by High Country Gardens
I finished up my keynote talk before the Kansas State Advanced Master Gardener Training this morning in Manhattan, KS. As always, Master Gardeners are a great group of very interested, committed gardeners. And here I am in the middle of the Great Plains, with some time on my hands. As it so happens, I love prairies, am passionate about their conservation and visit them whenever I get a chance. Here in the Flint Hills of east central Kansas, is a fabulous 8,600 acre tract of undisturbed prairie, The Kanzo, owned and managed by a partnership of the Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University.
So I headed out in the late afternoon to enjoy the area at dusk. The Kanzo is a beautiful mix of hills and creek bottoms. The tall grasses like Big Bluestem (Andropogon), Little Blue Stem (Schizachyrium), Switchgrass (Panicum)and Indian Grass (Sorghastrum) are the dominate cover in the open fields while the numerous small creeks are lined with Oaks (Quercus), Hackberry (Celtis), Honeylocust (Gleditsia) and Black Walnut (Juglans). Scattered colonies of redbud (Cercis) and Viburnam occupy the edges between grass and trees.
Normally receiving a little more than 30" of precipitation annual, it’s been a dry summer in this part of Kansas. The tall grasses are short and wildflowers like Compass Plant (Sylphium) have beautiful fall color in their foliage but are without their towering late summer flower spikes. However the Gayfeather (Liatris) are in full bloom and covered with clouds of painted lady butterflies and buzzing honeybees and bumblebees.
The narrowleaf purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) are in seed and the prairie sage (Salvia azurea) manages to be in bloom along with small pink ornamental onions (Allium). I climb the trail to the top of a large hill to a gorgeous view of the surrounding hills and creek bottoms.
It is getting late, so I turn around and head back down the trail to the parking lot, descending through a big meadow ablaze with tall Goldenrod (Solidago) as a light breeze waves their brilliant yellow flowers. I stop to smell the sweet, pure scents of the creek, the flowers and the trees. Flocks of birds fly overhead looking to roost for the night. I give silent thanks that such a magnificent piece of the earth has been put aside for preservation and research.
I’m so privileged to be standing in such a rare gem, a tiny piece of what was once an endless sea of virgin grass that covered this country.
Coming to the end of the trail as the sun is setting, I look out over a field of glowing Big Bluestem and meet the stare of a curious deer who is just tall enough to see me over the grass; a wonderful “good bye” as I head back to civilization.
Our Rain Lily Mixture (Zephranthes Mix) in pink, yellow, and white will light up a lawn, rock garden, or garden border with bright flowers after a rain. With grass-like foliage, the ...Learn MoreRain Lily Mix Rain Lily Mix Zephyranthes MixRegular Price $13.99 Sale $11.19Per Bag of 25You save: 20%Our Rain Lily Mixture (Zephranthes Mix) in pink, yellow, and white will light up a lawn, rock garden, or garden border with bright flowers after a rain. With grass-like foliage, the stems emerge quickly after rain and open with 6-petaled star-like flowers. Flowers last a day or two, but more will follow quickly, especially after a shower.Learn More
Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs (Bouteloua gracilis) is the most vigorous selection of this beautiful native grass from the western Great Plains. Beloved for its "eyelash" seed heads,...Learn MoreHachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs Bouteloua gracilis Hachita$59.95Per Tray of 70Learn More
Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs (Bouteloua gracilis) is the most vigorous selection of this beautiful native grass from the western Great Plains. Beloved for its "eyelash" seed heads, it can also be mowed once a month to create a soft, inviting lawn. Quite xeric, 'Hachita' Blue Grama thrives in both sandy soils and clay! You can also interplant plugs with wildflowers to grow a colorful, low-care short grass prairie. For a turf type lawn, plant plugs 6" apart. We recommend using Organic Plant Magic as a root dip to spur grass plug growth. 4" tall (15" with seed heads).
Sunray is a compact, long blooming selection of the native tickseed. The showy double golden-yellow flowers are continuous over the summer when deadheaded. It thrives with heat and ,...Learn MoreCoreopsis grandiflora Sunray Sunray Tickseed Coreopsis grandiflora SunrayRegular Price $9.99 Sale $8.49Per Plant - 5" Deep PotYou save: 15%Sunray is a compact, long blooming selection of the native tickseed. The showy double golden-yellow flowers are continuous over the summer when deadheaded. It thrives with heat and , sun and requires a well drained soil. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).Learn More
Exclusive. A stunning native wildflower, 'Mountain Red' blooms for months with hummingbird attracting clear red trumpet-shaped flowers. This is our special cold hardy strain and it d...Learn MoreStachys coccinea Mountain Red Red Flowered Lamb's Ear (Scarlett Hedge Nettle) Stachys coccinea Mountain Red$9.99Per Plant - 5" Deep PotExclusive. A stunning native wildflower, 'Mountain Red' blooms for months with hummingbird attracting clear red trumpet-shaped flowers. This is our special cold hardy strain and it does best in dappled or partial shade.Learn More