Monday, April 1, 2013

Re-post: The End of My Foolish Prairie Garden

Hello cyber gardening friends. It has been almost three months since my last post. It is hard to believe the time has gone by so fast.

You may have noticed that I added a page to the blog with a list of other garden and nature blogs. I still have not added my plant list that I promised in the last post. I have the list in a spreadsheet, but it will require retyping in a different format to get it posted.

Otherwise, I have been working on some landscaping projects. I am not ready to share any pictures yet. In fact, I don't have any. I have not taken any garden pictures in the last three months. I guess one good thing about taking a blog break is that I save computer hard drive space. Maybe I will take some pictures soon.

I thought I would re-post my April 1 post from last year. It was supposed to be an April Fools' joke about giving up on my prairie garden and going back to a lawn. Or was it? Maybe it was foreshadowing of changes to come? Maybe that is what I have been working on for the last three months? Maybe not. You will just have to wait to find out. 

So here is last year's April 1 post:

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.


  1. What is the big deal with maintenance or no maintenance? Go ahead, turf junkie and pretty please with sugar on top, install that silly, flat, polluting, good for nothing lawn. So long.

  2. Ha! I remember when you did this post last year...and for a brief moment, I really was struck with a pure panic! I hope the weather is treating you well so far this spring :-)

    1. You know I am too much of a plant collector to go back to a lawn monoculture.
      We are behind in rain this year. As luck would have it, rain is predicted for several of the days I planned to take off work and garden.

  3. You are such a tease! Please don't make us wait another 3 months to see what you've been up to.

    1. Well, Marti, you still have not seen what I have been up to. Those are all pictures from last year. This year is coming along much more slowly than last, but it is actually more normal. Spring seemed to start a month early last year because the winter was so mild. This past winter was mild too, but there were a few more cold spells.

  4. Well, thank goodness for that. You had me fooled because I know how much maintenance is involved. But I also know that to do this in the first place you have to be a certain type of person and that person does not go back to grass however old they are, or however much work they have to do. We thrive on plants and projects. Happy gardening.

    1. Plants and projects are what keep me off the streets and off the sofa, Lancashire rose.

  5. Nice try - there is NO WAY you would go back to lawn :) - I am looking forward to seeing your latest projects!

    1. I have not done nearly as much as you, xericstyle. I am kind of slow to finish projects because I always seem to start a new one before I finish the last. I am trying hard not to start new ones this year until the old ones are finished. Maybe there will not be any new projects this year. I need to rest a little.

  6. Oh, thank goodness you have reappeared! Your true reporting (downs as well as ups) have kept me going for several years. In the non-lawn areas around my house, late winter/early spring seems to require the most cleaning up, and this year I have also discovered some unexpected non-return of old favorites. Like Lancashire Rose, I thrive on plants and projects, but I also check regularly for results on your prairie for inspiration!

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment Margaret. Sorry you had some plants that did not come back. I don't think I lost any plants over the winter. I have the opposite problem with plants that reseeded and need to be thinned out.


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