Yard of the Year winners promote native gardening

Yard of the Year winners Tom and Cheri Stewart of 2801 Cecelia St. use a combination of native and non-native flowers in their extensive 2-acre landscape, and belong to an organization called Loess Hills, Iowa chapter of Wild Ones, which promotes planting native landscapes in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

The Stewarts started with a practically blank slate, just a windbreak, and began planting their gardens in Spring 2020 after they moved back to Sioux City from the Chicago area in 2019. They live in a mid-century ranch home that Cheri grew up in and was built by her grandparents in 1925.

“We learned how important native plants are to the ecosystem,” Cheri said. “We both also liked to garden.”

She explained the reason they planted native and non-native gardens.

“We’ve lost about 50 percent of the bee population. We all need to start planting stuff they survive on. Some insects can only eat one plant or a few plants. If there is no milkweed, there are no Monarchs (milkweed butterflies),” she said.

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They have seven different species of milkwood alone and well over 100 plants counting natives and non-natives.

In the front gardens they planted mostly ornamental flowers, non-natives, because they wanted the frontage to look like a traditional garden.

The non-native garden includes annuals such as zinnias, cosmos, snapdragons, and petunias, a cultivar of liatris, Russian sage, and nodding wild onion (a cultivar of a non-native plant). The Stewarts like to add different textures.

“We will start bringing some natives out here because they perform so much better,” Cheri said.

Further inward, they planted mostly native cultivars, which don’t seed as aggressively. They include shorter cultivars of Joe-Pye weed, anise hyssop and blanket flowers.

“We’re really grateful with how the native plants have taken off because of the number of insects and birds they attract,” she said.

In their vegetable garden they planted corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, potatoes, cantaloupe, strawberries, artichokes, and some fruit trees: three apple, two pear and an apricot.

Interspersed among the different textures of native and non-native plants is garden art, some of it made by Cheri with old lamps and vases, or old dishes.

“Cheri always has ideas,” Tom said. “A lot of the art she has done herself.”

They like to grab a glass of wine, walk through the gardens and talk about what they want to do next. They also enjoy giving tours of their gardens. They want to encourage others to check out Loess Hills, Wild Ones and think about planting some native gardens themselves. To learn more, visit https://loesshills.wildones.org/

If you would like to nominate yourself or a neighbor for the Yard of the Month for next year, fill out an application and return it to the city manager’s office.

Address it to Office of the City Manager, 405 6th Street, 2nd Floor, Sioux City, IA 51101. Or email [email protected].