Gardening with Texas Native Plants; The Wildflower Slope.

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

The " Wildflower Slope" was our first project in our attempt to work with Texas Native Plants. It began in 1997 after we read an article that was published in the Arlington newspaper. It featured a yard that was a certified urban Wildscape, made up of native plants and showed how it worked to attract wildlife and give them a home.

I was very excited about the idea and called the lady to ask if I could come see it and talk to her about it. She was very gracious and explained how she had done it. I was very impressed with her place and decided that it would be great for us to try it too.

Unfortunately at the time I was totally ignorant about the concept of native plants, although I loved nature, wildflowers and animals and had been gardening organically since 1969. So, I gathered as much information as I could from books, the internet and friends, but alas native plants were very hard to find.

We had this area we call the slope because of the steep incline. It measures 10 by 80 feet and it faces south to the side street of our corner lot. It was covered with bermuda and framed by bare chain link fence, presentable but not pretty. So we chose it as the starting point in our endeavor to create a certified urban Wildscape.

I bought some wildflower seeds and scattered them on the close cut grass in the fall. Well our first spring was not spectacular but I kept checking the nurseries and searching through empty lots for wild plants and little by little we built a nice collection of plants. Some of them just volunteered on the slope when we stopped mowing and let the plants come up. Frostweed, Ironweed, Goldenrod and Primrose are some volunteers that come to mind.

Collecting and growing native plants has become a passion for us since we love the idea of plant conservation and showing that a native plant garden can just as beautiful as any filled with exotics. The Slope has served as great educational tool for the neighborhood as people stop by to ask,"What are those beautiful flowers?" and to say, "Thank you we enjoy them every time we drive by".

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Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

This is how it looks in winter with all the plants cut down.

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Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

Early spring with Crossvine in full bloom and plants waking up.

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Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

Mid spring with the gorgeous Coneflowers in bloom.

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Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

Early summer with the Western Ironweed in bloom, I love the bright purple color.

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Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

Late summer with Frostweed and Obedient Plant such a lovely combination.

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Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

But fall is the most spectacular with Purple Aster, Heath Aster and Autumn Sage.

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Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

There are many other plants on the slope, mainly perennials, it changes constantly with the plants coming into bloom at different times.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

I always enjoy the slope each time I visit you. I love to see it change and to search it for the many butterflies that enjoy it's bounty.... Like this Southern Dogface on the Turks Cap.

I look forward to the new changes you have planned also.

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Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

Thank you Sheila it is an adventure and a labor of love, we are hoping that it will inspire other people to use Texas native plants in their gardens.
Your garden has also changed a lot, it looks really lovely and I think you have made wonderful changes, especially with hosting and raising butterflies.

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

So yall didn't ever pull the bermuda out? Just kept sowing more stuff on top of it?

Cleburne, TX(Zone 8a)

Josephine,
You and your garden are great inspiration for me to keep plugging away on my project.

I am glad there is a program like the Wildscape program. When we moved to our place in spring of 1981, the approx. 40 acres beside us was just a wonderland of wildflowers. Could not count them all. I just enjoyed them and never even took photos, just thinking they would be there forever, I guess. Well... the land changed owners and the first thing the new owner did was spray the whole 40 acres with herbicide on a very windy day using a large tractor spray rig, a lot of which blew over to our property before we could stop him. Our baby goats stopped nursing evidently because their mother's milk was tainted with the spray and they could taste it. Big crisis to deal with but that's another story. Anyway, no more wildflowers because after that they sprigged with bermuda grass and worked hard to kill all the wildflowers. And I know this is happening everywhere, so it is great there's a program to preserve them in urban areas.

Question: I want to transplant some of the Western Ironweed that's in "the wild" across the road from us. Is it best to do it right after killling frost or wait until early spring and new growth starting?

Glenna

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

That is right Birdlady, We kept sowing and making holes and adding plants until the grass got shaded out by the plants, it took a while to accomplish that but it has all been gone for a long time now.

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

Glenna, I want to take a little more time to respond to your post, but I have to leave to work on the butterfly garden, I will get to your post later.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Glenna...I tried digging a couple plants of ironweed to share at RU last time and found it to be very deep rooted and difficult.

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

Glenna, I can't believe your neighbor destroyed all those beautiful flowers to put in bermuda.
What was he thinking ? This is one of the reasons why we have to protect native plants and let people know how important and beautiful they are and how much we need them.

Western Ironweed is indeed very had to transplant once it is established, the roots are very hard wood, they don't call it Ironweed for nothing. Still if you can manage it, you can dig some up now or in the spring and it should work fine.
It makes a lot of seed but I haven't had much luck with it either, but I have had great luck with tip cuttings in the spring they usually all root, so that is how I propagate it. If you need it I can give you some potted at the spring swap.

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

For those of you who might be interested in building an Urban Wildscape, this is how we did it.


Texas Parks and Wildlife
Urban Program Certification
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/wildscapes/certification/index.phtml

You will find that the cost of your packet is very small just $15.00.


How we were introduced to native plants and became certified.
We found out about the program through an article that was featured in our local newspaper. They featured a yard in our city that was a certified, and Linda the featured gardener said that she would welcome inquiries, so I called her and asked permission to come and see her yard.

I had no idea that you could get your yard certified by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Urban Program, I imagine not many people know about it either, it seems to be a well kept secret.

I loved her yard, and all the good she was doing for the environment, so naturally I was very excited by the possibilities, and immediately sent for the certification packet and started planning my yard according to the requirements.

It took us 2 years to get to the point where we felt we qualified, then we sent in the application.
In about 6 weeks we got our certificate and outdoor plaque. Talk about excitement! I was jumping up and down, I was so happy.

Because we love this idea so much, we want to tell and help as many people as possible, so that they may experience the joy of watching beautiful birds and butterflies, and the beauty of our wonderful native plants and wildflowers.

Many people stop by our yard to admire this or that flower, which they had never seen, although they are natives to this region. We have raised the awareness in our neighborhood, and you can do the same in yours.

Go to http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/wildscapes/certification/index.phtml to get started on your own adventure.

Let us restore our landscapes to their native splendor.

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

One of my favorite memories growing up in Houston was picking the beautiful wildflowers to give to my mom! The empty lots by our house were full of different types and colors. Seeing the wildflowers on the side of the roads fills me with happiness! It's one of my favorite parts of living back here in Houston.
As for that person (dope) who sprayed those fields, I would have cried... If they weren't going to build something right away, why in the world put bermuda grass?? Probably thought he was replacing weeds with something better...
Thanks for sharing pictures of your wildscape. It's beauty makes all the work worth it.

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

You are welcome Bariolio, and you are right it is a lot of work, but such wonderful work, I don't mind at all, I just love it.
Josephine.

Cleburne, TX(Zone 8a)

Quoting:
If they weren't going to build something right away, why in the world put bermuda grass??


I think the purpose was so they could put a few cows over there and claim the ag exemption on property tax. But anyone with any sense wouldn't be spraying a deadly chemical with the wind blowing, if for no other reason than to protect their own health.

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

Well it seems to me that cows would probably prefer to eat natural vegetation, but in any event chemicals really scare me.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

You are such an inspiration, Josephine! I always love to see pics of the slope and well, all your plants. I'm slowly working on adding more natives to the big full sun bed, thanks to folks like you and Sheil and the others who share from their bounty.

We've had our flower bed for 4 or 5 years now. I noticed that the people who live across the street and a few houses down started a small garden with some natives earlier this spring. I've been tempted to stop and ask for cuttings or seeds of some of their plants! LOL It's not much, but they expanded it this fall and added more plants.

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

Thank you Stephanie, it is true that when you catch the native plant bug it is very infectious and a lot of people will catch it from you too. That makes me very happy.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

One reason I like growing them is because they are so easy and, for the most part, they out compete everything else. I usually use seeds, but I only have to do it once and they keep coming back.
Lisa

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

Hello Lisa, yes some are very easy and some not so easy, but they are very much worth the effort.
I am glad you are using them too.
Josephine.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I guess I only grow the easy ones. LOL Once they are established they require so little care.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

As we get older the "little care" looks better and better. I am considering expanding beds in the back yard for a larger butterfly morning to noon sun bed. we have cut down several small trees that were blocking the sun, and the plants already look better.

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

That is great Sheila, your yard is looking so pretty, I have to come and see it in the spring.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Thanks. I would love to have you and a few others that live in the area over and have lunch one day. It would be fun. Maybe you can show me where the native planting area you told me about, located south on Grandbury Rd.

Beaumont, TX(Zone 9a)

Quote from frostweed :
Thank you Stephanie, it is true that when you catch the native plant bug it is very infectious and a lot of people will catch it from you too. That makes me very happy.


I caught the "Bug" from you when a joined DG a couple of years ago. Haven't had much luck incorporating them in my yard yet, but I go out searching, photographing, and learning as much as I can.

Arlington, TX

Josephine,
I had read some time ago about the Urban Wildscape designation. Aren't there 2, one being easier than the other. I seem to recall one allowed some non-natives. I try to incorporate more and more natives but still buy and use plants that are non-natives but like our climate.
My favorite natives thus far:
zexmenia, different sages, black foot daisy, brazos penstemon, moss verbena, four nerve daisy, cone flowers, natiive hibiscus, cowpen daisy, turks cap, flame acanthus, yellow bells and my new and definate favorite for this year is the skeleton leaf golden eye, it has grown and bloomed all season.
C

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

National Wildlife Federation has a designation that is not as demanding, http://www.nwf.org/Get-Outside/Outdoor-Activities/Garden-for-Wildlife/Create-a-Habitat.aspx

That could be a good one if you're trying to pull in the neighbors. You can just about just give them cuttings, throw some seeds over the fence when they aren't looking, and maybe host a holiday bird and bee house building football watching cocktail party, and you're all done. Everyone will see more impact in wildlife, since there's a bigger connected area of habitat.

Arlington, TX

I want to try more but also want some long. Bloomers that are more refined. I bought some agastache to fill that need.

Beaumont, TX(Zone 9a)

Texas Wildscapes only requires 50% native plants

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

AJ, I am so glad you caught the bug too!! You are right Texas Wildscapes requires only 50% native although more is better, plus water shelter and food for the wildlife. It is not hard to do and it is so much fun.
I know a lot of you have native plants and if you try a little more you could qualify for the Urban Program. Wouldn't be fun?
I want to have people over here too next year, it is too late now since plants are going to sleep, but I will do it for sure.
Josephine.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Josephine...we can break your newly renovated front yard in with a picnic in the spring!

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Does it count if I have 18+ acres of Native Grassland. I'm too far out to be considered Urban but its still Native.

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

Yes Sheila, that would be great, looking forward to it.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lisa, go to their site on the link I provided and I am sure they have an option for your situation.
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/wildscapes/certification/index.phtml

This message was edited Nov 17, 2010 11:38 PM

Arlington, TX

I think I have 50% natives and probably more. Will have to read up on the requirements.
C

Colleyville, TX(Zone 8a)

I have seen your slope and it is wonderful. I forgot that the bermuda was just crowded out over the years. I will take an inventory b/c I think I can make the 50%.

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