Home Gardening Michael McDowell’s front-yard prairie backyard – Digging

Michael McDowell’s front-yard prairie backyard – Digging


October 16, 2020

How can it have been 9 years since I first visited Michael McDowell’s front-yard prairie backyard? Michael’s backyard lives giant in my reminiscence, alight with morning daylight and festive fall coloration (click on for my 2011 tour), and it conjures up day by day by way of his weblog Plano Prairie Garden and his Instagram.

For my birthday a pair weekends in the past, I handled myself to a covid-careful Dallas/Fort Price garden-visiting journey. Michael’s backyard in Plano, a suburb of Dallas, was one I used to be eager to revisit. Would it not maintain as much as my reminiscences?

In fact it did! I imply, simply have a look at it. Amid a sea of mown lawns, Michael’s native-plant entrance backyard beckons like an oasis within the desert. It should additionally look that technique to pollinators, birds, and different small creatures in search of a refueling stopover or place to take shelter. The seedlings developing within the hellstrip, by the way in which, are native bluebonnets, which is able to placed on a present subsequent April.

I’ve already written intimately about Michael’s garden in my earlier post, so this one will probably be principally eye sweet. I caught the fall-blooming gayfeather (Liatris) in full flower, to my delight. Michael later advised me it started to fade by the next weekend, as the warmth returned.

Liatris is superb in bloom, particularly juxtaposed with a hulking spineless prickly pear and complemented by the pink flowers of autumn sage (Salvia greggii).

Evergreen xeric crops like prickly pear and paleleaf yucca (Yucca pallida) give Michael’s backyard construction and curiosity when the backyard isn’t in full flower.

Tremendous-textured pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia) additionally blooms right now of yr and appears gorgeous with the liatris.

A more in-depth look

And right here it’s from one other angle, with yucca and prickly pear added to the combo.

American basketflower (Centaurea americana), a superb pollinator plant, has gone to seed.

The tan-and-chocolate seedheads are fairly and feed songbirds.

Michael tentatively recognized this yellow-flowered plant as camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris). It appeared in his backyard as a volunteer seedling.

Pitcher Sage (Salvia azurea) provides sky-blue amid the purple liatris.

Spineless prickly pear, pink autumn sage, and liatris

Eryngium fades from purple to tan because it goes to seed, however the spiny cones nonetheless add attention-grabbing texture to the backyard.

One other eryngium candelabra

Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana), a shade lighter than the liatris, makes for a reasonably purple combo.

Michael confirmed me how obedient plant bought its title: in the event you push a person flower along with your finger, it strikes as if on a hinge and stays in its new place.

Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) stands upright on lengthy stems.

t’s like taking a meadow stroll to succeed in the entrance door.

Close to the entrance door, a inventory tank that held horsetail the final time I visited has been replanted with ‘Blue Spruce’ sedum and small hesperaloes (‘Brakelights’ possibly?) and adorned with silver metallic fish.

The blue-green sedum bears a powerful resemblance to seaweed on the ocean flooring, which the fish seem like swimming over. So intelligent! Michael is nice at creating shocking and water-evoking vignettes like this.

Mistflower and liatris harmonize in blue and purple.

Yucca pallida and prickly pear anchor this vignette of coneflower gone to seed, pink autumn sage, and liatris.

Actually, there isn’t a foul angle from which to shoot Michael’s fall-blooming prairie backyard.

It’s like Monet’s backyard evoked in Blackland Prairie crops!


I couldn’t get sufficient of this blue-purple combo.

Mistflower closeup

Crimson autumn sage wanting surprisingly good with the red-orange brick of the home

The needle-like (however smooth) leaves of pine muhly set off the liatris like a diaphanous scrim.

So good!

Liatris and autumn sage entangled with one another

The monarchs have been beginning to migrate by means of Dallas on this early October weekend, and I noticed just a few warming their wings within the morning sunshine.

Moonshine-yellow flower wands of a yellow hesperaloe

Autumn sage aglow within the early mild

Little bluestem, I believe, with autumn sage

And extra!

OK, yet one more of the autumn sage

Now let’s head into the aspect backyard, the place yellow Chicken of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) provides just a few extravagant flowers at head-height.

What is occurring with these flowers, proper? They appear like one thing Dr. Seuss would have invented.

Cowpen daisies (Verbesina encelioides) glow like miniature suns in opposition to the nice and cozy brick of the home.

Michael’s again backyard is extra open than the entrance, with broad gravel paths surrounding an island mattress anchored by a bottle shrub. Over to the precise, according to the view from his again door…

…a vine-covered arbor frames a view of two pink Adirondacks and a focal-point potted ‘Dallas Blues’ switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).

It’s a easy vignette that successfully leads your eye away from the fence and the neighbor’s playscape and roofline and facilities it on an inviting seating space. Michael has a intelligent eye for re-purposing supplies from his backyard, like this boulder footstool.

A floofy Lindheimer muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri) attracts the attention at left of the patio…

…the place one other of Michael’s charming vignettes will be admired: a dry pond consisting of leftover small boulders and metallic cattails.

Beneath a shade tree, a birdbath, white Turk’s cap, and an orchid desk make a serene view.

Michael constructed the show desk from cinderblocks and concrete pavers. His orchid assortment spends the summer season outside, absorbing the warmth.


Michael has zero garden in entrance or again — a real lawn-gone backyard.

It’s additionally extremely water-saving, as he virtually by no means irrigates. He talked about {that a} late-summer rain this yr introduced his crops into recent flower, which he loved, so he’s contemplating watering in August or September subsequent yr, if there’s been no rain.

Michael’s backyard is a daring assertion for a suburban neighborhood — or anyplace — and I like what he’s doing. His Plano prairie backyard reveals simply how lovely our native Texas crops are, how a lot a single backyard can provide to imperiled pollinators and different wild creatures, and the way a lot enjoyment we will get by planting up our yards with one thing moreover garden. Thanks for the go to, Michael!

Extra DFW backyard visits coming quickly. For a glance again on the lakeside garden of Ruth Kinler, proprietor of Dallas nursery Redenta’s Backyard, click on right here.

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