I am a big proponent of planting native flowers in your garden. Last year, I saw such a plethora of butterflies and native bees all over my Meadow Blazing Stars and New England Asters. Once, I walked out into the garden and legitimately thought I had wandered into a fairy tale as innumerable painted lady butterflies darted in and among the flowers. I want to continue the fairy tale and have set aside a large swath of my garden along the curb for native flowers. This year, even with the uncertainty of my job, we are finally planning a native flower bed expansion.
Planning a Native Flower Bed Expansion: Should I Use Seeds or Potted Plants?
Growing native flowers from seed can be a challenge. Although milkweed can germinate easily from seeds cast in the ground, most native flowers require extra TLC. Some seeds require hot water, others cold and moist stratification. While I would love to germinate native seeds (it’s certainly more cost effective), I don’t quite have the time or ability to meet all the different germination requirements. Instead, I opted to purchase living plants. This will allow the flowers to establish themselves more readily, and I just might even get some of them to bloom this year!
Because I wanted hardier plants that were a bit larger, I chose plants from Prairie Nursery. In the past, I’ve used both Prairie Moon and Prairie Nursery for plants. (Yeah, I also find the names and logos entirely too similar). Both nurseries allow you to mix and match trays of plants, but Prairie Nursery’s plants come in 3-inch pots, not plugs. You can also purchase bare root plants, but I love opening a box of living plants. This decision may just be a personal one for you.
Planning a Native Flower Bed Expansion: How Do I Plan the Space for the Garden Bed?
To plan my garden, I made myself a large grid in excel of the space I need to fill. My native garden bed will stretch entirely along the west side of my side yard from my driveway to the corner street, about 45 feet. It will wrap around the corner of the yard by another 15 feet. This is a huge space. I spread out my resources, including nursery catalogs, general notes on plant bloom times and height, and Pollinators of Native Plants. I picked this book up at a beekeeping event, and I love it. It’s a fantastic resource for someone wanting to choose native flowers to support native insects.
With all my resources spread out, I began choosing plants I liked. More or less, I grouped plants together in like clumps. For each grouping, I expanded the excel cell to cover their spacing requirements. This grid system allowed me better visualize the amount of space. Using excel also allowed me to more easily move around groupings than drawing out a grid or purchasing grid paper. Because I also knew that I have a tendency to overplant and could absolutely not afford to replant the entire space with native plants, I made myself use green fill to represent additional space between plants
I did have to scale back and cut out some plants for costs or change the number to optimize my price for my plants based on their trays. Regardless, My system worked for me! At least, I think it did. I’ll find out when my plants arrive in spring, and we begin our planting bonanza.
Planning a Native Flower Bed Expansion: What’s in My Garden?
The plants I purchased are mostly for pollinators. However, I did purchase a few grasses. I plan to make a small hedge of New Jersey Tea to help differentiate between the vegetable and fruit garden and the native flower beds. Besides, a flowering shrub? Perfect: I’m in!
Some of you may be more keenly interested in the varieties of flowers I’m planting. Here’s the complete list: Scaly Blazing Star, Prairie Spiderwort, Hoary Vervain, Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Prairie Onion, Smooth Penstemon, Heath Aster, Lavender Hyssop, Royal Catchfly, Sky Blue Aster, Orange and Purple Coneflower, Columbine, June Grass, Whorled and Showy Milkweed, and, of course, Little Bluestem. I may have also splurged on a magnificent shade plant for another part of the garden: Black Cohosh. You know, because I hadn’t splurged enough on planting a gigantic swath of sunny garden in native flowers. I also need a gigantic alien-like plant.
I can’t wait to see what they look like—and to see this new round of native insects on native flowers. My garden often feels like a magical place to me. Although I may not be able to reclaim the prairie that once rolled through Kansas, I can reclaim my yard!