Why Natives, Why Windflower?

In a culture where nature and human beings are conceptually distinct, native plant communities remind us that the two belong together. To be human is to be in harmony with nature. In countless ways the culture we live in makes this—if you will allow me to understate the matter—hard.

The cultivation of native plant communities is in this sense counter-cultural. It is one way to breathe some life back into the sterility our sense of separation has brought into the world. How?

What are native plants? To begin with, a native plant is simply a plant that coevolved with the web of life of a specific region. In our case, that region is the tallgrass prairie.

Connection and Interdependence: Because of coevolution, and unlike non-native plants, native plants play a meaningful role in the functionality (energy cycling) of its native ecosystem. That is, they help turn sunlight into food that is accessible to the animals, insects, and microbiome that it coevolved with. Native plants equal life!

Diversity and Efficiency: No single species can cover all the niches that are possible for life. Species diversity therefore creates a web of life that is able to make the most use of the energy on offer. A single square meter of remnant prairie can support over one hundred species of plants and insects and are among the most productive ecosystems on the planet!

Resiliency: It can be a harsh wold out there, and native plants have those extremes written into their DNA. Coevolution and diversity both add up to resiliency. When drought, cold, and insect cycles decimate non-native plants, native plant communities have the resources to adapt and survive.

All But Lost: The one thing the prairie had no defenses against was the arrival of a culture of separation that viewed the prairie first as a threat and then as a profitable resource. Within a single generation nearly 100% of the prairie was converted to monocultures of a handful of crops.

Home?: What have we lost in losing the prairie? The original inhabitants of this land have effectively lost their home, and the European arrivals have lost the opportunity to ever feel fully at home. On some level we feel disconnected. Our culture takes without having much sense of how we can give back, of how we can become a part of the “spiritual functionality” of this place.

You Can Be Part of the Healing: One way to begin healing is to befriend what remains of the original systems of life that remain. There’s so little left, and we’ve lost so much wisdom about them. This is why Windflower Natives exists: to help be a guide on the journey to—on a much deeper level—coming home.

Why Windflower?

Windflower Natives was born out of a very real experience of coming home, and everything we do is aimed at facilitating that experience for others. It’s true that we are a native plant nursery, one among others. But as an artist and a theologian, I hope to impart more than simply “plant material.” You might say that the meanings are essential to the material. This influences the way we run our entire operation.

One example is the manner by which I obtain our seed. Some growers will buy their seed from large distributors. This can mean that the plants they grow are of ecotypes that are far outside of the region they are selling in, and therefore bloom times may be out of sync with the native pollinators. This relatively detached way of growing also emphasizes the merely economic and technical side of horticulture.

I don’t buy seed. Everything I grow is harvested by hand from remnant populations within our growing region. Care is taken never to over-harvest a site. During harvest, as much time is spent simply listening to the life that is moving in these precious places, as is devoted to actively collecting seed.

From these moments of stillness emerge not only seed, but my photography and the ideas for my writings. Every plant or art print purchased from us has its origins in these little adventures. Every piece of writing you read carries with it the memories of the velvety caress of a pasque flower petal and the aroma of mountain mint. I am brought to life in these places, and my work in this venture is simply my desire to stay connected to that life and offer myself as a guide to others who feel the currents of life moving among the wildflowers.