Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Native Rain Garden

Cobaea Penstemon
ProfessorRoush is feeling a little vindicated this summer at the prairie revival occurring in his back yard.  As faithful readers know, three years ago I stopped mowing most of the gentle slope between my back patio and the main garden beds, an area I had mowed for 10 straight summers.  I began to let the prairie heal itself, only mowing once a year in late winter. This action has caused no small amount of angst in the household, since Mrs. ProfessorRoush envisions the house and garden as surrounded by a carefully manicured lawn, and she protests loudly and regularly that she wishes that I would just mow those areas.  Unfortunately for her, Mrs. ProfessorRoush married me, a gardener whose urges towards order and socially-acceptable gardening practices are always willing to play second fiddle to my innate laziness and personal distaste of any work that can't be also be classified as fun.  In defense of Mrs. ProfessorRoush, she has offered to mow the lawn for me, a nice gesture that I declined for fear that she'd scalp the entire horizon.
Black-Sampson Echinacea
Mowing the lawn has never, ever been my idea of fun, although NOT mowing has provided me no end of merriment.  For instance, there was the day when the local Prairie Garden club came to view my roses.  These pro-natural-gardening women were horrified at the mere idea that Mrs. ProfessorRoush felt that the Penstemon cobaea pictured above should be mowed along with the grass.  In fact, their reactions were similar to those of another strong Kansas woman, Carrie Nation, when she was presented with the opening of a new brewery.  I was worried for a minute that they would storm the house and stone Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  One after another, visitors to my garden support my decision to allow the garden to grow au natural.   I recognize that asking other gardeners for their opinions on the value of native plantings is a bit like asking Republicans if they favor tax cuts, but perhaps Mrs. ProfessorRoush won't make the connection and then import a group of rampant suburban Stepford Wives to outvote my supporters.

In the droughts of the last two years, I often wondered if I'd have grass, let alone flowers, in this area, but this year a wave of penstemon developed in one area and, several weeks later, the Black-Sampson Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) were blooming hither and yon over another area at the same time as the Catclaw Sensitive Briar (Mimosa quadrivalvis) was blooming.  Not a bad succession of flowers, if I do say so myself.  Most recently, the Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea) has begun to decorate the prairie from horizon to horizon.  I can't wait to see what comes after that.  Obviously, I'm hoping that these native flowers spread over the years and provide me with a free garden full of entertainment.

Purple Prairie Clover
The prairie grasses themselves go on forever here, happily growing with any water that falls with intermittent storms or hoarding the water they capture more regularly from the morning dews.  Entire urban landscape departments are focused on creating and maintaining "rain gardens" to help decrease runoff and conserve natural rainfall, but all I have to do is stop mowing the grass on my slopes to see the ground begin to soak up every drop.  I've got the rain garden to end all rain gardens here. This year the grass is already twice as tall as in either of the past two years, and it threatens to hide the main garden from my sight for the month of August, a good month to ignore the weeds in the rose beds and stay indoors anyway.  By September, I'll be somewhere off admiring my late blooming Sumac, but will someone please send out a backyard search party for Mrs. ProfessorRoush if she disappears?  She's afraid the grass will grow so tall, she might get lost in it, or worse, find a snake.  Either occurrence would be unfortunate for my health.  


  1. What a beautiful succession of wildflowers have sprung up! You're obviously on some high quality prairie there. (I'm another vote for "no-mow", of course.)

  2. You are so lucky that native plants moved into your new meadow. Hopefully the Mrs. will grow to love them more than a manicured lawn.


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