Benjamin's garden writing has received a silver medal award from the Garden Writers Association; his work has appeared in Wilder Quarterly, APLD's The Designer, Nebraska Life, the Lincoln Journal Star, and several blogs including Garden Rant, Gardening Gone Wild, and Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens. His images have appeared in Northern Gardener, Orion, the book Gardening for Butterflies (Timber Press), and are on permanent display at Spring Creek Prairie. Since 2013 Benjamin has written a near-weekly column at Houzz, which has received over 2.5 million reads; below is a selection of some of the more popular pieces. Or start here and see where gardening is headed.
Nature is not a garden, but it’s too easy to see nature as something imperfect. When we can take a step back and see a fallen tree as beautiful and purposeful or appreciate an assassin bug enjoying its moth dinner, we can see that the world doesn’t seem to need us in it, and we can start to become a more humble and rewarding part of it. A garden can teach us how to interact with life and guide us into deeper self-discovery if we design with purpose, then let that design evolve with the species that come to call it home." Read more.
Garden Friendly Native Alternatives for Overplanted Exotics
A list of a dozen natives with similar appearance and growing conditions to common plants like hosta, daylily, bradford pear, burning bush, miscanthus, and barberry -- but that provide more for wildlife. Also read 4 Ways Gardens Can Go Beyond Aesthetic Beauty.
New Ways to Think About All That Mulch in the Garden
Drive by most any professional landscape and you're sure to see a lot more wood mulch than plants. Is that what you imagine a garden to be? Wood mulch requires more maintenance and money over time -- why not use green mulch instead and have a healthier, more lush garden?
7 Reasons Not to Clean Up Your
Leaving the garden standing over winter leads to lots of ecological benefits, from healthier plants to wildlife cover and food. Stop erasing what you built over the summer and create a thriving landscape full of seasonal life and richer beauty. Let's also wax poetic about the autumn garden.
The Case for Losing
the Traditional Lawn
It's wasted space. You have to mow and water and fertilize. And where are the butterflies? Here are three reasons modern lawns aren't helping you, your home value, or the environment. Continue reading about alternatives by discovering native sedges and how to stop fighting the patchy lawn.
Rethink Gardening by USDA
The first thing we look at on plant tags is the hardiness zone number, but it's actually the least reliable way to see if a plant will work best in a landscape while supporting wildlife. How do you find the right native plants for your landscape?
6 Plants That Beat Butterfly Bush for the Wildlife Draw
Believe it or not, butterfly bush is not one of the best plants for attracting butterflies. How can you support even more beneficial pollinators and wildlife in your garden? And what if you have a small urban garden?
Why Aggressive Plants Might
Actually Be Your Friends
The differences between invasive and aggressive, with the conditions where an exuberant plant just might fit the bill. Also, read about the aesthetic and practical benefits of layering diverse plant communities,
7 Ways to Use Drifts & Masses
Plants form communities. Plants rely on family and friends to grow well as share information and resources through their scents and roots. One way to create a beautiful garden that’s less work and emulates nature is to use drifts and masses. Also, love your good clay soil!
13 Risks to Take for True
Time to bend and even break the unwritten garden rules. Also, link to my piece on how to keep your native plant garden looking suave all year long.
"Our gardens matter, and the way in which we create them, grow them, and rethink them matters on a level far more important than whether they simply function aesthetically. While we must always find a garden beautiful, and while it will always be a kind of artifice, the truth is the entire world is now a garden we have made. How we tend it, how we honor those species we've ignored, dishonored, and betrayed, will say much about who we are and who we will become. Our legacy won't be how pretty our gardens looked; our legacy will be how gardens and other managed spaces woke us to a revolution of belonging in this world, and a renaissance of ethical thinking that helped us evolve into our fullest potential as stewards of life and as gardeners of our own hearts."
Read more from Our Century's Garden Legacy
Benjamin has also profiled over 80 native plants at Houzz:
Sedges & Grasses
Plains oval sedge (Carex brevior)
Long-beaked sedge (Carex sprengelii)
Ivory sedge (Carex eburnea)
Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans)
Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)
Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
Blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis)
Purple love grass (Eragrostis spectabilis)
Trees & Shrubs
Swamp white oak
Southern live oak
Shrubs for Birds
Red twig dogwood
Round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza capitata)
Sullivant's milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii)
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Spider milkweed (Asclepias viridis)
Tall blazingstar (Liatris aspera)
Meadow blazingstar (Liatris ligulistylis)
Scaly blazingstar (Liatris squarrosa)
Joe pye weed spp
Spotted joe pye (Eupatorium maculatum)
Blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)
Common boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Prairie sunflower (Helianthus petiolaris)
Lead plant (Amorpha canescens)
Dwarf false indigo (Amorpha nana)
Canada milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis)
Dwarf blue indigo (Baptisia australis minor)
Wild senna (Senna hebecarpa)
White turtlehead (Chelone glabra)
Rocky mountain bee plant (Cleome serrulata)
Tall coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris)
White prairie clover (Dalea candida)
Midland shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia)
Black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia spp.)
Blue vervain (Verbena hastata)
Culver's root (Veronicastrum virginicum)
Golden alexanders (Zizia aurea)
Prairie blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium campestre)
Common ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata)
Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
Queen of the prairie (Filipendula rubra)
Closed bottle gentian (Gentiana andrewsii)
Prairie smoke (Geum triflorum)
Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
Wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium)
Shell leaf penstemon (Penstemon grandiflorus)
Pasque flower (Anemone patens)
Virginia mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum)
Upright prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera)
Giant coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima)
Blue sage (Salvia azurea)
Stiff goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum)
Riddell's Goldenrod (Oligoneuron riddellii)
Big leaf aster
White woodland aster
Smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laeve)
Aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium)
Sky blue aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense)
Blue wood aster