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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Black-eyed Susan along the Locke's driveway.
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Frac'd Up Garden Trend


A 2014 garden trend as stated by the 2014 Garden Media Group report was called Frac'd Up: A rejection of the neat and tidy. In other words, a messed up garden is okay and maybe even preferable in some cases. I like this trend because I've always liked a really natural and loose landscape style.

The Garden Trend report discusses creating gardens in sliced up spaces using explosions of colors and textures. Mostly, though, this trend tells us to "get wild in design." Instead of neat, clean bed lines try a looser approach, incorporating wild plants for added emphasis. One picture that comes to mind is a meadow full of colored wildflowers.

I have been doing a lot of research lately on lawns. In particular, when I teach new Master Gardeners all about Turfgrass I want them to think about why we mow grass in the first place. Do we really need that much grass? What is the grass used for? Lawns are very high maintenance areas that lack biodiversity.

I'm currently reading a book called "Bringing Nature Home" by Douglas Tallamy. In it he discussed how our gardening choices profoundly impact the diversity of life in our yards, towns, and on our planet. In particular, backyard habitat loss has put some birds and butterflies in jeopardy. For example, most baby birds need insect protein to grow. An adult chickadee must bring a caterpillar to the nest every three minutes. They find most of them feeding unnoticed on native plants like oaks and maples. Do you have enough caterpillars in your yard to sustain bird populations there?

I'd like to think that I do. I ran some calculations on my own yard and found that we mow 60 percent less now than when we moved there 15 years ago. I have added lots of landscape beds and shrub borders, but I also have large areas that I just let go. We mow them every year or so, and remove weed trees and invasive plants when needed. I love the natural look of grasses swaying in the wind. I especially like seeing the native forbs come back into the space, including tick trefoil, bush clover, St. John's wort, black-eyed Susan, asters, goldenrod, and much more.

I agree with Tallamy that we don't have to use all native plants or remove all of our lawns. He promotes creating a Backyard National Park where homeowners convert a portion of their lawns to native plantings that sustain wildlife better. If enough of us did that, we'd have a "national park" larger than all our current national parks combined!

My goal is to begin replacing some of the more invasive trees and shrubs in my yard with native plants. To help me, the Midwest Invasive Plant Network has a factsheet and a smart-device app called "Landscape Alternative for Invasive Plants of the Midwest." Check it out at http://mipn.org/!



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