Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Prairie Grasses in the Fall

Fall is my favorite season of the year, and not just because of the leaf displays. The prairie grasses hit their peak and begin to dominate the landscape. It seems wrong to wax poetic about the color brown, but these grasses truly bring out the beauty of the many shades of brown. Little bluestem turns a rusty brown, then covers itself in little bits of white fluff that glow in the evening sun. Big bluestem goes for a purplish brown while Indian grass takes on golden brown hues. Switch grass stays green a little longer, but eventually turns the palest tan.

The last several days have been cloudy and damp, so there are no good photos of the grasses glowing in the sun. But the raindrops add their own special touch. Here's a stand of switch grass (Panicum virgatum) covered with drops of water from the previous night's rain:

The switch grass is the frothy-looking stuff in the photo; the occasional darker seed heads are Indian grass.

Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) has its own way of displaying the rain:

These grasses all were grown from seed sowed directly into an old field. The seed was sown approximately 17 years ago, so these grasses are well established. They tend to situate themselves in the conditions in which they are happiest, so the Indian grass stays on the higher ground, avoiding the moist areas.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Restoration Home Run!

We went for a walk in the prairie on the west side of our wetlands today. This was the first area that we began restoring on this property, and we started by seeding a mixture of prairie grasses - little bluestem, Indian grass, big bluestem and panic grass. Several years later we added some forbs (flowering prairie plants) and we've been pleased to see a number of those become established. Today, though, we were amazed to discover about a hundred bottle gentians in bloom. This was not a plant we had seeded here, nor had we ever seen it anywhere on the property, so this had to have returned from the seed bank in the soil. I can't imagine how long those seeds lay dormant, waiting for conditions to be right.

This definitely was the highlight of my day!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


A friend's teenage daughter "friended" me on Facebook recently. Today, she posted some rather melancholy thoughts. I don't know her quite well enough to know if I should be alarmed or just amused at a display of teenage angst. Then I reread her post and realized that it sounded a lot like song lyrics. Sure enough, a quick Google search revealed that it was indeed the words to a song by a band I didn't know.

I replied with words from one of my favorite Dan Fogelberg songs.

"Love when you can,
Cry when you have to,
Be who you must,
It's a part of the plan."

Words that I found inspiring when I was in college and words that I still enjoy.

And words that I thought can apply to gardeners as well! We need to love those moments when our gardens (or parts of them, anyway) simply shine, and sometimes we just need to cry when a storm wreaks its havoc, the dog destroys a favorite plant or some other tragedy strikes. But most of, we need to "be who we must" in our gardens. My gardening style is not formal but it makes me happy. And I know that my style can make those who crave neatness and clean edges a little crazy. But we all need to be who we must in our gardens! It is a part of the plan, after all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rehashing Summer

As fall begins, it's not a bad time to think back on what worked and didn't work in the garden this year. I think I'll pick three winners and three losers for today.

1. Echinaceas - 'Pink Double Delight', 'Coconut Lime', 'Pixie Meadowbrite' and 'Virgin' all returned in fine shape after a rough winter and performed well all year. The first two did get a bit floppy as the season progressed.

2. Eragrostis spectabilis - a native grass that's been planted along side the stream for three years now. Last year I was wondering what all the hype was about this grass. This year, I can tell you that it was "Spectabilis!" Nice mounding growth habit and a great froth of seed heads later in the year.

3. Hydrangea 'Limelight' - Wow! what a great flower display this year. All of them are growing well and just thick with good-sized flower heads in late summer.

1. Carex muskingumensis - this native grass looked wonderful last year but this year looked overgrown and shapeless. I need to investigate whether I should be dividing this grass or perhaps if it just had a bad year. Awkward teenage grass?

2. Chasmanthium latifolium - yes, it's time to admit that it DOES reseed - a LOT! Too much. Time to purge!

3. Me - I didn't take many garden photos in August. What was I thinking?

And I didn't take pictures of the stuff that looked bad, so this half of the post is not illustrated.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Season of Asters

Season of asters
Sweet relief from goldenrod,
Purples and sky blue

Fall is the season of asters. I love the shades of blue, purple and pink that dot the fields. I even like the ubiquitous white asters for the softening effect they give the prairie. I grabbed some quick photos after work will there was just barely enough light. Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009


Fall sun on prairie
Ignites the Little Bluestem
Making all things glow

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I feel like I have been lacking in inspiration lately. I was going to say that I've been searching for inspiration, but frankly it's all around me this fall and I just am not being moved by it.

I want to make a small promise that I will create a small post at least four days a week for the next six weeks. I can do that, right?

This morning as I was walking Mystic, about 20 egrets and herons flew across the back of our property. So the egrets have not gone south just yet.

I did like my haiku last week; I just wish I had a great photo to go with it. Perhaps tomorrow I will leave early and take my camera with? Perhaps???

Layers of fog rise,
threading through the morning sun.
September settles.