Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gardening Year 2010: Looking Back on the Prairie

On my suburban prairie, one gardening season officially ends and the next one officially begins on the day I clear off the last season’s dry, brown stalks to make way for the next season’s fresh growth of grasses and wildflowers. This usually occurs mid-February, weather permitting.

Most prairie plants die to the ground once their season of growth is over or from the winter cold. Cutting back and removing the old, dead growth gives perennial plants room to sprout from the roots or from a rosette of leaves that forms over the cool season. Removing the old growth also allows sunlight to reach the seedlings that sprouted in the fall and helps in the germination of new seeds in the spring.

Historically, fire rejuvenated the great American prairies by removing dead plant material and suppressing tree and brush growth. Fires started from natural sources, such as lightning strikes, but the Native Americans also learned the benefits of fire on the prairie and intentionally set them. Prairies greened up quickly after a fire and attracted grazing animals, such as the American bison, which were hunted by the Native Americans.

Controlled burns are used today to clear managed prairies. Fire, in a residential neighborhood, is probably not a good option for my prairie. Of course, there is always the possibility that a discarded cigarette butt or a vandal that does not appreciate the natural look of prairie plants will start a fire to help with the maintenance of my prairie. Until then, I must clear my prairie the hard way, on my knees with hand shears and electric hedge shears.

Here is a look back at the last gardening season and a look forward to the start of the next one. It is always fun to see how plants have grown, changed, and relocated over time. Even more fun is looking forward to the next season.











Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's Cold on the Prairie!

It started with rain early Tuesday morning and then it turned to freezing rain. The freezing rain gave way to sleet and finally snow. When the precipitation ended, all flat surfaces were covered sheet of ice. And all the while, temperatures dropped from the 70s on Saturday, the 50s on Monday, the 20s Tuesday, teens today, and single digits tonight.

I am fortunate that my office shut down yesterday and today so I do not need to get out on the roadways with the crazies. Instead, I can stay safe at home and take pictures of my prairie as viewed from the warm indoors.

Well, it is warm most of the time. Many parts of Texas are enduring rolling blackouts. I think it is so we will have enough electricity to power the Super Bowl stadium and the hotels hosting the visiting teams. The power outages seem to be on a predictable schedule. Each has come at 25 minutes past the hour, every other hour, since 6:25 this morning and lasted about 20 minutes at a time.

A four nerve daisy blooms through the snow and ice.

A dove is hunkered down near the patio.

The red feathers of this cardinal brighten a cold, dreary day. Looks like I will have to venture out into the cold soon and refill the feeder.

I know there are other parts of the country with more snow, ice, and colder temperatures than we have here on the prairie. Stay safe and warm wherever you are.

I need to shut off the computer before the next power outage.