Cole Family Mini Prairie

The Stories A Yard Can Tell

Planting a New Tradition

The Cole Family has made visiting the Spring Plant & Art Sale to buy native plants a family tradition.

“Anyone who’s on our deck, they’ve heard the stories about the Indian Creek Nature Center and [Peter’s] native grasses,” said Kelley Cole while standing next to a circle of native prairie plants in her backyard.

Kelley and Peter Cole have built a mini prairie featuring pollinator-friendly, native plants they have purchased at the Indian Creek Nature Center’s Spring Plant and Art Sale over the past few years. It’s become a tradition for their entire family.

“One of the families, either my parents or the in-laws — they’re always here over the Plant Sale weekend. We always bring people. It’s just a wonderful event and we definitely go every year. It’s awesome! Everyone buys stuff and they take them back home.”

There are many reasons to love the Plant Sale, from supporting local vendors to getting advice from the experts from Linn County Master Gardeners, but the Coles really just like any excuse to get out to the Nature Center.

“I love walking around the Nature Center. I love being outside, soaking it in, being relaxed and bringing the family. We love supporting the Nature Center and getting our plants from [there].”

Each year they bring the family and leave with a few more native plants to add to their growing mini prairie. “I think the first time that we did this was right after the derecho. So probably spring of 2021. We go to the Plant Sale every year. So, yeah. We’ve filled it in a little bit more.”

Growing a Visual Destination

“We used to have a trampoline there. And then as my daughter got older, we’re like: the trampoline’s leaving. Let’s put something there instead of just grass.” 

Peter put together a list of beautiful native grasses and wildflowers that would attract pollinators and add beauty to the space. “Peter had a vision of doing the native grasses because they’re just beautiful. And to make a visual destination in the yard versus just filling it in with grass seed.”

List in hand, the Coles headed to the Plant Sale to get the plants they’d need to start their mini prairie. Little did they know they were also beginning a tradition.

“That first year, Peter probably got five to eight [plants] because we wanted to define the space and then each year, probably two or three small additions.”

Three years later, their mini prairie brings a multitude of joys to the Cole family.

More Beauty. Less Work.

Native plants in Cole family yard
The Cole Family enjoys the beauty and ease of having native plants in their yard.

“We’re definitely trying to plant more native things and, you know, the milkweed is just fun because we want to see some butterflies.”

The Coles liked their native plants so much that they also planted some, including the milkweed monarch caterpillars love, in their front yard.

The mini prairie has proven to be exactly what the Coles were hoping for. The relatively small numbers of native plants brings multiple benefits to pollinators and they discovered the native plants required less effort to care for than other plants.

“They come up every year. I mean, that was definitely a consideration. We want it to return every year. We don’t want to have to replant stuff. You want it to be sustainable. Because it’s easier to maintain than redo.”

Happy with the ease and beauty found in their mini prairie, the Coles can’t help but share the story of their new tradition.

“We sit out on our deck a lot and face the yard because you want to look at the beautiful plants that are coming up, especially in the spring. And literally Peter always tells the story about his native grasses.”

Now, Peter has the visual destination filled with beautiful native plants he envisioned more than three years ago. And, if you ever find yourself on the Cole family’s deck, be ready to hear the story about how those beautiful wildflowers found their way into their backyard.

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