I took an objective look at my front yard this week and determined it was sadly lacking in fall color. My four yellow mums in pots flanking the doorway just didn’t bring me quite enough joy. (Yes, I admit it – I have been doing a Marie Kondo purge) What I really want are huge bursts of riotous color and texture before a long Midwestern winter with its ice, snow and freezing temperatures sets in.
After last week's blog, a very good question came up. A client asked, "If I decide to become a native plant purist and avoid mums, then what should I plant instead?
I popped into our local big box store yesterday to pick up a few bags of rock I needed to finish one of my backyard pathways. As I pulled into the parking lot, a huge sign greeted me, reminding me that planting fall blooming flowers helps keep our native pollinators fed. Since my garden is severely lacking in masses of blooms to feed my winged visitors right now, I decided to see what they had to offer.
At first glance, I was thrilled; the garden center was absolutely bursting with blooms — dozens of colors and shapes and varieties —of chrysanthemums. Benches and benches full of them – and very few other nectar rich choices for the mum-reluctant gardener.
Yesterday morning my three-year-old companion came running into the kitchen. Grabbing me by the arm, she pulled me towards the garden, yelling at the top of her lungs, “Gramma, you’ve got bugs…too many bugs.” I could tell from her expression that this was serious business and I would be expected to take care of all the bugs instantly. Not quite sure what to expect, I grabbed a trowel in one hand and a broom in the other and followed her lead – which brought us to a beautiful patch of milkweed pods ready to burst open and spread their seed.
I came home from the Perennial Plant Association’s National Symposium determined to tear out every single one of my garden beds and start completely over. In my mind, as I judged them against the images and designs I had seen, there was no question – mine were shameful and had to go! Thankfully, my husband pulled the shovel out of my hands and talked me down from the cliff. My reaction to an educational seminar may seem just a bit extreme, but if you ever have the opportunity to hear Claudia West, landscape architect and co-author of one of my favorite books Planting In A Post-Wild World speak, I guarantee you will understand.
One of my favorite things to do this summer is to quietly sit on my deck, watching dozens of butterflies floating through the yard enjoying the nectar buffet I’ve planted. This is the first year that I’ve had a steady stream of visitors and it feels like the time, effort and money I’ve put into the pollinator garden the last few years are finally paying off.
The other evening a friend and I were sitting on my deck having a happy hour and enjoying my gardens. The backyard is literally filled with flowers, many of them the new, must-haves touted in all the gardening magazines. (I grow them to see how they really stand up to our harsh, Midwest summers.) Taking in all the choices in all the different beds, she asked me which flower was my favorite. When I gave her my answer her expression said it all – Zinnia was not the right answer.
The next two weeks are shaping up to be prime planting time here in the Midwest. They're promising us lots of sunlight, warm temperatures and just enough rain to get things going in the garden. While I will be spending lots of time with my grandkids planting their gardens, one of my own goals this spring is to rework my hummingbird garden.