When I look at my planting projects, I wonder what made me think I could create beautiful gardens – and now, a prairie. It seems everyone else knows all about plants, their names and how to successfully grow them in arrays of gorgeous shapes and colors. Other people comfortably use words like “foliage” and “indigenous.” Ask me about one of my attempts, and I begin to stutter and mumble botanical vocabulary, like “plant,” “flower,” “grow.” I mostly have gone to large garden centers for my plant selections, as I’m afraid of being approached at a real nursery by a real garden expert. This happened years ago, when I visited a real nursery with two knowledgeable friends. I stayed behind them as much as possible, nodding and smiling as the nursery attendant answered their intelligent questions about plants I’d never heard of or seen: Coleus (didn’t I get vaccinated against that before going overseas?). Come to think of it, a lot of lovely flowers and plants sound like diseases (Hypericum, Artimesa) or Latin American leaders (Aurio Margenata, Potentilla). At the third nursery we visited, I began to recognize some of the plants that also had been at the previous two places. I almost had a conversation with the attendant at the third place – Attendant: Hello. What can I help you with today? Me: I really like that Zinnia over there. Attendant: That needs peat moss. Do you have a lot of acid in your soil? Me: Do you have any pets? Pete Moss? Acid? In my soil? Should I? Or were we talking pollution? Anyway, no Zinnia graced my lawn that year. I did pick up a few Astilbes, some Creeping Phlox, Artimesa, Vincas and a Clematis. Some of them went away (possibly due to moss or acid issues) and some flourished, who knows why. The Astilbe and Vinca had beautiful foliage; the Artimesa spread (for a time) to a lovely ground cover; I separated the Phlox in the fall so it would spread and bloom the next spring. As you may have noticed, my plant vocabulary has grown some over the years. Now, if only my plants would. And me, all set to birth a prairie! But, on a positive note: they say it takes at least two to three years before a prairie will be mostly pleasant to look at, so I figure it will fit in nicely with the rest of my attempts at natural beauty. For lack of a green thumb, I just keep my fingers crossed.
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