I’ve always wanted to be able to take a long shot of my yard, filled with cottagey flowering shrubs. This bed is now officially one year old, and the natives and adapted natives are happy, despite our drought.
Larkspur, Trailing Verbena in Pink and Purple, Laura Bush Petunia (returning on its own from last year), Lambs Ear, Pink Skullcap, Lion’s Tail, Society Garlic, Variegated Agave Americana, Flash the Wonder Cat, Gomphrena, Four Nerve Daisy, Zinnia, Bog Sage, Yellow blooming Ice Plant, and a bit of a Coneflower are all in this photo. Not pictured, but also blooming in this sunny bed, are Salvia Greggii, Dwarf Pomegranite, dwarf daylilies, Mystic Spires, Blackfoot daisy, Iris, Winecup, Guara, Knockout roses, and a new replacement lantana.
Not bad for early May!
This bed was greatly amended prior to planting anything, and 8 inches of organic compost was incorporated into the topsoil below the St. Augustine grass. This new soil has obviously been of significant benefit to help these plants needing well-draining soil to flourish.Which begs the question that I’ve been pondering for some time now. If these plants are “natives”, then why do I have to amend my soil? I’m not talking about adding nutrients; I understand about nutrient depletion from city watering and urban runoff. I’m talking about clay, non-draining soil that naturally occurs in a big part of Central Texas. In my back yard, I do the cheaper “amend as I go” method. (Though ultimately it may not be cheaper, as I end up losing plants and having to purchase new plants to replace them, or having to buy more to fill in a space as the plant doesn’t grow as well.)
Anyway, the back yard beds aren’t as nicely amended, and nothing grows as prolifically as the front yard pictured at the top of this post. I did amend one bed for my Irises, which were thrilled with the new – well draining – soil I created. Everything else is… meh.
A handful of plants are truly worthy of the “native” designation, at least in my yard. Copper Canyon Daisy is planted in part-sun and crappy clay, and it grows huge each year, as does its neighbor plant, Fall Aster. Rose of Sharon is just happy to be alive, no matter where it’s planted, it seems. It’s about to burst totally into bloom, and I’m looking forward to the show.
Artemesia Powis Castle is another worthy native, creating a new plant from every cutting that I stick in the ground, no matter how dry, dense, or depleted. Cast Iron plant is just that, tough as nails no matter what. Purple Heart grows everywhere, but does die in our colder winters.
Agaves, popular as they are, can’t be native to the gummy blackland prairie in central Austin. Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine calls it “rich, black, waxy, alkaline, calciferous soil.” Agaves must have fast draining soil to survive. Perhaps they might be native to the Edward’s Plateau. The Edwards plateau soil of central Texas is yellow clay, has a limestone base, and often has caliche mixed into the top layer.
So I guess my yard is considered filled with natives, adapted natives and “others” that thrive in soil amended so much to be unrecognizable as naturally-occurring in my part of Austin. I just can’t consider it native if I have to completely bring in new soil from elsewhere in order for it to live.