Prairie planting is one of the most popular modern planting styles it is relaxed and is a man made re-creation of natural plant associations.
The plants are grouped naturally in drifts and allowed to grow and behave naturally. This results in a much easier style of gardening. Many of the plants only need to be cut back once a year and very little, if any, watering or feeding is required. Prairie plants have to be tough and able to withstand drought and freezing temperatures. It is therefore an ideal style for anyone with little time, or inclination, for gardening.
Prairie planting will look at its absolute best from early June to February when it needs to be cut back so that the new growth can come through. However there is interest in the new growth that the plants put on from March/April onwards when the fresh green shoots emerge.
Prairie schemes work to full effect in larger areas so that big groups of plants can be used. It is also best not to use too close to houses as the jump from the structure of the buildings to the informal planting may well jar. A buffer zone between the two creates a more pleasing effect.
All Prairie planting schemes need to have a foundation of grasses which, once established, help to keep invasive weeds at bay. The flowering plants are best kept to a colour theme to tie everything together. The idea is to have areas of colour offset by a neutral background. Plant in big groups and never in straight lines.
Some of the best plants to use include the following:
Miscanthus sinensis cultivars – large and very beautiful, the flowers are often pink. Dried flower and seedheads remain all winter and look stunning in low light.
Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ – Very upright and stands all through the winter.
Stipa calamagrostis – not too tall and has elegant droopy flowers over very long period.
Anamanthele lessoniana – Superb autumn colour and looks good all winter.
Panicum ‘Shenandoah’ – very fine flowers. Delicate.
Pennisetum – fluffy flower heads.
Rudbeckia – long flowering daisy shape.
Achillea – comes in lots of colours.
Echinacea purpurea cultivars – large and bold daisy flowers.
Helenium ‘Indian Summer’ – russet autumn colours.
Sanguisorba officinalis – red button flowers.
Knautia macedonica – claret flowers.
Monarda cultivars – butterflies and bees love it.
Eupatorium purpureum ‘Atropurpureum’ – tall and dramatic with pink flowers.
Verbena bonariensis – allow it to self seed.
Vernonia – tall daisy like flowers.