Prairie gar­dens work in many land­scapes

The Progress-Index - At Home - - NEWS - DEAN FOS­DICK

You don’t need to live on the prairie to have a prairie gar­den. Nat­u­ral land­scapes fea­tur­ing mainly na­tive plants are be­ing sown in yards across North Amer­ica as en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly al­ter­na­tives to turf grass.

Th­ese durable plant com­bi­na­tions in­clude flow­ers, shrubs and trees. They re­quire lit­tle at­ten­tion, add year-round color and in­ter­est and pro­vide wildlife-friendly habi­tat.

“Many species found in prairies are na­tive to other plant com­mu­ni­ties found out­side the Mid­west, such as wood­land open­ings, mead­ows and bar­rens, as well as moun­tain and desert habi­tats,” says Lynn Steiner of Still­wa­ter, Minn., au­thor of “Prairie Style Gar­dens”.

“And even if th­ese plants aren’t na­tive to your area, they are still of­ten bet­ter choices than ex­otic plants that come from out­side North Amer­ica.”

City and sub­ur­ban gar­dens of­ten aren’t large enough to sup­port mead­ows, but many prairie plants adapt well to smaller spa­ces, she said.

“They tol­er­ate less fer­tile soils, re­duc­ing the need for syn­thetic fer­til­iz­ers. They thrive on less wa­ter, re­duc­ing wa­ter use. And they don’t re­quire heavy fos­sil-fuel in­put from mow­ing and trim­ming,” Steiner said in an email.

Mar­garet Brit­ting­ham, an ex­ten­sion wildlife spe­cial­ist with Penn State Univer­sity, said it takes some ef­fort to get prairie plants es­tab­lished “but once done, they’re easy to han­dle.”

“They’re great for at­tract­ing birds and but­ter­flies,” she said. “You can use them for cut flow­ers, too.”

To keep neigh­bors happy and win of­fi­cial ap­proval from mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, make the con­ver­sion from lawn to meadow look tended and not un­kempt, Brit­ting­ham said.

AP PHOTO/DEAN FOS­DICK

Bill Carter, pres­i­dent of Prairie Moon Nurs­ery, poses amid an as­sort­ment of prairie flow­ers sown in a nearby farm­yard near Wi­nona, Minn. Many of th­ese seeded peren­ni­als need two or three years to reach bloom­ing size but re­ally take off once es­tab­lished.

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