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9. Graceful Grasses Listen To Them Sing

Carolyn A. Harstad Indiana University Press ePub

Of all the world’s flowering plants, the grasses are undoubtedly the most important to man.

—R. W. Pohl

Prairie Cordgrass

Grasses are the mainstay of our native tallgrass prairies, which once covered 170 million acres beginning at the Indiana/Illinois border where natural woodlands gradually melded into vast native grasslands. They stretched from eastern Illinois to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and covered land from the northern border of our country just below Saskatchewan all the way south to Texas. Iowa had the largest unbroken stretch of prairie, covering over 30 million acres. Only small remnants of this incredible ecosystem have survived. Yet rich deep soil still exists in testament to the deep roots and humus of those incredible grasses.

Early travelers referred to the prairies as “a sea of grass” where myriads of flowers in all colors of the rainbow bloomed. Pioneer diarists crossing the plains in their covered wagons extolled the glories of the seasons. Now only about 4 percent of our industrialized nation consists of native prairies, most of those restored remnants here and there. Yet recent sources still list over 800 species of non-woody flowering plants existing in these areas. Imagine how many more have been lost through development.

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3. Planning a Garden? Start With Trees

Carolyn A. Harstad Indiana University Press ePub

Trees . . . frame, anchor, and connect all the elements to the sky.

—Ezra Haggard

Trees, regardless of size, come in a variety of shapes, including spreading, rounded, open, pyramidal, or weeping. Trees of any size or shape can provide cool shade, beautiful fall color, bark interest, and even spring flowers. They give shelter to birds, offer larval food and nectar for butterflies, and encourage wildlife to check out your property. Walk through your neighborhood or watch as you drive through suburban areas to determine what sizes and shapes command your attention and might contribute to your overall landscape design.

Tulip Poplar

Is your property brand new with a newly built house and a blank yard just waiting for help? Or does it already have mature trees casting long shadows or creating dancing patterns of light and shade throughout the day? The title of this book is Got Sun? It assumes you do have sun and that you yearn to learn what to plant in those sunny spots.

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Three Flowers across Three Seasons

Moya L Andrews Quarry Books ePub

Spring is exuberant
with promise.
Summer is lavish
with abundance.
Autumn is mellow,
yet bittersweet.

It is convenient to categorize the plants according to their seasons of bloom, though of course all herbaceous perennials (but not the bulbs) contribute foliage that creates the tapestry of our gardens in each of the three growing seasons.

So, in this chapter we will be considering flowering perennials that also have diverse growth patterns and attractive foliage. All characteristics of plants are important in garden design as flowering ebbs and flows. It takes some years to have complete continuity of bloom, and even an established perennial garden with a back-up of flowering shrubs, vines, and trees will sometimes have blank spots. Deer may be the culprits, but there are other innumerable possibilities for disasters that can occur. Of course, the larger the garden, the more insurance we have against times without any perennial in bloom. References such as lists of plants help us add more than one type of plant per timeframe to carry the show outside and to fill our vases inside. So there are lists in the appendices to provide a guide for choices of both short and tall growers, according to the times they bloom and the conditions they prefer.

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Appendices

Moya L Andrews Quarry Books ePub

BOTANICAL NAME

COMMON NAME

Aruncus

goat’s beard

Astilbe

hybrids

Bergenia

hybrids pigsqueak

Chelone

turtle-head

Cimicifuga species

bugbane, snakeroot

Eupatorium fistulosum

joe-pye weed

Filipendula rubra

queen-of-the-prairie

Hibiscus moscheutos

swamp mallow

Iris ensata

Japanese iris

Iris pseudacorus

yellow flag iris

Iris versicolor

blue flag iris

Lobellia cardinalis

red cardinal flower

Myosotis sylvatica

woodland forget-me-not

Tradescantia

spiderwort

Trollius europaeus

globeflower

BOTANICAL NAME

COMMON NAME

Achillea

yarrow

Amsonia tabernaemontana

eastern bluestar

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Two Work in Progress

Moya L Andrews Quarry Books ePub

Flower gardens are reflections
of their creators.
A garden, as well as the gardener,
is always a work in progress.

Each garden is unique, and it is never the same—day by day, season by season, year by year. Part of the joy of creating a garden is the continual sense of anticipation that comes as a result of partnering with Mother Nature, who is full of surprises. The process of raising flowers is itself instructive. Claude Monet said that perhaps he owed his becoming a painter to flowers. We expand our perceptions of colors, forms, shapes, perfumes, and permutations and combinations. We keep learning about design and elements of style through the medium of gardening. Change is inevitable. Established trees are uprooted by storms and shade gardens are transformed into sun gardens. Small trees mature and sun gardens are engulfed in shade. Water restrictions force us to investigate drought-tolerant plants. A visit to Vita Sackville-West’s garden at Sissinghurst, in England, moves us to create our own white garden. Whatever shifts in motivation and circumstances occur, there are perennials we can find to create the effects we need. We continually augment our collection, redesign beds to combine plants more effectively, use plants in new ways to avoid or compensate for past mistakes. Since perennials are persistent and forgiving plants, we get not only second chances but innumerable chances. The continuity aspect of working with perennials, in terms of both their lifespan and the recurrence of opportunity, is irresistible.

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