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  • Writer's pictureKATE REFINE DESIGNS

What's Going on Underground?

Updated: Jan 28, 2023

I love these pictures that depict the root system of our native prairie plants. This photo, provided by the Conservation Research Institute, shows the depths of the roots of the prairie plants below ground and the beauty of the plant above ground.

They are both equally beautiful to me. The deep root systems are what make the native prairie plants so resilient in our extreme weather conditions - giving plants the ability to reach water during our hot dry months, and protecting them from freezing temps in the winter.

The deep roots help sequester carbon, which is great for our planet. And they build up the soil structure of our gardens, making for a better growing environment for all our lovely garden plants.

Depicted in the graph is the comparison of the roots of the native plants to those of turf grass, which extend barely inches below soil level. The turf grass provides no benefit to pollinators above ground, and also provide no benefit to the soil structure. Lawns are great for playing and for our pets, but reducing the amount of turf in our yards, and planting some lovely perennial gardens will benefit not just our pollinators but our soils as well. Plus, they add such beauty.

Some of my favorite plants to use in the landscpe are pictured here in the graph - Coneflower, Prairiedropseed, Wild Indigo, and Bluestem grasses. Incorporating these natives into your landscape, will insure you have a resilient garden with benefits beyond the beauty they provide!

Here is a photo of Little Bluestem with some Calamintha. This was a planting in a newer construction landscape with very heavy clay 'contractor' soil. The roots of the grasses will help enrich the soil - and it's such a hardy plant it does very well there.

This is Baptisia australis - Wild Blue Indigo, It's early spring blooms are a vibrant blue. The foliage a chalky blue-green. The flower heads dry to dark pea pods that look so interesting in the winter garden. A perennial plant with true year round interest. Except - don't let the fact that they are a perennial fool ya - they will grow quite tall - almost 4' and about 3' wide. A great plant for the back of a perennial border.

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