Everlastin­g LOVE

In­spired by the Amer­i­can plains, prairie and meadow gar­dens not only main­tain their in­ter­est year round, they’re low main­te­nance and wildlife friendly

South African Garden and Home - - Con­tents -

Prairie and meadow gar­dens tra­di­tion­ally con­sist of a mix of grasses and peren­ni­als. The ad­van­tage of this style is that in­ter­est­ing shapes, f low­ers and re­sult­ing seed heads main­tain the vis­ual ap­peal through the sea­sons. Plus, plants don’t have to be dead­headed or cut back af­ter f low­er­ing, keep­ing main­te­nance to a min­i­mum. An­other ben­e­fit is that the f low­er­ing plants at­tract pol­li­nat­ing in­sects, while the seed heads bring the birds.

Grasses form the back­bone of a prairie gar­den, and for­tu­nately, most nurs­eries carry a good se­lec­tion. Choose va­ri­eties with dif­fer­ent heights and in­ter­est­ing seed heads, for ex­am­ple Meli­nis repens ‘Na­tal Red­top’ and Chas­man­thium lat­i­folium. For coloured fo­liage, try Pen­nise­tum se­taceum ‘Rubrum’ (pur­ple foun­tain) and Im­per­ata ‘Red Baron’ while Muh­len­ber­gia du­mosa and Se­taria mega­phylla pro­vide at­trac­tive tex­ture. In­ter­plant th­ese with the fol­low­ing longf low­er­ing peren­ni­als and cre­ate im­pact with re­peat plant­ings in large groups.

1 COS­MOS ( COS­MOS BIPINNATUS)

Just as cos­mos brings the road­sides to life in au­tumn, it’ll do the same in a prairie gar­den. Sow the seeds in situ in early spring so the plants are es­tab­lished be­fore the hot weather ar­rives. Use MayFord’s low-grow­ing yel­low and orange C. sul­phureus ‘Po­liodor Mix’ to­wards the front of the bed, and pretty white ‘Pi­co­tee’, which has a crim­son edge to lighten up the back of the bed.

2 CONEFLOWER ( ECHI­NACEA SPP.)

Conef low­ers are pop­u­lar peren­ni­als as they’re heat and drought re­sis­tant, easy to grow, bloom for months, make great cut f low­ers, and at­tract birds and pol­li­na­tors. They come in shades of pink, orange, yel­low, red and char­treuse, as well as a range of f lower forms. ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ from Ball Straathof has a wide colour range and well-branched habit, while ‘Pow Wow’ is com­pact. Leave the seed heads to ma­ture on the plant and self-seed.

3 TICKSEED ( COREOPSIS SPP.)

There are more than 100 dif­fer­ent species of tickseed and grow­ers have had a field day cre­at­ing some spec­tac­u­lar va­ri­eties. New on the mar­ket from Ball Straathof are ‘Dou­ble the Sun’, which has large yel­low blooms, and the bi­colour ‘UpTick Gold and Bronze’ (pic­tured). The fern­like fo­liage is also ap­peal­ing. Although they’re hardy, they don’t tend to live longer than three to five years.

NOTE: Coreopsis lance­o­late is a de­clared in­vader through­out South Africa and must be erad­i­cated.

4 SUNFLOWERS ( HELIANTHUS SPP.)

A few sunf lower seeds ran­domly popped be­tween grasses and or­na­men­tals will add ver­ti­cal in­ter­est. Sow a fresh batch ev­ery cou­ple of weeks to en­sure a con­tin­u­ous pa­rade of blooms un­til the first frost. Once the cen­tral f lower has fin­ished f low­er­ing, snip it off as this will en­cour­age smaller f low­ers to de­velop from side shoots for a longer dis­play.

5 BLAN­KET FLOW­ERS ( GAIL­LAR­DIA SPP.)

Richly coloured gail­lar­dias are easy to grow, but short-lived. How­ever, they make up for this by bloom­ing al­most con­tin­u­ously. Their daisy-like blooms are a mag­net for but­terf lies and other pol­li­na­tors. Keep them go­ing by di­vid­ing them ev­ery two to three years. Two-tone ‘Ari­zona Sun’ and ‘Mesa Bright Bi­color’ both have a neat com­pact shape and up­right habit.

6 BLACK-EYED-SU­SAN ( RUDBECKIA SPP.)

Th­ese ro­bust no-fuss, bushy peren­ni­als pro­duce masses of blooms all sum­mer right up un­til the first frosts. Usu­ally the f low­ers are yel­low with a black cen­tre, but breed­ers have added many colours and forms in re­cent years. A favourite is the clump-form­ing Rudbeckia fulgida var. sul­li­van­tii ‘Gold­sturm’ (pic­tured), which is par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive when planted among grasses.

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In­clude grasses like Meli­nis repens ‘Na­tal Red­top’ (left) and Pen­nise­tum se­taceum ‘Rubum’ (pur­ple foun­tain) (right) in a meadow gar­den for their seed­heads and to add move­ment.

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