Lastly, we visited a home front yard which has been gradually converted to a native prairie since 2017. The owner of the home missed the prairie she had grown up on, and so she removed her lawn, and planted three species of grasses (blue grama grass, June grass, and prairie dropseed), and two species of flowers. Each year, she has added more variety in her flower species. Along the front edge of the yard, spilling onto the sidewalk, is a plant called silver weed (Potentilla anserina, but also known as Argentina anserina) and she invited us to help ourselves to any runners we wanted. The owner talked about how she “grazes” her grass – she has taken on the role that native grazers (such as bison and antelope) to graze back grasses to allow more room for other plants. She uses scissors and her compost bin rather than teeth and a strong digestive system. She does not have to wait for the grasses to flower, the way I do with my lawn, because her 6 year old lawn has reseeded itself densely, and the grasses are now robust.
Of the gardens we visited, my personal favourite was this last one, because of the lesson I learned: I had started my yard without grasses, adding them after I was certain all the lawn, crab, and brome grasses were gone. However, I would likely have been safe to start with the few species that this gardener started with (blue grama, June grass, and dropseed). As well, she incorporated two species of native flowers in her first year, and has continued to add. One flower I am especially drawn to was in the DePaved project and this garden: prairie columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), which is elegant, tall, and has red and yellow blooms. Simply divine. Oh – but I am planting this garden for the birds and the bees, right? Not for me? No: for all of us.
My yard is not mine, but is to be shared with the other people who want to admire it, and all the other species that can access and enjoy it.
Although this last garden was my favourite, I learned much at each site. How to mulch and build a swale, to reduce inputs; how to work with others to create a naturalized space; how to turn pavement into a beautiful productive area. Every garden on the tour was unique. Every garden supports biodiversity, and supporting native pollinators.
– Janet McVittie