Waves of colour
And what amazing bloom! Wave after wave of colour unfolds through the growing season. Beginning in early summer, orange butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) stands with purple prairie clover (Petalostemum purpureum), violet prairie blazing star (Liatris pycnostachya) pokes through masses of yellowy grey-headed coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata), mauve wild beebalm (Monarda fistulosa) masses itself with golden black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), and the icy white sprays of wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) peek through copper-crowned purple echinacea. Still to come are the white and blue asters of autumn.
Taming the beast
Although the meadow is almost self-sustaining, without fertilizers and only rain for irrigation, every garden requires maintenance. Dry stems must be mowed down once a year, a rough and dusty job. One season, Canada thistle made a bold invasion, requiring several sweeps of the area on foot as each prickly stem was pulled out. Thistles are now under control, but there is a corner of spontaneously sprouting brambles requiring attention. The wildflower meadow has been control-burned twice, the traditional method for destroying weeds and woody saplings, with the added benefit of resulting potash fertilizer to rejuvenate growth. But the rewards, for Yvonne and John, are many—the sweet scents and brilliant colours that feed both the artistic vision and the gardening soul.