Victory!

It took years of hard work and hundreds of dollars in perennials, but now I can look out my front window and see monarch butterflies or ruby-throated hummingbirds. I can come home from work to be greeted by the regal pipevine swallowtail as well as a bevy of bumble bees sporting about on the flowers. Six to 8 pairs of cardinals live at our feeder over the winter, and in spring white-throated sparrows do a stop-over, their bright "racing stripe" heads a cheerful sight in the fresh green spring grass.

I can see monarch's from my front window.
When we moved to our suburban home 18 years ago, it was typical mixture of herbicide poisoned lawn and boring evergreen shrubs. It was average in size and nothing special. A membership to the Morton Arboretum educated us in the importance of native plants. We dug out all those evergreen bushes, we visited native plant sales. To be honest, we weren't purists at first. We made lots of mistakes, because, early on, native plants were not as available as they are now. And they aren't free.  And things die. This spring I lost one of those gorgeous blue false indigo. But seeds sprout. Life is a fighter. I keep on planting because native perennials, once they take root, are champions in the garden.
This beauty greeted me one afternoon.
Talk about sweat equity. Imagine coming home to see a gorgeous pipevine swallowtail, or waking up to look out your front window and find three monarch butterflies frolicking in the yard. Did these beauties just emerge from cocoons? Are they now "bulking up" for their migration?

Over to the left is Butterfly milkweed past its prime
It is important, no VITAL, to plant a lot more than just milkweed. Yes, the larvae need milkweed to grow and become butterflies. But the butterflies need nectar to power them on the next stage of their flight. I am tickled that I've discovered Joe Pye Weed. It's later bloom makes it a perfect successor to the milkweed. It is a wonder plant beloved by all nectar seeking critters.
Our "20-or-so-square-foot prairie"
The garden extends into our backyard, where we have turned a former garden into a "20-or-so-square- foot prairie" This has lots of milkweed and other prairie plants we've purchased over the years. As well as a prolific phlox we picked up on a butterfly garden tour.  It is a joy to see the hummingbirds visit.
English Garden in prairie plants.

My overall theme, especially for the front yard, is the English Cottage Garden effect, but with prairie plants. You may have seen dreamy renditions of cottage gardens with lovely flowers and stone walkways. I have many plantings to go, but that is what I'm going for.  The lawn, which has now succumbed to clover, will one day be filled with flowers and paths, butterflies and bees. With help from the Conservation Foundation, which has certified our garden,  I hope to improve on the variety of species for the good of nature. A habitat, a home for more than just human suburban dwellers. Imagine the summer paradise we could create if we forswore the lawn service for the prairie perennial.

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