Monday, May 27, 2013

Some Thoughts on Gardening with Nature in Mind

About a month ago, I started a group on Facebook called, Gardening with Nature in Mind.  It's mostly for local people, because I want to create a network of folks who can share their experiences with plants and critters in our area, but I have welcomed some of my blogging and other FB friends to the group.  Anyone interested in the topic is welcome.  I am pleased that some of us are offering plants to others, and asking for starts of plants we'd like.  Sometimes it works out to do a trade, but since there were specific plants I was looking for, when I have given a plant to someone, and they offered me something, I said they could offer what they had to others on the site.  

Each of us probably has different ideas on what it means to garden with nature in mind.  I want to share some things Larry and I do in this area.

Each year, I plant parsley, and the swallowtail caterpillars seem to like the ones in tubs by the house the best, so I planted more in them this year, and also in the herb garden.  They also like the dill that comes up each year in the vegetable garden.

We have several bird baths, and do our best to keep water in them, but they also like the water in the tub.  This is Larry's garden.  He actually laid claim to this tub when I brought it home a few years ago, thinking I was going to put plants in it.  This year, he put a couple tadpoles in it.  I haven't seen them, because they hide.

One of the things I do to garden with nature in mind, is find as many native plants as I can get my hands on.  They grow well in our area, and many provide nectar for bees, wasps, and butterflies, and a food source for the caterpillars.

The silvery leaved plant is Leadplant.  I normally cut it to the ground in the early spring, but I'm thinking I didn't get that done.  Now, I'm glad I didn't.  It takes a few years to get to this size, but it's worth the wait.  Click on the name for more information on it.

Amsonias and Baptisias are two of my favorite flowers.  I rarely apply fertilizer to the flower beds, but when I do, it's an organic one of some kind, and even then, I don't use it for the native plants.  (Added 3/26/17:  I haven't used any, even organic fertilizer for a number of years, unless maybe worm castings in some of the tubs.) 

I NEVER use pesticides of any kind.  The last couple of years, the Genista Broom Moth caterpillars have been causing a lot of damage to this Baptisia.  I didn't figure out what the problem was the first year, but did last year, a little late.  I cut the plant way back with a bunch of caterpillars on it and threw it in the garbage.  I don't know if that was a good thing for nature, but that's what I did.  I am pleased to see that the plant is back as healthy looking as ever.  (Added 3/17:  These plants are still coming up each year, and doing well.)

 I have a number of books I've learned about native, or prairie plants from.  One of my favorites is Gardening with Prairie Plants, by Sally Wasowski.  She has helped me sort out some of my concerns, and come to terms with the way I garden.  I'd like to share some of the things I learned from this book. (May, 2019:  Heather Holm's two books are now my favorites.)

Wasoski explained that very few people have the opportunity to restore prairies, but more are able to replicate prairies by using locally acquired seeds or plants.  She said that if you use prairie plants that are not local genotypes, and even some that are native in other parts of North America besides your area, you will not have a replicated prairie, but may still have the drought tolerance, minimal maintenance, and benefits to wildlife.  She also said prairie plants can be used in formal or other styles of flower beds.  One of the examples of someone's property showed how they kept some of the non-prairie plants they loved planted in the area with the prairie plants.

I don't remember if she addressed using cultivars.  I didn't find the word in the index.  The Goldenrod in front of this Baptisia, which I've not seen the caterpillars on, is 'Wichita Mountains'.  I got it from our local arboretum, and enjoy its bushiness.  I've been cutting these types of plants back a bit so that they won't get leggy.  I haven't gotten to this one yet.  So, I don't even let nature take its course with the plants.  ;o)

Our flower beds are not formal, but I have come to terms with the fact that I will not be having a prairie here.  Some of the flowers I have are from friends, and I think of them when I see the plant.  The daylily here is from my friend, Jo, and even though we don't see each other often, we have a connection through our love of gardening.  The basket is keeping the Woodland phlox safe from the rabbits.  (May 2019: The daylily and a few others in the photos are no longer there.  There is just one daylily left in the yard now, and this is its last season.)

I have seen a few bees, and one wasp so far this year, and a few butterflies.  (I see lots of them in the summer.)  I've seen bees climb into the Comfrey blooms.   The plant grows large enough to hide the meter on the house.  This is one that I love that is not native to the U.S.  After it blooms it gets a bit leggy, and I cut it way back to put on the compost pile.  It is very good for the compost, helping it break down.

This common milkweed was planted in the curb bed by birds or the wind a few years ago.  It is sending shoots up here and there where there is not room for it.  They pull out easily, and seem to stay pulled.  I am pleased to see monarch caterpillars on it each summer.

This is the third season for this area, but some of the plants have only been in one or two years.  It is filling out pretty well.  The plant by the pole is Narrowleaf mountain mint.  It looks to be a spreader, but I like it enough to keep it in check.  I clipped the ends of the Monarda so that it will get bushier, and not sprawl.

Maybe I should have trimmed the Meadow rues.  They sure are tall and almost lanky, I suppose, because of all the rain we've had.

I cut the metal cage in half today, so that the Purple prairie clover can be seen.  I hope the rabbits don't try to get to it.  Maybe the spikes around the top of the cage will deter them.

Back to the book, I like the details about the kinds of prairies there are in North America, and the plants that grow in them.   Even if I was going for a prairie looking garden, some of the plants I grow do not grow in the same areas in nature.  I do seem to be a bit of a collector.

 It's hard to see the Culver's root behind the Cup plant, and next to the Zizea aurea, a host plant to swallowtail caterpillars.  I will need to make sure the Culver's root gets some moisture, but there didn't seem to be a problem last year, even with the drought.  I do hope to water less and less as the plants get established.

This is how the Cup plant has its name.  The leaves meet at the stem in a way that leaves a place for water to collect.  Birds and insects drink it.

I planted seeds of Praire larkspur and Illinois bundleflower last fall, but it doesn't look like they came up.  Through the Gardening with Nature in Mind group, and a mutual friend on FB, I met someone who works at a prairie, and accidentally pulled a few larkspur while weeding yesterday.  Since they will go dormant this summer, I put them near plants that will get tall and bushy.  They are hard to see in this photo, but they are there.  Shell leaf penstemon and Fremont's clematis are another two of my favorite plants.  The grass is Little bluestem.

I think it will grow!  (3/17: A squirrel kept digging it out, and I kept replanting it, but after a few times, it gave up.  I have since learned larkspur is poisonous, so I won't be trying again.  I have other plants that are, and need to check on their level of toxicity. Our granddaughter, who will turn three in June picks plants and puts them into her mouth.  I think I have her being more careful, but don't want to take chances.)

The Wild quinines are getting ready to bloom, and the Wild sennas will soon grow to be taller than me.

This is Rudbeckia maxima.  It only had two blooms last year, but the clump is larger, and it looks like there will be more this year.  On the left is a hyssop of some kind, and the Salvia, 'Black and Blue' is still small.  I'm surprised it survived two winters in a row.  The last two falls, there have been hummingbirds enjoying these two plants.  They are not native plants, but the butterflies and bees also enjoy them, and so do I.  That's a native Columbine on the right.  (May, 2019:  I haven't had any hyssop or 'Black and Blue' salvia for a number of years.  I may see if I can find them anywhere to put into a pot.)

I am tickled to see how well the Purple milkweed is doing, and it sent up another little stem a few inches to the left of it.

The shade plants in the planter had to be moved when the tree was cut down.  The Liatris, Heleniums and, I think Outhouse flower are filling in.  The Lily of the valley and Peonies were Larry's mom's, and will stay.  I am in the process of taking out most of the Painter's pallet and all of the Lamium so that the strawberries under the bench can spread into this area.  (May, 2019: One of the peonies quit blooming a number of years.  Last season, I dug them out, giving the two that still bloomed to my sister-in-law.  There are now a number of different native plants in raised bed and where the peonies used to be.)

The rain last night was hard on the plant, but the blooms are opening.

I am so excited spring finally got here!  I am looking forward to seeing everything grow and make this into a little outdoor room.

I am also excited about getting Illinois bundleflower from someone I already knew and is in the gardening group on FB.  I put it in two spots a few days ago, and I think they have grown some already.

Later this week, I have 38 plants coming from Prairie Moon Nursery, I'm thinking, 6 different kinds, and this is the main area they are going, but I have other spots for them as well.  I hope the soil dries enough to get them planted.

Here's one more look at the area where the tree used to be.  Yes, things sure are growing, and I can relax knowing that even if this is not a prairie, it is a garden that is loaded with butterflies, bees, wasps and such in the summer.  And yes, I sometimes include photos with the neighbor's homes and cars in them.  We live in the city, and I'm thankful for our neighbors.  Some don't pay attention, and don't care what we do, and others wave and make nice comments.  While it was my dream as a young adult to live off the land on an acreage, Larry pointed out that we are not handy, and I will be satisfied tweaking this.

What does it mean to you to garden with nature in mind?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday

When I got on Facebook today, I saw that Gail was posting about Wildflower Wednesday.  It seems like we just had one, so the month has gone by quickly for me.  Friday will be my last day of work at my job as a special education paraeducator, because I am retiring.  I have already completed my application for subbing.  I hope to substitute a couple days a week during garden season, and four or so when it's not.  I am excited, but sad, because I really will miss the people, especially the students.

So, after I saw that it is Wildflower Wednesday, I went out and took photos under the cloudy skies.

I am pleased the rabbits have not eaten the Phlox divaricata that I brought over from the house we used to live in.  The Pussytoes that I have at various edges are blooming. The pink on the right, and back a bit is Phlox pilosa 'Echo Happy Traveler'.  After planting a few of these, I finally found some native ones.  Now, I'm not sure which is which.  I hope when both are in bloom, I'll be able to tell the difference, and maybe get rid of the cultivar.

The Zizia aurea plants are larger than last year, and full of blooms.

I am in the process of planting things on the right side of the sidewalk that are also on the other side, so it can look more like one large bed, with the sidewalk as a path.  When the Zizea aureas were small, I took some small clumps out to plant on the other side.  As you can see, the moved plants are much smaller, but are still blooming.  It just occurred to me that maybe it's because they have been focusing on growing new roots.  I hope they are more equal in size next year.

I like how the Heuchera richardsonii greet, and invite me to walk the path to the area where the tree used to be.

I've shown the Praire smoke geum several times, but am pleased that it is still looking good.

I don't remember what kind of Penstemon this is.  I wonder if it's a cultivar.  It's also shown above, and the two clumps of it are loaded with buds.

I didn't notice the Orange hawkweed blooms until I went out today to take photos.

I've shown what I think is Rose mock vervain already this season.  It will bloom most of the summer.

The Amsonias are starting to bloom.  This one is hubrichtii.  The native columbine from the front yard did not seed itself in the front, but there are a number growing here on the east side of the house now.

When I last showed the Virginia waterleaf, it had flower buds that hadn't opened yet.

I like how this plant is growing between the boards of the little fence.  I don't remember planting it.  I can't tell if it's Dame's rocket. When I looked it up, I saw that it is native to our area.  It is a noxious weed in some areas, which I think I knew.  I guess that's why I had been thinking it is not a native plant.  I had some a number of years ago, so maybe some seeds had been dormant awhile.  Do you know what this is?

This is the first Amsonia I planted.  I think it's tabernaemontana.

The Gas plant buds are cool looking to me, even when they are not yet open.

I'm thinking this is False Solomon's seal.  It is finished blooming.  I planted a few starts in a tub that a friend gave me last year, and it is competing with the weeds to fill up the space.  I need to get those pulled.

I'm trying to remember if I learned what the ID of this weed is.  Do you know?

I'm thinking this Baptisia, or False indigo may have come up from seeds from another plant I have.  There is another small one in front of it.

After such a cold spring, we had a week or so in the upper 80s, and even hit 100 one day.  Now, for the last few days, the highs have been in the 50s and 60s.  I better not complain, though, after all of the bad storms and tornadoes that have devastated Oklahoma and, I'm thinking, Kansas.  I have been praying for those affected by them.  We are supposed to have a bit of a warm up, so by Friday afternoon, when I get off of work, I should be able to get right into the garden.  I hope you are able to be out in yours.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Area Where the Tree used to be

After such a cold spring, it is now warmer than usual.  I am thankful for the rain we've had, and are continuing to have.  Some have had some pretty bad storms, though, and I'm sorry for the loss of those who've experienced tornadoes.

The plants seem to have had a growth spurt the last few days.  I am continuing to have fun seeing daily changes in the gardens.  I am pleased to do an update on the west front yard.

The pussytoes are blooming this year.  I'm pretty sure they didn't last year.  The phlox divaicata did not get eaten by the bunnies this year, and are blooming nicely next to the pussytoes.  The large leaf belongs to the cup plant, which is quite a bit larger than it was last year.

Here's the view from the front porch.  I took quite a few plants out of the area with the bicycle so I can put some of the same native plants that are on the other side of the sidewalk.  I want the two beds to become more like one, with the sidewalk as a path.

We'll head wast.  The area where the white basket is, is where I planted the Illinois bundleflower that has not come up so far, but some other seedlings have.  I haven't figured out what they are yet.

Scott thinks this may be a rudbeckia or echinacea of some kind, but whatever it is, there is a nice row of them, like someone planted them there.

The next two photos were taken closer to the fence.  Do you know what they are?

We'll continue west.

We're still facing west, but heading back closer to the house.

The raised planter is filling in nicely.

These Peonies and the Lily of the valley right next to the raised planter were planted by my mother-in-law when she was alive and lived here.  Larry and I were just talking about what we think his parents would say about the yard.  We decided his mom would like it, but think it a little busy, and his dad would not care one way or the other.

I have someone who wants the lamium that I need to dig out so the strawberries under the bench can spread some more.

I hope your spring is going well.  I'm glad the severe weather watches and warnings are over for our area.