Accidentally native

bradarmiJanuary 19, 2010

I have a corner spot that used to be a very productive vegetable garden in the house I grew up in. Now that I am building a home of my own I noticed the abandoned garden has become a catch-all for clearance perennials and unwanted shrubs that I just couldn't throw out or never got around to plant. Also, I noticed that several weeds have taken over and the idea came to me to convert this forgoten corner of the yard "back to nature". The neighboor's trees block out a little of the sun - but there is enough there in teh morning. My dad really (ironically) liked the idea since the surrounding area is difficult to mow and when it rains a lot - floods.

Once I clear out the wanted shrubs and perennials I plan on converting the area to a rain garden - natural meadow. I already started reading some infor online and ordered some mail-order catalogues from prairie moon nursery etc.

Inteerestingly, echinacea, black-eyed susan, and some native sunflowers are already growing there. Now I have to ID the "weeds" to see if they are desirable prairie plants, or invasive species. As someone who grows orchids, hdrangeas, and roses, I am actually looking forward to planting natives who dont require babying. I want to get some helianthus, native lupines (since I cannot grow the Russel hybrids), native delphiniums (since I cannot grow the fussy European varities), and butterfly weed. There are almost so many fine native types, I wonder why I ever wasted my time with the non-natives. (think Columbine and dodecatheon). I also want to get native clematis (Clematis virginiana) many plants I think that when I landscape the new house I may go almost exclusively native...ok some English roses and some clematis.

any thoughts, I have a guide book or two on native prairies plants and native Illinois plants.

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How you approach this should depend on the desired end result. If you are willing to live with some weeds, burning or mowing can help keep them at bay and promote the desirable native species, and you could even dormant seed native prairie plants in late fall/early winter. The key is don't let the weeds go to seed. It will likely take a couple of years of spring mowing/burning to see progress. If the weeds seem to greatly outnumber the natives, it may be best to kill it off with round-up, etc and start over whether by plugs or seeding, depending on the size of the area & your budget. This will also be a 2-3 yr process, but will be well worth it in the end. I've had very good luck with Prairie Nursery out of Westfield, WI. They mailorder and have a very diverse seed & plant offering. Also, lots of planting/maintenance instructions on their website & catalog. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 11:03AM
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Iris virginica is a good choice for a rain garden. Try this site, there is a lot of good info on native plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wildlife Gardeners

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 5:16PM
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