While sitting in the Children’s Garden’s fabulous new tree house enjoying a recent mild summer morning, I reflected on the fact it was approximately one year ago this week we began planting this garden in earnest. And when I say earnest, I mean 3,000 plants worth of earnestness. The garden has come a long way in just one year.
The Children’s Garden is designed to blend the 90% straight native species of three different habitat archetypes (grassland, woodland and wetland) with a sprinkling of non-native ornamentals in order to prepare the “classroom” for children of every age to deeply engage with nature in an unstructured way. The prairie particularly, as you enter the space, is a great introduction, full of cool blooming natives as this picture gallery shows.
Among the many species in bloom at this moment are two of my most absolute favs: Lobelia cardinalis and Lobelia siphilitica. Both species share many of the same cultural requirements and similar habitats. Both species attract wonderful pollinators. Cardinal flower attracts ruby-throated hummingbird and various swallowtail butterflies, along with many species of bees. Great blue lobelia attracts long-tongued bees along with hummingbirds and butterflies to a lesser extent. Cardinal flower, with its tall scarlet red and great blue hue, are just wonderful additions to the garden or natural area. Literature states these two species like moist to wet soil, but I have seen both these plants survive in drier conditions. The key is incorporating more organic matter into the soil to help retain some moisture in the dry periods of the season.
The Children’s Garden is the latest example of one the things I believe Wellfield Botanic Gardens does well: blending native species with more traditional garden plants. There are natives tucked in all kinds of nooks and crannies (or just boldly right there in the open) throughout the Gardens. Come for a visit and see how many native species you can find.
Josh Steffen, Horticulture and Facilities Manager