About six years ago, we began looking for a way to soften a large expanse of hard surfaces, provide additional outdoor seating, expand existing garden beds, establish more growing spaces – and find a way to draw the eye further afield.
We talked, we walked, Tom took to the drawing board, measurements were made, wood was purchased, hammer and nails and saws were employed. After a time, an arbor emerged, looking like the shell of cabin. Ma and Pa and their little House on the Prairie. First named Penny’s Arbor House by the then young lad next door, it was christened last year as Papa’s Treehouse by our grandson, Ezra.
A healthy row of existing hostas was divided and transplanted, and a woodland garden started to grow. New plants were introduced, and climbing specimen took root. First a climbing rose, then several clematis, which came from friends’ gardens, and Abraham Lincoln, a gift from Jennifer and Jason one Mother’s Day. They were radiant this spring, climbing higher than ever before. Sweet Autumn Clematis, a division from my friend Phyllis, has really taken hold. This year, it has scaled the trellis of the arbor wall, snaked rambunctiously over the top and is presently creeping down the other side. I can’t wait to see the signature white blossoms as Autumn approaches.
When we first moved in, I initially wanted a rose garden – but, borrowing from an oft used phrase, I was never promised a rose a garden – and never imagined the damage deer can wreak. There IS a sweet, clambering rose that cloaks part of the arbor in June, however. Gardening, like life itself, calls for compromises.
Our initial plans were big and bold and worthy of the space we allotted. They would also be free food for the resident deer population. We eventually came to the idea of planting natives and grasses. Once established, they were lower maintenance and they would most likely thrive here on the Cutoff. It seems we no sooner made the decision to go native than plant divisions from generous gardeners and abundant gardens came our way.
A few grasses and some native Ageratum were shared, a plant was purchased here and there from native plant sales, garden club members’ sales, and the characteristic generosity of like souls with very green thumbs – especially those of the Elmhurst Garden Club. Big bluestem and Butterfly Weed, Indigo and Bee Balm, Compass Plants, Joe Pye Weed, and much, much more.
Our prairie garden has taken off, pushed past boundaries and developed a blowsy, free-spirited personality of its own.