Native Medicinal Garden

Photo credit: Alison Dishinger

The Native Medicinal Garden is a demonstration garden managed by the Douglas County Master Gardeners in collaboration with Kansas Biological Survey. “All of the plants in our garden are native to the Midwest and Great Plains except for culinary herbs,” explains Master Gardener Roxie McGee, one of the garden coordinators. “We are exploring how native plants grow in small spaces so the knowledge can be expanded to people who have gardens of a similar size.”

“Grasses like little blue stem, prairie drop seed, and sideoats grama are used alongside flowering plants for structure and backdrop,” said Master Gardener Alison Dishinger, garden coordinator. Plants that grow well in the garden include lead plant, rattlesnake master, rudbeckia, iris, purple poppy mallow and sneezeweed.


Prairie Dropseed.  Photo credit: Alison Dishinger.


Lead Plant


Rattlesnake Master

Master Gardeners plant the same type of plant in different areas of the garden to determine how they will grow in different locations. “It can be very different from foot to foot,” said McGee. There is a clear example of this in the center of the garden, where grasses planted on one side of a gridded area are full and lush while the same type of plants on the other side are sparse. “One side is happy but their neighbors one foot over are struggling,” explained Dishinger. Reasons for this might include the soil not being as fertile in certain areas, changes in soil pH from one area to another, or possibly soil being more compacted in areas of the same bed.


Visitors to the garden will be treated to an abundance of pollinators, including monarchs, swallowtails, painted ladies, silvery checkerspots and a variety of bees. Dragonflies make an appearance, as do hummingbirds and field sparrows. If you’re lucky and have a sharp eye, you might even catch a glimpse of a frog. “The garden changes every day. If you look close enough, you’ll always find something interesting,” said Dishinger.


Photo credit: Alison Dishinger


Photo credit: Roxie McGee


Photo credit: Alison Dishinger

Previously, the garden had fifteen rows of plants as a research initiative through the Kansas Biological Survey. “We condensed that number from fifteen to five to better manage ecosystems,” said McGee.


Master Gardeners working in this garden use the “chop and drop” approach to mulching. When a plant is cut down, the stalks are placed on the ground and used as mulch instead of being disposed of in the compost pile. Some of the plants in the garden are left standing in the fall so that birds can eat the seeds and insects can use the stalks as habitats.

Schools, garden clubs, herbalist groups, photographers, and the curious use the garden as a classroom and resource. “The easiest way to ‘know’ a plant is to interact with it–to see, feel, and smell it as well as see where it grows and how it relates to other plants and creatures,” said McGee.


Photo credit: Alison Dishinger

The garden is located at 1865 E. 1600 Road, Lawrence, KS and is open dawn to dusk, 365 days a year. Each day brings something new to discover, and visitors are always welcome.

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