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Posts Tagged ‘Prairie Gardens’

“Often a butterfly stopped to rest there.

Then Laura watched the velvety wings…”

On the Banks of Plum Creek – Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

Like the young Laura Ingalls of the Little House books, I watch the “velvety wings” of butterflies. I squeal with girlish glee when a Monarch flits by, dipping around as if by the mere breath of the breeze, partaking of the abundance of native flowers flourishing in our prairie garden.

The plight of the Monarch butterfly has been well documented and its migratory flight has been monitored for more than a decade. I have often shared photos and thoughts about the Monarchs and bees in the journey of this little blog, from travels afar to what is right under my nose here along the Cutoff.

Last summer was alarming, especially here when I saw but one Monarch. One. This year, I have spotted at least a dozen and have found Monarch eggs and caterpillar on the milkweed – enough times to have perfected my happy dance. Butterflies have been flitting about and stopping to sip on the Joe Pye Weed, the Monarda (bee balm), and Echinacea (cone flowers) which are all a bloom in these dog days of summer. There are bees and moths and other pollinators that also show up on sunshiny days, sipping sweet nectar from the cups of flowers. It is a regular insects’ tea party, if ever there was one, here among the native plants and some of their distant relatives.

This increased activity is encouraging for those of us who have worried about the changes in nature that have occurred in these past decades; we counters of bees, planters of pollinators and taggers of “velvety wings” who have become a small army of citizen scientists. I am cautiously optimistic.

As I brandished my watering wand, I reflected on how much is yet to be done and how much has already been accomplished on our little acreage . I watered some newly introduced cone flowers and pulled that rascal, Creeping Charlie, who was cavorting  among the feverfew and indigo, and I imagined Laura’s life along Plum Creek.

How our little prairie has grown! Established in August, 2013, it is now a crowded confusion of exuberance and joy that will need dividing and some expansion of plots come Autumn. For now, I’m enjoying watching those velvety wings of nature as the plants reach for the sun and spread their arms in a blowzy embrace of prairie life.

I remain appreciative of all the green thumbs who shared their plants in our little adventure, and I am optimistic with this glimmer of hope for the Monarchs and the bees.

Here are a few photos of the prairie garden being developed in 2013

and recent photos of the garden today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_8771Our prairie garden is flush with native species and an abundance of prairie grasses, while the perennials in the front islands bravely attempt to establish their permanence amid a colony of advancing ferns.

Then, there are the aggressive appetites of the wandering herd of white tailed deer. What’s a gal to do?

Front island:July

Well . . .

. . .  I have been  experimenting with composing prairie inspired floral arrangements, cutting armfuls of grasses out back and small snips of what the deer don’t eat from the front.

Prairie Arrangement:#2

Oat grass, Big Bluestem, Monarda, Indigo, Joe Pye weed, and a curtsy to Queen Anne’s Lace, which was frolicking too close to the road for me to resist just a few of her lacy caps.

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These flowers, both tamed and wild, pose quite fashionably in vases, jars, and other containers that are scattered around the house. A few arrangements have even made it to friends’ homes and a graduation party. Prairie Arrangement:2#3

Prairie arrangement:#1

Prairie Arrangement:#4

Part of my daily routine is to wander, clippers in hand, from garden bed to garden bed, observing what is blooming and what is spent, what the deer might have munched on and what I might cut and bring inside.

Sometimes,  just a few buds pinched back from overflowing pots are all that is needed to bring the garden indoors. Have you ever used parsley or basil in a vase? Snipping a few stems not only helps the plant regenerate, but, it brings fragrance into the kitchen and is a quick herb to pinch for extra flavors in a simmering pot or summer salad.

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I love the abundance of summer.

Here are a few more flowers from our garden, and a bouquet I picked up from a vegetable stand where I buy locally harvested sweet corn. The owners are growing flowers and herbs in raised plots behind the barn and selling them from the stand as well.

Farm:Arrangement #1

Do you keep floral arrangements outside on your patio, porch or deck? Do you pick from your garden, a favorite floral shop, or grocery store? Do you have favorite flowers for bouquets?

Prairie Arrangement:#5

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DSCN5402I just came in from watering and weeding and watching. It is serious work – for there I stood, with a hose that was leaking in several spots onto the driveway, the grass, and me. Snippers and garden knife in one hand, leaking water wand in the other, I decided what I really needed was a cup of coffee. I set a slow drip on the roses, went in for a cup of Joe, snatched a few molasses cookies, and settled myself on a bench in the arbor.

As I sipped and dunked my cookie (are you a dunker?), I could hear a hawk screeching above, his majestic wingspan just visible over the canopy of trees. Mama Robin swept in and out of a branch where I could see her nest of babies peeking up for morsels. The wrens chattered as they tended to their own – in the bluebird house. Then, in the brush next door, I could make out the form of a doe. She was pulling down branches for a morning treat, then, she walked past me, amazingly unaware of my presence. She moseyed past the grassy knoll and went on her way, perhaps to check on the twin fawns.

It is these tiny moments in the vastness of time that bring me joy. I fret about the weeds, the weather, the work, but it is these brief passages that bring poetry into my life and this little retreat that gives me time to reflect.

This arbor, commonly called Penny’s Arbor House, was designed and constructed by Tom,. It has grown into a refuge as it softens the space between the lawn and the house, which is hard blacktop.

grass-areamayThe arbor was envisioned long before we started the grassy knoll. Indeed, it was while sitting in the arbor that the idea was hatched to attempt a prairie garden. A space was marked, soil was turned, and a few plants were slipped into the soil, and a garden slowly emerged.  This photo was taken in the early summer of 2013.

Over the past year, through the generous cuttings and divisions of friends and through amazing opportunities, our vision of a bit of a prairie grew into a reality.

One of my oldest friends, Phyllis, shared grasses and clematis, that latter of which is currently clambering up the arbor and will burst forth in white blooms later in the season. Phyllis and I have been friends since high school. I don’t think either of us thought, way back when, that we would one day be granny gardeners.

Dear Jan has shared tall grasses and other plants that have enhanced our landscape dramatically, turning our eyes upward and outward as they have filled not only this grassy knoll just beyond the arbor, but, are holding court further back as well, training our eyes away from the expressway that passes us by.

Right now, the bee balm are in favor, along with Joe Pye weed shared from the herb garden in Elmhurst as plans were underway for the refurbished  conservatory.  Other plants are coming into their own – and I can’t wait to see what they are. Surprises abound in our garden – gifts yet to be enjoyed.

We have a long way to go with this project; a gate and some edging or fencing to define the space and help cut down on weeds. We keep talking, my Antler Man and me, sitting in the arbor, dreaming. A fire pit is planned and a desire to use what we have on hand to contain the space. In-the-meantime, ’tis good to have a spot to sit and watch the tiny moments of life pass by.

Here are a few photos of the grassy knoll/prairie garden right now. If you click onto the photos, especially those of the grasses, you will see much more. DSCN5392

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