Van’s Backyard – FineGardening

Van’s Garden - FineGardening

Today’s photos are from Linda Kennedy, who takes us all to visit her talented gardening friend in Dallas.

Van Johnson has become the gardening guru here in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas. A few years ago, Van launched a Facebook gardening page, Oak Cliff Gardeners, and it has grown to more than 3,000 members, most of whom live in close proximity. Not only is it an educational site, it’s a wonderful place for everyone to ask questions, get help, and share photos of our gardens. We spread goodwill among one another with the aim of looking after and preserving nature.

Van’s house is on a relatively small piece of land that most of us here have in common, about 50 feet by 150 feet. But he has turned his property into a literal corner corner. He has turned the urban relief (alley) behind his house into an Advanced Certified Wildlife Habitat. It’s bird friendly and a monarch waystation. With permission, he has also taken on several other neighboring easements and handcrafted about 300 feet of otherwise wasted space into a natural landscape. He often uses what most consider trash (old stone, brick, etc.) to make up the entire trail.

He was instrumental in organizing the exchange of seeds and plants in the region and is continuously giving away starter plants from his garden. He has also been instrumental in beautifying many public areas and asks volunteers for help. These projects include an overgrown hospice care facility, the Texas Theater, and many more.

The monarch migration has arrived in our region. Van kept us informed of when to expect them. The prediction was that they would arrive on September 29th, and that was true. On September 29, Van announced on the Facebook page that dozens of monarchs lived in his beautiful butterfly garden, and invited everyone on the page to watch. So many, from toddlers to seniors, come to see this amazing spectacle.

Van is a wealth of information and is happy to share everything he knows with you.

I’m lucky enough not only to be a member of Oak Cliff Gardeners, but also to live less than a mile away. Van teaches me something new every time I visit.

These are some of the pictures I took in Van’s garden.

Migrating monarch butterflies stop by to feed on Gregg’s Mistflower (Conoclinum greggii, zones 7-10).

Garden pathAn easy path leads through the lush garden full of beautiful flowers for people and animals.

Silver leavesSilver leaves show surrounding flowering plants.

Butterflies on LantanaMany different species of butterflies love to sip on the nectar of Lantana (Lantana camara, zone 8-10 or yearly).

Monarch butterflies sip nectarThe long flight south to Mexico requires a lot of energy. Therefore, providing abundant nectar plants in late summer and fall is key to the thriving of monarch butterflies.

Prickly pearThe pads of a prickly pear (Opuntia species) contrast nicely with airier plants.

Monarch butterfliesA pair of monarch butterflies get intimate on the mist flower.

Mexican butterfly herbA red moment in the garden, with Mexican butterfly weed (Asclepias curassavica, zones 8-11 or annual) in the front and red salvia (Salvia greggii, zones 8-10 or annual) in the back.

Do you have a garden that you want to share?

Do you have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a specific collection of plants that you love, or a beautiful garden that you got to visit!

Submit 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We would like to hear where you are, how long you have been working in the garden, what successes you are proud of, what mistakes you have learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants or funny stories from your garden.

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