Monday, September 14, 2009

I used to have a lawn...

Susan Morrison, of the wonderful Blue Planet Garden Blog, challenged garden bloggers to share their lawnless gardens in a post (here) , to bring attention to, among other things, her "ongoing quest to replace the Great American Lawn with garden". A noble cause. She teamed up with Susan Harris, of Garden Rant and The Sustainable Garden blogs (two of my favorite sites) and other outstanding gardeners to create Lawn Reform a new website that advocates for: Regionally Appropriate Lawn Species, Eco-Friendly Care for all Lawns, Design Ideas to Reduce or Replace Lawns.

This challenge involves a contest, with a prize I want. To enter, write a post on your blog that answers the question: "I used to have a lawn, but now I have…” So, here is my entry...

I used to have a (front) lawn, but now I have an interpretive sign explaining why I don't have a lawn (and, I guess, why you should not either).

Rolling up our lawn was the first thing we did when we moved into this house in 1999.
I used to have a (front) lawn, but now I have a short grass prairie with over 80 plant species native to the Missoula valley It is constantly changing, and interesting all year long.

I used to have a lawn, but now I have shooting stars and arrow leaf balsamroot (photo at the beginning of the post), I used to have a lawn in the backyard, too...
but now we have a vegetable garden surrounded by native plants...
with grasshoppers, and visits by over 50 species of birds.
I used to have a lawn, but now I have prairie crocus,
a greenhouse,
and a blog.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fall in the garden

While not technically fall yet, with nights getting in to the 30's and cottonwood leaves turning golden, fall will be here soon. For a lot of reasons, fall is my favorite time of the year, and it is one of my favorite times in the garden. This is the time of the year I really like our little prairie and the look of many of our plants.

It is easy to like flowers in the garden, everyone does, but this time of the year, the grasses are cured golden brown, and the textures of the different species dominate. It is this time of the year, a lawn-alternative garden is much more interesting to me. Some plants, whose flowers are delicate and beautiful, now looking sinister and uninviting like the wavy leaf thistle (Cirsium undulatum, in photos below). In the summer their flowers draw our attention and the attention of butterflies, and in the fall and winter other insects and birds delight in their seeds.
This is a fun time to celebrate the dormancy of plants. Although there my be the temptation to water some plants, try to avoid watering and make a make a native garden something it is not, embrace the changes. This is a fun time of the year to prune, dead head and do some garden maintenance. It is a time to build brush piles for wildlife, and to leave seeds for birds to eats in the winter.
Some recent rains have given new life to some plants. The elkhorn clarkias (Clarkia pulchella) and yellow evening primroses (Oenethera flava) have returned from dormancy and begun flowering (see photo below), some blue flax (Linum lewisii), blanket flowers (Gallarida aristata), and asters (Aster and Erigerion spp.) have also started flowering again.
These small bits of color are made more extreme in contrast to the shades of brown. The browns, though, look and feel more natural this time of year, and give the garden a proper sense of place and season. Bright green irrigated lawns look that much more out of place in the west in autumn.
It is another season to enjoy the garden.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

8th Street Pocket Park: Phase 2

Phase 2 of the Pocket park is about to begin (a photo of the adjacent Phase 1 is above and click here for more info on the park). We received a neighborhood grant to work on the northeast side of the park, and this week will will start implementing the plan (see below).

Last Friday, the Missoula Parks and Recreation Department approved the landscape plan and plant species for the park. This was really good, in and of itself. In many ways, this pocket park is not a conventional park, and one of the ways is that is it falls entirely in the city right of way. Consequently, there are many regulations for what can be planted on the boulevard and related areas. In essence, this landscaping falls under a sort of street tree ordinance, and our proposed native plants do not occur in the city's preferred species list. However, after some discussion, we were granted approval to continue. It is great that the parks dept. saw the importance of a neighborhood garden and value of native plants.

In the photo below you can see the current condition of the park- not much to see and not much to do there, either (yes, that is the whole thing we will be landscaping, it is pretty small).

Below is the landscape plan for this part of the park. The main element in this next phase is a horseshoe court, as well as native plants. Starting this Wednesday night (7-8 pm) we will be preparing the site. Wednesday nights around 7 pm, will probably be a regular day and time to work on the garden, until hunting season, that is, and I guess until it gets dark. OK, so the dates and time could change, so, contact Marilyn to get on the email notification list.

Roughly here is the schedule: remove sod and weeds, install lawn edging around the perimeter of the park, install a split rail fence around the horseshoe court (and on the east boundary of the park, bring in compost and topsoil, form hills, install plants, and mulch the heck out of it. Finally, I'll add some more interpretive signs and the horse shoe pits.

This should go a lot faster than the first part of this project, so check back to see the progress.