Sunday, April 1, 2012

The End of My Foolish Prairie Garden

I have been thinking about the future of my prairie garden for a while and now on April 1, I have finally made the difficult decision that it is time to abandon this foolishness and declare my four year prairie garden experiment a mistake and a waste of time.

I know this will come as a shock to many, but I have thought long and hard about this and the truth of the matter is that I miss my lawn and I want it back. I wish I could have known how much I would miss my lawn before I went through the effort of digging out the lawn by hand and replanting with Texas native and prairie plants. Now I know how much I appreciate the uniformity and clean look of freshly mown grass. I suppose the stigma of being the only person in the neighborhood without a lawn influences my decision too. My prairie garden is out of place and does not blend in with the rest of the neighborhood. My garden is a cacophony of colors, shapes and textures in a sea of flat green grass, geometrically shaped shrubs and over pruned crepe myrtles. My prairie garden style even makes me more of a neighborhood outcast than the neighbors with traditional style lawns that are not maintained and are overrun with weeds. The planted stock tank in front of my house may not help matters either.


2004. The "before I removed the lawn" look complete with rectangular shrubs
and For Sale sign. Standard Plano landscaping. This is the look I want again.

2007. The beginning of the end for the lawn. I just could not control my urge
to expand that flowerbed and remove my beautiful carpet of St. Augustine grass.

2012. The neighborhood misfit as it is today with no lawn. 

Over the last couple of years, I have grown to miss some things about lawns, particularly their maintenance. For example, I love the smell of fresh cut grass. I even miss cutting grass every week. I miss the roar of a gasoline powered mower that drowns out all other sounds and gives you a few peaceful moments to think. You can also sing at the top of your lungs while mowing and no one can hear how bad it sounds. The same goes for gasoline trimmers and blowers. Oh, and don’t forget the exhaust fumes. Just thinking about the scent brings back so many memories.

Speaking of scents, this is the time of year that the air is filled with the scent of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. After working my way through college at a garden center, I can usually identify the chemical scents that the wind carries into my garden from several lawns away. Last weekend, while working in my front yard, I picked up a familiar scent of what I thought was the herbicide 2,4-D. A few minutes later, a neighbor a couple of houses down came around to his front yard spraying his lawn from a premixed hose end sprayer. I watched with envy as he, in shorts and bare feet, sprayed the chemical concoction on his lawn as his wife and two small children played nearby and sometimes crossed into the area he just sprayed. That is the picture of the American dream.

I found this news clip on The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center’s facebook page a few days ago. 
The video talks about how the invasive bastard cabbage from Europe is choking out native wildflowers. The weed has been popping up everywhere around here for the last couple of years. I even found one growing in my prairie. I pulled it out once it bloomed and I realized what it was. In the future, our lovely lawns may be the only zones free of bastard cabbage because we can easily kill the invaders with weed and feed fertilizers and other chemical herbicides. The availability of chemical herbicides is another advantage that lawns have over my prairie garden. You cannot spray herbicides in a prairie garden because they will kill all of the prairie plants. Weeds need to be removed by hand in a prairie garden. What a waste of time that is!

The header of this blog says that my prairie garden is low maintenance. Well, I lied. It is not low maintenance. Sure, I don’t have to do things like mowing every week, but the work never ends. I have been working on this garden since I moved into this house eight years ago and I am still not finished. Every time I think I am close to being finished, I think up a new project. That is the problem with this type of garden, it stimulates creativity. I can’t stop thinking of new things to do in the garden. New plants, flowerbeds, pathways, rain gardens, vegetable gardens, flagstone patios—the ideas keep coming and I am powerless to stop them. I am tired and getting too old for all of this manual labor and I am too picky to pay someone to do the work for me. A lawn would be a better option. After all, how creative can you get with a lawn unless you want to create a putting green or a crisscross mowing pattern like they have on baseball fields?

I realize that some nature lovers will argue that my prairie garden provides much needed wildlife habitat. I suppose it does to a degree, but my little plot of native plants cannot make up for the volume of native habitat that is lost to development every day. If native wildlife cannot adapt to our changing world of foreign, invasive plants, lawn grass, genetically modified food crops and concrete, then their eradication is inevitable. I am not going to devote my precious lawn space to native plants that support dying species.

After last year’s drought, spring rains have raised lake levels and our watering restrictions have been revised to allow watering once a week. This seems like the perfect time to plant a new lawn. Once I begin planting my lawn, I will have to rename this blog. I think the new header should read: Plain Ol’ Plano Garden - Returning to a generic, boring, high maintenance suburban landscape that is nothing special and just like all the others.

Below is one last look at the Plano Prairie Garden before I start ripping out plants and planting my new lawn. Click on the video below for mood music as you scroll through the pictures.




Autumn Sage, Salvia greggii, Husker Red Penstemon, Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red', Four Nerve Daisy, Tetraneuris scaposa, and Pale Leaf Yucca, Yucca pallida.

Gulf Coast Penstemon, Penstemon tenuis.


Morning dew on blades of Indian Grass, Sorghastrum nutans.

Monarch caterpillar eggs about to hatch.

A skipper on four nerve daisy.

Ladybug beetle on Elbow bush, Forestiera pubescens.

31 comments:

  1. Great job! I hate to admit it, but you actually had me going for a bit! (I missed the April 1 reference at the beginning....)

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  2. Hilarious! This was fun to read and as soon as I saw the title I remembered your post from yesterday. Good job setting us up.

    Kids playing in the herbicide? Oh my.....

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  3. Pretty funny. I'm a latecomer to your blog.....what has your HOA had to say to you. Luckily I live in a place
    where I doubt that would be an issue, but I know others who live in suburbia wonder about getting around the HOA.

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  4. I wasn't fooled but I did love the before and after pictures (especially the after pictures).

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  5. Plain ol' Plano garden! haha Thanks for the laugh!

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  6. You did have me going for a little while. I was screamming "Noooooo!", until it dawned on me that you were pulling our legs. What a laugh! Thank goodness the beauty of your garden will go on and on.

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  7. Blend in? No thanks we're not smoothies. We are the dance to a different tune, with a garden.

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  8. Oh, please: April 1, of course. I didn't realize immediately, coming from AltroVerde by Alberto I was not exactly prepared to read such a post.
    Your "neighbourhood misfit" is simple beauty.
    And reminded me of Curiosity killed the cat: Misfit, freak that's on the street :)
    Hope you make many converts and wish you the best!
    Maria

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  9. And I thought I was the dramatic one in the family. All I can say is "oh brother"! :) Tracy

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  10. OMG...all I saw was the title in my sidebar and I thought "NOOOOOO!" Luckily, as soon as I read the first line, my blood pressure leveled out and I lol'd ;-)

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  11. Oh, yes, the flatness, the greenness, the squareness. I can see why you would want to go back to that. I mean, color, texture, AND wildlife? Paleeze!

    Seriously, though, EXCELLENT post!!! Just loved it. And your garden color and texture is SPECTACULAR!!! The Husker's Red with the Greggii and Four Nerve is breathtaking. Just realized I have those 3 in the same bed...with a little Salvia farinacea mixed in, too. Your picture of the Salvia greggii show exactly why it is my favorite perennial. I mean, look at that color!!! I am not a lawn hater by any means, but you have certainly proven that no lawn can be a beautiful thing.

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  12. Wow! Love what you've done with the place. Looks great! It makes your house look much more upscale, too!

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  13. Ha ha! I love a barren green lawn to match the barren wasteland of my mind. So restful to not have plants/thoughts. In all seriousness, what's your take on finding out that one of your commonly-sold, exotics is actually somewhat invasive...such as a japanese spirea? I am finding it pretty painful to dig up healthy plants.

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  14. Thank God it's April 1 and not the end of the world as we wish it to become. Loved the pictures of your garden through the years.

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  15. Thanks for all the comments. I don't understand why no one believes that I want a lawn again. I do. Well, I did. Today I was amazed at all the butterflies, bees, and ladybugs I had in my prairie. I even saw my first hummingbird of the season. With all that going on, how can I trade in my prairie for a boring lawn. Besides that, it would be too much work to convert the prairie to a lawn. I actually think I may finish all of my projects this year.

    FYI. Although this is April Fool's Day, there were some elements of truth in many things I said in this post. Shirley, the part about the neighbor spraying herbicide in bare feet and the kids playing in the sprayed grass it sad, but true. theailurophile, I live in a neighborhood that does not have an HOA. As far as I know, my yard is either supported or tolerated by the neighbor. Anonymous Sister Tracy, you are still more dramatic than me. Anonymous with the Japanese spirea, I made the choice to remove Verbena bonariensis from my garden about four years ago because I found out it is on a few invasive plant lists. I love the structure of the plant and it is a great nectar plant for butterflies, but I can see how it is considered invasive. It has been four years since one of the plants bloomed in my garden, but I continue to pull up numerous seedlings every year. Of course, I have even removed native plants that were way too healthy and too aggressive for my tastes.

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  16. Absolutely hilarious, Bluestem. You didn't get me for one moment though. But what a telling argument you make against lawns with your spoof. I'm going to post a link on my Lawn Alternatives FB page. Everyone needs to read this!

    Plain ole Plano -- too funny!

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    Replies
    1. Pam, I am going to start going by the name St. Augustine or maybe Bermuda. I am still working out the details.

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  17. Dear Gardener,

    I am butterfly #164. We keep count of all the nectar flowers in everyone's yard.
    Here are the statistics for your grassy neighbors...
    0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1(missed a dandelion),0,0,0,0,0
    Your butterfly nectar score is 1,275 and counting.
    PLEEEEEEASE don't go back to a 0! Thanks and Happy April Fool's Day.
    Ralph (#164)

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  18. I made a similar declaration on April 1st, 2010. I was back to myself on April 2nd!

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    1. Cindy, Now that you mention it, I recall reading that post. I wonder if I subconsciously borrowed your idea. Nah, probably not. I was serious about wanting a lawn again.

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  19. Great idea to rip out the garden. Who needs color, perfume, wildlife, variety, visual interest, uniqueness... boring! Actually, I would LOVE to remove my front lawn. It's not very large, so a garden wouldn't be too difficult to install. However, it faces north. I wonder if I'd get enough sun throughout the day for such sun loving perennials as you have.
    Thanks for the giggle and the gorgeous photos! So jealous!

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    1. melissa, my house faces north too, but I don't have any trees. The neighbors on both sides have large trees, so I get some morning and later afternoon shade. Several of my plants will grow with varying degrees of shade but they do not bloom as much. Give it a shot.

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  20. Thanks for the info about the Bastard Cabbage. Too bad that wasn't an April Fools joke....

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    1. Judy, I am afraid that bastard cabbage will be a bad joke on all of us in the south.

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  21. Good boy, get rid of all those beautiful plants asap and sow your brand new lawn. Ah ehm could you please leave a mark on the bin where you are going to throw that penstemon? I might be around with the car and maybe I can bring it to the garbage servoce by myself... ;)

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  22. Alberto, that would be a long drive from Italy (I am not talking about Italy, Texas either) to pick up a few plants.

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