PRAIRIEFORM

Everyday excursions in the urban landscape

Plants as magnets for the good and bad

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Observing the Joppa Avenue Landscape in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for bees, butterflies, and bunnies
Lounging and observing the laboratory

The occasional sad reality of doing landscape design is that not all landscapes you create will survive long-term. Ownership can change, and maintenance can be spotty. At the very least, you can expect that some plants will die or be less successful than planned due to circumstances outside of your control, and the result will be a landscape different than what you had envisioned. In our case we never could have anticipated the bumper crop of rabbits that seemed to emerge in Minneapolis in the summer of 2009, or how that bumper crop would subside by 2014. Nor could we have anticipated how much the monarch and honeybee populations would dwindle during that same period. Fortunately, we’ve had a living laboratory of sorts in which to observe all of these phenomena long-term and to see what plants are bunny magnets, and which are monarch and bee magnets.

Here is our run-down:

BEE/POLLINATOR MAGNETS
Nepeta x faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’ / Walker’s Low catmint: Blooms for at least a month (reblooms after a mid-summer haircut), with the bees (bumble, honey, and solitary, not to mention hoverflies, hummingbird moths, butterflies, and hummingbirds) on it from sunrise to sunset
Aster oolentangiensis / sky-blue aster: Very good late-summer nectar/pollen source
Solidago speciosa / showy goldenrod: Also an ideal late-summer nectar/pollen source
Diervilla sessilifolia ‘Butterfly’ / Butterfly bush honeysuckle: Bumblebees love the little yellow flowers; lightly cut back after blooming for a second bloom
Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Longin’ / ‘Longin’ Russian sage: Bees of all varieties love this plant, and it blooms from July virtually til the end of summer
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ / Autumn Joy stonecrop: Amazing late-summer nectar/pollen source

MONARCH MAGNETS
Liatris ligulistylis / meadow blazing star: They bloom, and the monarchs come. . . in droves; it’s as simple as that
Eutrochium purpurea / Joe Pye weed: Huge, tall, and full of monarchs once they bloom in July
Verbena bonariensis / Brazilian verbena: An annual that blooms from June (depending on when you plant it) until the end of summer and thus provides a very consistent nectar source for monarchs, which flock to it

RABBIT MAGNETS
Echinacea purpurea / purple coneflower: Numbers dwindled down to almost none by 2013, have replanted new ones and caged them
Panicum virgatum / switchgrass: Ultimately disappeared after two years and space taken over by other plants
Sporobolus heterolepis / prairie dropseed: Initially took a huge hit from the rabbits but now seems to be doing better now that it’s been in the ground longer (maybe rabbits don’t like crusty old grasses?)
Koeleria macrantha / June grass: Suffers some damage by rabbits each year in the spring, becomes less attractive to them by July
Rudbeckia hirta / gloriosa daisy: Numbers dwindled down to almost none by 2012; some that had self-sown in cages around other plants managed to survive, and now the landscape is full of them again (but there are also fewer rabbits now)
Liatris spicata / dense blazing star: Caged them and the rabbits have since kept away; landscape now dense enough that the plant has self-sown here and there, and the seedlings seem to be protected by other plants (that is a very loose hypothesis based on casual observation)
Aster oolentangiensis / sky-blue aster: Some were gnawed down to the ground and died; remaining ones caged and are now thriving and self-sowing with a bit too much aplomb
Liatris ligulistylis / prairie blazing star: A choice meal of rabbits of all shapes and sizes; the plants need cages around them if they are to survive a rabbit’s dinnertime whims

Just to be clear and in layman’s terms: bee and monarch magnets will bring you happiness; rabbit magnets, without the proper protection, will bring you sadness.

John Kamp

On Orlando and weeds

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Orlando, Virginia Woolf, weeds, vacant lots, turf grass, landscape design

There’s a line in Orlando that uses an allusion to weeds – or their absence – as a way of highlighting just how patrician the grounds of Orlando’s manor are: “Lying in bed of a morning on the softest pillows between the smoothest sheets and looking out of his oriel window upon turf which for three centuries had known neither dandelion nor dock weed, he thought that unless he could somehow make his escape, he should be smothered alive.” While not in any way a pivotal moment in the story’s narrative, the line says much – to a plant enthusiast – about weeds and the world humans have long lived in: weeds are not a 20th-century phenomenon; they’ve been with us for as long as gardens have been cultivated and lawns have been immaculately maintained. They grow with intent against what the gardener intently wishes would grow.

John Kamp

Weeding with chickens

Tags: , , , ,


A San Antonio-based gardener cracks the weed whip on her chickens. Photo from Xericstyle.

We get asked all the time whether the landscapes we do require no maintenance and don’t require a lot of weeding. There are ways to minimize weed proliferation, and we do what we can in the site-prep process; however, no matter how much you prep a site and use mulch, weed seeds that prefer to travel by air (e.g. dandelions) will always be a an issue in any landscape in virtually any part of the country, or world for that matter. In any case, for those who aren’t interested in spending a few minutes here, a few minutes there weeding, consider hiring a troop of chickens, as shown in the photo above. You can read more about the process here. We make no scientific claims as to the efficacy of this process, but it at least makes for a cheeky and plucky photo.

The other fall foliage

Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s relatively obvious from our posts that we are sizable fans of ornamental grasses. Part of it is for the muscle they can add to an otherwise too-perennial-heavy landscape, and part of it is for the year-round interest they can provide. Save the short month they disappear when when cut back to the ground in spring, they are pretty much a constant presence in the landscape, including in fall and winter. This is all too important when that flush of summer color fades and the landscape begins to go to sleep; other, muted colors, forms, and shapes need to take the place of green and carry the lansdcape into spring. Our reliable faves include Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ / Karl Foerster feather reed grass, Koeleria macrantha / June Grass, and Schizachyrium scoparium ‘blaze’ / Blaze little bluestem. Be sure and mix cool- and warm-season grasses into your landscape so that you get that early flush of green from the cool ones while the warm ones still sleep.

Cutting through some dogma

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Front-yard prairie planting in Plano, TX

We are never ones for dogma, especially when it comes to landscapes and native plants, which is why we dig this post on the Plano Prairie Garden blog. A bona fide prairie lover, he writes on why prairie gardens are not 100% maintenance free. It’s a refreshing read that acknowledges the grey areas within the quest to infuse more native plants of the prairie into the landscape. Read here.

© 2009 PRAIRIEFORM. All Rights Reserved.

This blog is powered by Wordpress and Magatheme by Bryan Helmig.