Anticipation and Planning

Prairie smoke in bud

Geum triflorum in early April just before bloom.

What’s greening up in your garden? Spring’s warmth calls to our sleepy flora: Wake up! Shake off your winter coat and display your new green garb. We gardeners get positively giddy with the first show of green. I’ve been tip-toeing through the yard almost daily measuring the conversion of dull browns to vibrant greens. It is slow in my yard compared to my neighbors with lawn. Painfully slow, sometimes.

This is the time of year I wonder why I took out all the lawn in favor of natives. I look up and down the street and see all this lush green color springing up everywhere. Then I look at my yard and sigh. No amount of moisture, sun or balmy day-time temps are going to coax the buffalo grass and blue grama to bounce out of dormancy ahead of their appointed time (mid May.)

A promise of blooms to come!

A promise of blooms to come! Can you guess the names of these three Colorado natives (see below)? (Scroll down for answers.)

Yet, if you stop and look there are some amazing things happening in my native garden. Dotted here and there are tufts of green. Buds are appearing on the shrubs and trees. And if I pull away the spent foliage and get my nose down to the earth, I see crawly things. Maybe this stopping and looking beyond the surface is exactly the point. Respecting nature’s timetable actually gives me pause. In the waiting, I have time to think about what my garden might need this year. I easily find myself making a list:

  • Those spireas left from before the big conversion to natives are struggling. I should replace them this year.
  • That Mahonia repens is suffering in the winter sun without the tree’s shade. Maybe I should move it to a more shaded area. (“But it looks so nice in the summer,” I argue with myself.)
  • I’m really tired of the Missouri primrose and salvia along the path. I should replace that with something native to Colorado…like the native primrose—Oenothera caespitosa and…what else?

Campanula-rotundifolia-SpringAquilegia-coeruleaIt’s not long before I’m pulling out the books and dreaming of new things to come. Eventually reality will set in and I’ll settle for just one or two changes that I know I can actually complete this year. So many plants and so little time!

To satisfy my itch to get gardening, I mowed the prairie grasses and forbs in the front yard. I mow once a year and leave the cuttings to break down naturally. I hope the birds enjoyed all the seeds this winter. (Read: If they ate the seed then I won’t have to pull too many volunteer prairie coneflowers and rabbit brush!)

North-Prairie-Mow-2What are you dreaming about for your garden? Come to our meeting tomorrow and share! See this link for more on our next meeting. I you can’t come, please share in the comment section below!

PS Front Range Wild Ones President Susan Smith has asked me to write a blog about how our suburban front yard became a short grass prairie. I promise to follow through with a series of posts. Stay tuned.

Answers: The three plants are (in order of appearance) Pulsatilla patens, Campanula rotundifolia and Aquilegia coerulea.

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