|Poverty Oat Grass early summer 2013
|Poverty Oat Grass behind the chair frames late spring 2015
|It was easy for me to be open to its charms, I never wanted to mow grass when I could have wildflowers
Of course, you won't be surprised if I tell you it's naturally occurring in my garden! Parts of this garden are indeed dry and inhospitable, with shallow soil that sits on top of limestone boulders and bedrock. An especially inhospitable spot is sited right next to the Blue Bottle Tree! I can't recall exactly what had been there before, possibly remnants of the previous owner's lawn, some very lovely Lyre Leaf sages and in the shade, beneath the Burr Oak were patches of Danthonia spicata. Traditionally, it was mowed to create a negative space to help balance the exuberance of my wildflowers. I knew that something more could be done with such a charming little grass so I transplanted a dozen small clumps late one fall to that inhospitable, shallow soil! The fall rains arrived and they settled in nicely.
It was stunning and a success.
Fast forward to summer 2015! Not so good. After a year of neglect (I was out for surgeries) the lawnette was crowded with Susans, Fleabane, Vernonia seedlings, non-native clover and real weeds! It was lovely where the wildflowers hadn't encroached on the Danthonia spicata, but, the large expanse of silvery lawn was absent.
I wondered if the Danthonia experiment was a failure and if not what could be done? After a lot of thought and studying the lawnette, here's what I concluded.
When wildflower experts say "This grass does not tolerate competition from taller growing vegetation." they mean it! Keep out trespassing wildflowers!
When experts say this "grass prefers dry-mesic to dry conditions" they mean it! We can't control the weather, but, we can control watering.
There's no such thing as a maintenance free lawnette! Weeding is necessary, since there can be too many Susans; Vernonia and other colonizers will seed every where (seedlings can be transplanted); and clover is too aggressive and just needs to go!
There are plenty of lessons and do overs in a garden!
It's all so much fun!
What makes this experiment a success for me?
It's relatively low maintenance: (no watering, no fertilizer, no pesticides, no mowing, just occasional weeding.
Increased biodiversity~natives grasses in general are host plants for many butterflies and skippers.
The seed is viable in the soil for decades~it will replenish itself.
It was fun.
Isn't learning new information, having fun and creating a garden that feeds one's soul while taking care of wildlife what wildflower gardening is all about?
Happy wildflower gardening my friends.
Poverty oat grass is a cool season, bunch grass (no stolens or rhizomes) that is best suited for poor, dry, rocky soils where it forms dense clumps of curly basal growth. It does not tolerate competition from taller plants. Remove fallen leaves in a woodland setting. Easily grown from seed, germinates quickly.
Range: Native to Middle Tennessee, it can be found almost everywhere in the US and Canada. (Zone 3 to 8)
Exposure: Full Sun/Shade/Partial Shade
Soil: Dry and poor
Flowering: June, sets seed and then goes dormant. The inflorescence is small and delicate
Wildlife value: Food, shelter, host plant for several skippers, moths and some grasshoppers
Plants are available locally from GroWild Nursery and you can order seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery.
Thank you for stopping by and welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom or not; and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky.
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.