Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Late Summer on the Prairie Part 1

It’s September. As summer lingers, many of the plants on my prairie have bloomed since spring and they are still going strong. Zexmenia, four-nerve daisy, autumn sage, blue mistflower and standing cypress are some examples of the prolific bloomers.

While the spring and summer bloomers were putting on their show and attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to my prairie, several other plants were quietly enduring the heat and drought - waiting for their time to shine in late summer and fall.

In the front prairie, pitcher sage, Salvia azurea 'grandiflora', is beginning to bloom among the flowers of little bluestem grass, Schizachyrium scoparium. The little bluestem is about two and a half feet tall and sways gracefully in the late summer breezes.

This gayfeather, Liatris mucronata, has just a few flowers, but it is already attracting bees. Before long, its numerous spiky stems will be covered with flowers and the flowers will be covered with bees and butterflies.

In my next post, I will feature the late summer plants in the backyard prairie.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

All Natural Landscaping

I wonder how many people with natural or native landscapes - no matter how well designed or maintained - have neighbors that think they live next door to something like this.

Here is another video about an invasive species that is taking over many gardens.

Guess who learned how to post videos in a blog.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Rest of the Story

I want to thank everyone for the complementary and supportive comments regarding my prairie landscape. The response has been amazing and I was not expecting all of the drive-bys after the story ran in the Dallas Morning News.
 I am flattered to have received a few requests to do other people’s landscapes. Sorry, but I have a day job (with air conditioning) and you could not pay me enough to dig the grass out of another yard! Besides that, you would lose patience with me. I do all of my work myself and I am still not finished with my own yard after six years!

The photos in this blog are carefully shot to show my prairie at its best, but they don’t tell the whole story. I have several unfinished and yet to be started projects to complete before I can say “I am finished”. Chances are that I will think of more new projects before I finish the ones I know about today.

Here is a behind the scenes tour of the Plano Prairie Garden.

When I started my front yard prairie, I left a 3-4 foot wide strip of St. Augustine and Bermuda grass around the perimeter of my prairie. The intent was to have a manicured area outside the less manicured prairie and to set the prairie off as a big flowerbed. I also wanted a buffer zone between my prairie and possible overspray from the neighbor’s pesticides and insecticides. The photo below shows the west side of the yard. This strip of grass goes past my compost piles and all the way to the alley.

After I removed most of my lawn, I participated in a Plano lawnmower exchange program. I traded in my gas powered mower and purchased an electric (corded) mower at a reduced price. It did not take long to discover that it takes longer to mow a lawn when you are tethered by an electrical cord that you have try to avoid running over. In fact, it took as much time to mow my reduced lawn with an electric mower as it did to mow a full lawn with a gas powered mower. If you go electric, consider a cordless electric mower.

This spring, I removed the grass from the east side of my front prairie and moved the edging to the property line. I still need to move sprinkler heads, excavate soil, and connect my decomposed granite pathway to the sidewalk. I plan to make the same improvements on the west side of the prairie, but I will have additional drainage issues to deal with.

Another ongoing project is the parkway between the sidewalk and the street. This year, I removed some perennials and buffalo grass and added more decomposed granite. I am still trying to decide what to do with this area.

Near the front door, I am adding flagstones to create a small sitting area. I am still working on fitting together the pieces of this rock puzzle.

Finally (for now), the east side of the house needs work. This space is only about 8 feet wide and I plan to add a decomposed granite pathway to connect in the front and back prairies.

One day it will all be finished and I will not post pictures of these areas again until then.

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