One of the best things about my prairie garden is that it is always changing. From season to season, month to month, week to week, and even day to day, there is always something new to see and discover. One of the most obvious changes is the change in colors as the native plants thrive and decline and their flowers open and fade.
At the end of March, the yellow flowers of Four Nerve Daisy, Tetraneuris scaposa, filled the prairie.
A couple of weeks later in mid-April, the Four Nerve Daisies continued to bloom and the purple flowers of Mealycup Sage, Salvia farinacea, and the pale pink flowers of Husker Red Penstemon, Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red', began to join in the display.
Now, at the end of May, the Four Nerve Daisies are taking a break from blooming and the Echinacia flowers are quickly fading. Meanwhile, the reds of Rock Penstemon, Penstemon baccharifolius, Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora, and Indian Blanket, Gaillardia pulchella, take over.
Here is a closer view of the Rock Penstemon that is growing near a Pale-Leaf Yucca, Yucca pallida. In front of the yucca are the dried flowers of Four Nerve Daisy and, in the right corner, a few stems of Liatris that will fill the prairie with purple spikes of flowers in the fall.
Near the sidewalk, Indian Blanket and Horsemint, Monarda citriodora?, are in full bloom. Horsemint is a native annual beebalm.
The winter and spring rains that "ended" our drought came to an end in April. Plants are beginning to show signs of stress due the dry soil and rising temperatures. The leaves of many plants are a noticeably duller green than they were a few weeks ago and some are beginning to wilt in the afternoon sun. According to yesterday's weather broadcast, we are over three inches below our normal rainfall for May, however we are still three inches above normal for the year, due to the rain that fell earlier in the year.
The next changes for my prairie will be a transition into a summer dormancy so the plants can survive the hot, dry weather. This is not the most attractive time for my prairie. If ever my prairie looks like a bunch of weeds, it is during the heat of the summer.
Maybe this weekend I will tidy up the prairie by deadheading spent flowers and removing the tall growth of the Mealycup Sage and other spring bloomers. It will not be long before I turn on the sprinklers for the first time since last September. (That's over 8 months with no supplemental watering other than hand watering of new transplants and veggies!) The goal is to provide the plants with just enough water to keep them on the green side of dormancy until the first rains of fall bring life and color to the prairie once again.