Prairie Plus

These residential gardens include a variety of habitats from dry to very wet and from full sun to deep shade. The gardens serve a variety of purposes—water management, attracting birds and other wildlife, botanical interest, and of course beauty. In the beginning the gardener received advice from a professional but assumed responsibility for designing her gardens with the passage of time and her comfort with native plant information. The gardener states that planning, planting and maintaining her gardens is great fun and very rewarding. This residential garden site is a Certified Wildlife Habitat and earned second place in the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation district Backyard Conservation competition.

Attracting and keeping birds motivated her to begin using native plants. In 2010 she set out to turn her yard into a wildlife haven. The PRAIRIE and the “WILD WEST” corner area resulted. The prairie, crown jewel of the yard, is a lush crowded swath of New England aster, purple coneflower, yellow coneflower, sweet black-eyed susan,, stiff goldenrod, and false sunflower  interspersed with little blue stem grass. The Wild West features black chokeberry, four species of viburnums, serviceberry, elderberry shrub, and hazelnut. . The hazelnut plus the swamp white oak in the front yard provide hard nuts for birds. Both prairie and the Wild West provide cover for birds and rabbits.

Next to the deck is a BUTTERFLY GARDEN with a birdbath. There reside fragrant aster, dense blazing star and a dwarf coneflower. The water plus the birdfeeders are enjoyed by chipmunk, two types of squirrel, and of course birds. The gardener and her husband identified over 20 bird species.

The gardener planned and planted a RAIN GARDEN in 2011 to deal with water issues in the backyard. The rain garden also receives rain runoff from half of the garage roof, reducing the water (and chemicals) that would otherwise flow into the storm sewers. Yellow fox sedge, grasses, including the shimmery northern sea oats, and tall water-loving plants such as wild senna, cup plant and compass plant grow the rain garden.

This spring the gardener planted a BIOSWALE to deal with additional water issues on the property. The lower portion has water- and sun-loving plants including  great blue lobelia, red cardinal flower, pink turtle head, white turtlehead, queen of the prairie and spotted Joe Pye weed. The heavily shaded middle portion boasts buttonbush, beak grass, palm sedge, Frank’s sedge, and tussock sedge. The sunny upper portion has winterberry, palm sedge, red twig dogwood, highbush cranberry, redfeather arrowwood , Virginia spiderwort, Gray sedge, obedient plant, comfrey, and Canadian anemone. Bioswale plant roots carry the water deep down into the soil minimizing run-off into the street.

In the front yard the stately locust tree is the center of the gardener’s “WOODLAND LABORATORY”, where she places ephemerals and experiments with other shade plants. Among the plants growing are two waterleaf species, globe campion, spring beauties, trilliums, and bloodroot;  all are  welcome sights in the spring. She especially likes the unusual green dragon, the historically interesting twinleaf, Jacob’s ladder, and celandine poppy.

Last summer she put up a bird house and a bat house and surrounded these houses with a second prairie. Butterfly weed, big bluestem, western sunflower, and prairie dropseed thrive there, with tall ironweed and rosinweed towering over them.

The gardener was delighted when she learned that prickly pear is an Indiana native. In homage to her spiritual home is Arizona is a desert window-box on a shed, where the prickly pear is flourishing.

See photos of the gardens through time

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