Please read Parts I & II, posted on March 7th and 9th.
Native perennial plants are easy to take care of after they are established, hence the label of low maintenance. Install grasses and flowers that naturally grow in your geographic area, not cultivars or imports. The initial investment of time and money to establish the garden has paid off. I kept the fence up for two years to make certain that the new plants were rooted. After removing the chicken wire, I erected a short two-foot decorative wire fence to make it look like the flowers were there on purpose. A few people in the area had had their native grasses and plants removed by the city because the neighbors thought it looked like weeds instead of a low maintenance yard. Hence, inform your neighbors or they may get your yard condemned. Check into local laws and ordinances. If they are not conducive to non-turf lawns, petition the lawmakers to change the rules. The local Watershed District has taken photos of my garden to post on their website.
Weeds can sprout up along the edges and sometimes the perennials will expand beyond the fence or on the pathway. I remove these plants right away. My grandma would always say, “Any plant in the wrong location is a weed.” She was right. I move desirable plants to better setting and pull out the remainder to give to friends, place at the curb with a “free” sign, or compost. The perennials needed constant watering the first year but less the second and almost none the third. Their roots go down so deep that drought rarely affects them. A couple years ago there was a moderate drought in the Twin Cities area but my yard wasn’t affected except for the boulevard. It needed water but the rest grew well because their roots reach down about 10 feet underground. They also soak up rain going into the rain garden and I rarely get water in the basement. When I do it is a trickle compared to the previous stream.
Some of the plants just don’t tolerate the site due to many factors, the soil, light, pollution, or they just aren’t strong enough. I replaced them with other plants and the surviving plants naturally filled in the area. The kids in the neighborhood know me as the “flower lady”. The come over and steal a blossom or two but that is okay with me. I only get annoyed when adults let their dogs tread, poop or pee in the flowerbed. It kills the plants.
I cut down the plants in the fall to nearly the soil. I wait until after the first frost so that they will drop their seeds. I gather seeds and give them to people who want to grow their own perennials. Birds swarm the plants to consume seeds before they fly south. I stuff the dead stems into the compost bin. It is a lot of labor to do this in the fall so I split it between several days. Some years I am slow and it snows before I was able to tackle this task. Trudging around in slush to remove the growth. Ugh. In the spring I rake out the flattened remainders of the growth and watch the new shoots emerge. I have had to replenish the wood-chips a couple times but the plants have filled in so there is very little open space remaining. I developed a huge allergy to Goldenrod and have been trying to eradicate it.
During the warm season I never have to purchase flowers. I take them everywhere I venture. There was a drop-in center for clients at one place that I worked and I took flowers a couple times per week. The clients loved the blooms because none of them lived in housing where they could grow flowers. The flowers draw bees, butterflies and lots of animals. My cats love watching and smelling the creatures outside, Nature: The Kitty Channel. Feral felines prowl the beds seeking mice and voles. The only bad experience was a foul smell one day. A skunk must have decided to hide in the flowers and some creature irritated it enough to create a stink. Ugh. I had to close the windows for a couple hours. I knew enough not to venture into the garden that day since skunks are nocturnal and move around at night.
Previous Garden-Related Blogs:
Seed starting tips posted on March 3rd, 4th & 5th, 2010.
Butterfly garden ideas posted on September 28th, 2011.
Composting guidelines posted on November 8th, 2011.
Native perennial plants are the best!
© 2012 Ima B. Musing