Every Plant has its Place: Low-Maintenance Gardening

Whew!  Just back from almost 3,000 miles of adventure and glorious landscape viewing!  We saw some awesome sights –


from the lush Missouri summer,

to the behemoth windmills of Kansas,   windmills

to the spruce, fir and aspen altitudes of Colorado mountains,    aspeneyes

and to the otherworldly desert arches of Utah. Arches

We were struck with how some plant species survive the most extreme conditions!  Some plants are familiar to Missouri, such as juniper, serviceberry, willow, prickly pear. PricklyPear

Some are not familiar to Missouri, such as sagebrush sagebrush, stick cactus, pinyon pine and gambel oak (‘scrub oak’).

We could see these plants are more-than-surviving, creating much beauty and even diversity, in the very harsh conditions of high heat and relentless sunshine, relative lack of water, cold winter temperatures and almost-soiless red sandstone.

archesyellowflower This gave us pause to think of how much water, care and pampering we give our plants to help them survive. Some plants require a lot more care than others to survive, especially non-native plants. It is hard to imagine moisture-appreciating plants like dogwood trees growing in the desert, or even the lupine we try to grow in Missouri, when lupine actually prefers cooler temperatures and higher elevation! coloradolupine

We are marketed to by companies trying to sell their beautiful plants, but every plant has it’s place, some more varied than others. Water, soil and weather conditions are the largest considerations for growing successful plants, and water usage is of primary concern in modern times.

In nature, plants come up from seed in the ground – the leaves and stem grow with the roots, establishing a balance of growth. When we do a garden landscape, we usually want to see the plant looking beautiful the first year.  This requires some TLC from the homeowner, due to the imbalance of the large amount of foliage and the potted up root system. Once established, native plants – with mulch and weed suppression – do very well. We have a wider array of beautiful native plants around us in Missouri than those in the desert conditions of the west.  Missouri’s lush variety is due to the various microclimates – prairie, forest, swamp, glade. As a designer, the key is to fit native and ornamental plants into the microclimate of someone’s home – sun/shade, southern slope/northern slope, different soil types – in addition to height variations, texture and color. I like to provide people with the plants and color they desire, balanced with the desire to use as many native plants as possible, due to their many benefits to the natural world. Such benefits include low water usage, no need for chemical fertilizers, pollination opportunities for plants, birds and insects, and habitat for wildlife. Chemical inputs, such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, can cause problems in the watershed and disruptions in the life-cycles of the natural world.

The natural world needs all the encouragement it can get from us, which is why I hope to encourage greater use of native plants in landscape gardening. We also like the idea of edible landscape gardens that actually produce something we can consume. The mantra “Grow Food, Not Lawns” is a fun way to think about how we can use our personal landscape space to create food for ourselves and the pollinators, thereby creating a better world.


And, take time to smell the flowers. ~ Rex

>>>>> Here’s a little of our car-stir-crazy poetry (and no, we won’t quit our day jobs!):

Traveling across the great plains autobahn,
where 85 miles per hour is the norm,
and the landscape is dotted with bright green corn*.
In blue-sky dust storm and spidery lightning display,
ghostly windmills glow in the big sky corridor.


*We decided that some discussion of corn is called-for, in a future post.