I've shared before in March about trips through the Flint Hills and the joy the fresh air and sunshine brings to me. Last weekend, I was again on a bike ride from Americus, Kansas (just NW of Emporia) through the Flint Hills. In places, the recently burned prairie was evident. The fire on the prairie does so many beneficial things to the land, and the sound and warmth of the fire has always been fascinating to me. Removing Red Cedar seedlings from the prairie is, in some way, nature’s own weed control. Without the burns, the trees would establish and the prairie would no more be as it’s been for hundreds of years.
The scorched prairie will soon come alive with over 1,000 native grass and wildflower species, about half of the state's total. The plants of the prairie benefit our environment by preventing erosion. Playing a big part in water filtration, the prairie provides a sustainable food source for wildlife and livestock; it also enhances our lives with season-long beauty. Many of the plants were also first used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans.
Many of the blooming wildflowers serve a crucial role in our food supply. Plants such as Asclepias or Milkweed are a food source for pollinators with their flowers and foliage. Without these plants, the circle of life wouldn’t be possible.
We can plant our own pollinator gardens in our landscapes that will provide food for attracting butterflies, bees and hummingbirds, and at the same time be great garden performers. Many plants such as the Butterfly Milkweed, Coneflowers, Liatris, Primrose, Sunflowers, Yarrow and others as natives work well. Plant breeders have developed varieties that are tough plants with their genetics, and may be better garden performers because of longer blooming time or growth habit. A few of my favorites:
Coneflowers are available in a range of colors from fiery orange to gleaming white and creamy yellow. This means that no matter your garden's color scheme, there’s probably one that’ll fit right in. Coneflowers are one of the least fussy, easiest to grow perennials, so think of a spot in your garden that needs a shot in the arm, and there will be a perfect coneflower to bring it to life!
Missouri Primrose is a trailing plant with yellow flowers up to 4" across! Each flower lasts just one day, but the plant blooms for long periods in spring and summer. The best thing about this native wildflower is its low water needs and drought tolerance.
Butterfly Milkweed has to be not only my favorite native plant, but is my favorite garden plant for our area. It’s an 18” tall plant that holds red/orange blooms from early summer to fall. Loving a sunny, dry location, plant it and you’ll become a fan of the plant as well.
Shop our selection of perennials and native plants. You'll find care tags to identify which plants attract pollinators, which ones are short, medium or tall and which ones love sun or shade.
Your friend in the garden,
Owner - Johnson's Garden Center