100+ Natives

Since moving his family to a home in Fishers in 1994, this gardener always wanted to increase the use of natives in the yard of the suburban residence. He remembers buying some “wildflower” seed online, and never receiving the seed. Not a great start. Another early “wildflower” seed packet he used actually included many non-natives. It has clearly been a journey from those early years. After taking the Indiana Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat program in the early 2000’s, he decided to expand the native landscape around the residence. Now, with some patience and planning, there are now over 100 native species into three distinct habitats on the property.

The first and oldest habitat is the BACKYARD WOODLAND. There you will find most of the common woodland and shade plants such as Wild Ginger, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Virginia Bluebells and Celandine Poppy. This area remains pretty wild, primarily being managed for the periodic invasives that creep in, most notably honeysuckle. In addition to the invasives, there are a fair number of native species that arrived through wind and wildlife, finding the niche in which they thrive. Clearly these plants want to be there, and many are more successful than ones that the gardener planted.

The second habitat area includes two RAIN GARDENS at the front of the house, facing west. One has been in place since 2006 and second was planted in 2012. You will be able to notice the difference. The gardener is letting the original rain garden do its own thing. Originally planted with 17 native species, there are now about the same, however the mix has changed. Again, those that prefer this habitat thrive, while others become marginalized. In the second rain garden he planted only a few species to produce a more formal effect with larger clusters of similar plants. This second rain garden is still in the early stages, so it will need another year or two to show its full effect. Rabbits and the drought last year have slowed the progress.

The third native area of the property is what he calls the NATIVE ISLAND, comprising an area of about 2,000 square feet. Surrounded by common bluegrass lawn, this native area is filled with prairie grasses and wildflowers. Some of this area is less formal with nature taking its course. Plants adapted to this environment expand and thrive while others that have been planted are edged out. The gardener manages other parts of this area to produce a more formal setting with specific groupings of plants. The Island sits on the south side of the property, along the side street, and has become an effective border, with many 4’-6’ prairie plants.

Although it took some time to find the right plants for these various habitats, this gardener indicates that it has been fun and rewarding to convert large portions of his property to native habitat. He also enjoys helping others understand how they can include natives in a residential landscape design, without going completely wild. 

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