After visiting the gardens at our shop, a new client decided that was the look they wanted- a wild prairie garden. Even the more orderly section of our garden has a natural feeling with its mountain mint filling in with abandon, a diminutive white flowering mint popping up in random spots (AKA open areas that need coverage), and echinacea reseeding well and promising to create very lush stands in short order. The appearance of our garden begs the question: can you plan a natural prairie-pollinator garden? The answer is yes, and no.
“We have a plan- a general idea based on what large stands of plants we want to see like Little Bluestem or Amsonia,” shares Landscape Designer Natalie Selker. “We then incorporate other bands or groups of plants that are second in command as they don’t have as much visual weight. Then we add in the fillers, the plants we want to spread and take possession of open areas. These plants act as the base of the garden and are vigorous enough to find open ground, but not so stout as to thwart other plants. The result is a designed unplanned garden.”
For this design, a steep slope had to be addressed as well as a desire to access the stream at the foot of said slope. The garden has a main path running through it nearer the home and the garden, for the most part, is easily viewed from the home and deck. A completely unplanned garden, one in which a selection of plugs is added randomly with no formal arrangement does best when a bit removed from the home. When you are close to the home, having a design that makes it easier to tend to and remove unwanted plants is best.
“We like working with thick stands of plants so come spring it’s easier to identify what stays and what needs editing,” explains Selker. “If you’re going to be right there in the garden, chances are you want a small feeling of order and the ability to keep the space weeded.”
A common misconception about pollinator gardens is that they are no maintenance. We would categorize them as low maintenance. When they are planted thick, weeds are not a huge issue. What we shouldn’t ignore is that it’s in our nature to want some order, even if only the hint of it with a few dominant stands of plants and a mainly weedless garden. When you start a garden with generous bands or groupings of the same plant, it’s easier to weed the garden come spring and become familiar with each plant’s propensity to spread. We get to know the garden and its plants before it takes off on its own.
If you want prairie garden of your own, call us!