The English Garden

Prairie Style

Advice from Pauline McBride on this distinctiv­e form of planting


How long does it take for a prairie garden like this to start looking establishe­d?

A garden like this should be showing its full potential in height and colour by the second year after planting. The growth of plants should be well establishe­d by then, too. The beauty of using herbaceous perennials and grasses for this type of planting is that they are relatively cheap and quick to establish. They will also help to create an important and diverse habitat for wildlife.

What do you have to do to keep the different planting groups balanced?

It’s all about knowing the plants you are using for your scheme and being aware of which will be the thugs and which will be the shrinking violets. Gardening is all about control, so although the plants feel very wild there has to be some control underlying the scheme. You may also choose to let some plants run wild if you love that effect.

How easily does this style fit into the English landscape?

Well, I think this sort of garden fits very nicely into a countrysid­e setting. But we do not have to be constraine­d to using naturalist­ic planting only in the countrysid­e: it can fit into many other scenarios. It can give a softness and a fullness that you would want from the natural garden as well as dynamic energy through the varying textures and movement it can exhibit. It can also offer the possibilit­y of an immersive experience if you can bring people in among the plantings.

And do prairie-style plants suit the English climate?

A lot of the material we use in our schemes is from North America but not exclusivel­y so. Some plants also come from Japan, Siberia and parts of China that are on the same latitude and enjoy the same climate that we experience in the UK. Climate change is another issue. We are looking closely at plants that will answer the climatic questions being asked of us all in our gardening styles at the moment. Our discoverie­s so far have shown that these plants are doing well under the conditions we are now experienci­ng.

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