A Better Sense of Place

2015 May 11 (Mon)

But have you seen the alley?

I forget where I learned this, but it is said that you don't remember where you hear things as much as the thing that you hear. I think of this lesson when I try to remember where I heard that growing native flowers and grasses is harder where the soil is fertile. I think this was in reference to prairie plants. When I see how things have gone so far all over my yard, I can agree. The back alley is amazing while the rain garden, Chicken Yard, and front yard are a bit lackluster.


This first picture shows the alley this morning before the rain. The soil is mostly sandy clay and dry, and yet all these flowers are taking off. Coreopsis, Rudbeckia, verbena, coralbean, deertongue, purple coneflower, straggler daisy, broomsedge, cilantro (of all things), and still-developing partridge pea. As I now know, the main piece missing is grass, but there's plenty of grass seed all over ready to sprout. Mostly little bluestem because it's so central to prairie landscapes. Flowers won't be flopping over so easily once there's a grass support system. I also have some young switchgrass, which will be very interesting to see once it grows up.

This previous picture is coralbean taken 3 weeks ago. One morning on my way biking to work, I looked back and saw a hummingbird visiting it. It was very exciting to see that I could help in some way.

Rain garden

The rain garden is an area only I can love because its potential is hard to see. The sunny south end already has some flowers, but the rest is a bit immature. I have planted some buttonbush and Virginia sweetspire, but there are still large areas that I just don't know what to do with.

It's not full shade as some sun does filter through the live oak leaves, but it's definitely covered with leaves. This isn't making it easy for annuals. By the bird bath are two Virginia sweetspires which should fill in nicely. The inland seaoats will eventually take off too. But that leaves large areas where the only things really appreciating the space are some weird, tall purple asters and calico asters that look ugly most of the year. I suspect I will need to figure out what perennials can handle this situation.

I thought I would throw in this previous view, which is looking along the trail toward the rain garden. I've decided to kill more grass here by covering it with oak leaves. The groundsel was unexpected: it sprouted, and I figure I'll leave it for now. The Florida anise, should it agree, will be full and lovely.

Chicken Yard

Before we leave the backyard, this is the Chicken Yard. It's full of lanceleaf coreopsis right now. I think some other stuff will come up later, but I don't know. I sowed a ton of shade-loving grass seeds recently, but there's no telling how well it'll all sprout with such a thick layer of oak leaves. Other than that, I have two red mulberries, an Eastern redbud, and an oakleaf hyrdrangea. And I am happy to report that I have cut down the nandina!

Front yard

The front yard beds are the babies. There is still a lot of maturing to be done here. I also haven't even finished hoeing and seeding the things. This soil appears to be super fertile. There was a whole lotta weeds this spring. Most of it has died away in the heat leaving untold quantities of seed ready for next spring. Mixed in is a sprinkling of little bluestem seeds. For now, though, we have tickseed, lanceleaf coreopsis, Rudbeckia, and a couple spotted beebalm. The blue mistflower is poised to take over again, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I can't wait for the grass to come in in three years.

The strip right by the road is a bit saddening. I was hoping for rattlesnake master but instead got low hop clover. Now that it's dead, there are large bare patches. I stripped out some of the thatch to give any remaining, ungerminated seeds a chance, but it's mostly just crepe myrtle coming up from tree roots. There isn't even any partridge pea, which sucks. I really wanted an explosion of that this summer. I'll have to make due with tickseed and lancleaf coreopsis until summer hits when there will only be some broomsedge. At least lancleaf coreopsis is evergreen.

So the take away is that it's easier to grow prairie stuff where the soil is terrible because exotic weeds are easier to control there. The front yard and rain garden aren't that great still, but have you seen the alley?


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alley before caterpillars exotic fall flowers front yard laws neighbor planning plant id prep rain rain garden snow sowing spring sprouts summer winter