First steps in landscaping
The word landscaping sometimes strikes fear into a homeowners mind mainly because of the cost. If you are a gardener who is setting up a perennial garden or if you are taking a do over with your landscaping near or around your house, the next few weeks will help you through the process.
The first step is deciding how much work you are able and willing to do during the growing season. This means starting with some clean up in April or early May all the way through fall clean up in October. There are many who want to have some landscaping now with the thought that as kids grow up, there will be more time to spend in the garden or on our landscaping. The second step is deciding what plants you are interested in. If you are taking a low key approach to your landscape or garden, then you will want to choose plants that are not as much work. A larger vegetable garden can be work but there are ways to reduce some of the work. If you are strictly looking for landscaping around your house, there are some things that you can look into if you want a truly environmentally friendly garden. The nice thing about some of these environmentally friendly plants is that they often do not have many diseases or insect pests. They look great through the whole year and also add some winter interest. They take less water. And, they are very beneficial to insects that need us the most.
The U of M has a great website that is worth studying through this winter called The Benefits of Native Grasses. As many of us already know, native prairie grasses are nearly gone. I am one of the lucky ones that the pastures surrounding where I live are all native prairie grasses. This past season proved to be the most beautiful show of prairie flowers that we have ever seen. The pure numbers of native grasses was amazing. You will find at this website http://grasses.cfans.umn.edu/ an e book (Gardening with Native Grasses in Cold Climates and a Guide to The Butterflies They Support) that you can download onto your computer or phone. “This website is part of a project to inform the public and the nursery industry on the benefits of native grasses to butterflies and moths. This project involves a review of the current literature to compile a list of all native butterfly and moth species that use native prairie grasses, commonly available at garden centers.”
So why think about Native grasses for your landscape? According to the website, “Native grasses have grown in popularity as landscaping plants due to their low nutrient requirements, drought tolerance, and soil stabilization. However, many people do not know that native grasses provide additional ecosystem services to wildlife, including serving as larval host plants for many native butterflies and moths. Host plants provide food and/or shelter to butterflies and moths during their larval life stage.” In a nutshell, they are easy to care for and don’t require a lot of maintenance. Native grasses are much more than just ‘green’ too. A really good example of this is Blue Heaven Little bluestem which turns red in the fall and stays red through the winter months. Little bluestem and for the most part, Big bluestem also have that wonderful blue color but can also sport orange, red and yellow in the fall. Indian grass is another favorite of mine. It is quite tall and can work wonderfully around your home in a landscape situation or even as an anchor plant in order to let it show off. It is clumping and when the seed heads come around mid-summer, the tops are a beautiful light brown with showy yellow flowers. What can be better than to plant a wonderful plant such as this and provide shelter and food for the pepper and salt skipper butterfly? Prairie cordgrass is also another one that may start out looking green but will change colors to show yellow margins and stripes on the foliage. This plant, too, supports the tortricid moth, noctuid moth and the pyralid moth. This is another plant that will stand out in your garden especially as your perennial flowers start to look a bit beat up in the summer heat, these grasses start pouring it on with their wonderful colors.
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