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You Can Never Have Too Much Pretty

Part of our permaculture adventure is replacing a large majority of our three acres of turf grass with native gardens. That adventure began a couple of years ago in a scrubby corner of our yard that we didn't mow. I thought it would be possible to toss out some native plant seeds, wait a couple months and miraculously I would have a native planting with butterflies and bees cavorting on an array of blossoms.

Tall Blazing Star , butterfly milkweed and common ox-eye has become one of my favorite combinations in my monarch waystation.

It wasn't quite that easy but I am happy to report that my monarch waystation, my hummingbird garden and my tall grass prairie (formerly known as the scrubby corner) are now thriving and buzzing with activity.

For this blog post, I thought I would just share some pictures of the gardens because you can never have too much pretty.

The process that we have found that works (after much trial and error) starts with the "lasagna method) of mulching. Today BC is putting layers of cardboard down directly on the grass and then covering the cardboard with wood mulch. After a month or so and a few rains, and the cardboard has started to decompose. I arm myself with my trusty cordless DeWalt drill and a two inch garden auger and start drilling holes! Pop the plants in place, give them a good long drink and ta da! I have a garden!

Yellow coneflower edited with my cell phone. I like the feel of it.

The most difficult part is planning for a full season of blooms for the bees and butterflies. And finding combinations of flowers and foliage that work well together. Just last week I planted several different goldenrods and asters in my monarch waystation when I realized most of my other plants would be done blooming by September. I planted silky aster, azure aster, Lindley's aster, smooth aster, showy goldenrod and stiff goldenrod, which, along with the Joe Pye, should provide late season food for the bees and butterflies possibly through November, depending on the weather.

Rattlesnake Master is the funkiest plant ever! Looks fantastic with Joe Pye Weed. I have a story about rattlesnake master and my 22 year old cat that I will share in another blog.

The planning and planting process is both challenging and therapeutic. And even though I know we will likely be moving away from this little slice of paradise, I'll likely keep planting this season, hoping our property will go to someone who will continue this dream.

Yellow coneflower, cardinal flower and bee balm in the hummingbird garden.

As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I'll plan to offer native garden design and coaching next year on a small scale. It's definitely a niche that needs to be filled, judging by the number of guests I have had at Prairie Restorations who are self-admittedly overwhelmed about how and where to start the process of converting their turf grass into native plantings or just putting in a pocket prairie. Many want help "designing" their small gardens and I only know of one person in this entire area who offers that service. Until next summer, then there will be two!

Another picture of the pathway through the monarch waystation, lined with yellow coneflower, butterfly milkweed and blazing stars.

I'm continuing to plant this season so next year I will have showcase gardens to allow clients to have a real-life experience in a designed, mature landscape. So far, I'm pretty happy with how the gardens look and I hope to just build on that in the future.

Purple coneflower in full bloom in my cherry tree guild in the food forest.

The future will also involve redesigning my pollinator circle garden which has been overrun by herbs and coneflowers, as well as plantings in the food forest to provide season long blooms and benefits to the food-producing plants. In each case, we've applied the lasagna method to kill of the turf grass and so far, it appears to be working. With the exception of the food forest, which is a third of an acre, we've probably only converted one tenth of our yard into native planting so far. And yet we've planted thousands of native plants. And probably thousands more (I already have a stash of about 400 plants that need to be put in the ground.) We're just waiting for a break from the heat and a steadier forcast of rain. But that doesn't stop BC from putting down cardboard and wood mulch!

The gardens are full of bees and butterflies and birds and other winged creatures I don't know yet, but they are welcome here. Our home is their home.

One of the smarter monarch caterpillars. Nature can be Darwinian, but I think this little guy survived.

Monarch caterpillars are feasting on the milkweeds and I'm hoping to break last year's record of seventeen monarchs in one day. Unfortunately, I made a rookie mistake and planted my monarch waystation near my birdfeeders. I suspect that arrangement may be detrimental to the monarch caterpillars, and I hope they are smart enough to stay on the underside of the leaves.

BC is mulching an fairly large area today a long distance from the birdfeeders. That area will be my Monarch Waystation II. And hopefully tilt the odds slightly more in favor of the caterpillars.

Other projects include filling in the tall grass prairie with (you guessed it) tall grasses! I'll be planting Indiangrass, switchgrass, little bluestem, big bluestem and prairie dropseed. I've already planted a variety of the taller forbs such as giant sunflower, yellow coneflower, green headed coneflower, gray golden rod, Joe Pye and stiff sunflower. It hasn't filled in completely yet, but the impact of the tall flowering plants is definitely eye catching. Green headed coneflowers can grow up to twelve feet tall and the tall blazing star and gray goldenrod were taller than me last year. It's like walking through a wildflower forest. Maybe that's what I will call it from now on!

I've also planted fox sedge near the tree line where I hope it creates habitat for fireflies. I'll line edge the prairie with prairie dropseed to give it a very intentional, designed appearance.

Monarch on butterfly milkweed. If you plant it, they will come!

The introvert in me is kicking in so I'm signing off now. But not before leaving you with a few more pix. If you have any questions about anything feel free to reach out via the comment section below, Facebook, or email at

Embrace the Pretty!

Horsemint, also known as Monarda punctata. In the same family as bee balm, it also a funky triple decker flower!

The proof is in the pudding. Bee balm is a balm for the bees.

Purple prairie clover, liatris and prairie sage with a soft glow filter applied.

Yellow coneflower (not really a coneflower) back lit by the evening sun.

Yellow coneflower, mountain mint, purple coneflower, wild strawberries, lemon balm, yarrow and comfrey in my apple tree guild in the food forest. The guild also contains egyptian walking onions, sweet fern, blue vervain, showy goldenrod, leadplant, wild leeks and daffodils. And a few weeds...

Culver's root is another funky plant. I love the little yellow explosion of pollen near the bottom of the blooms. This looks amazing when planted with purple coneflower.

Horsemint and wild lupine.

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