie

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    1. Aggie, I do have a vegetable plot. Right now, I have broccoli, brussel sprouts, garlic, and shallots. I had peppers, tomatoes, squash, and blackeyed peas until the freeze last night.

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