prairie gardening = dynamism

If there is a single-best term to describe what a prairie garden is, it has to be dynamism.
  1. 1.
    the quality of being characterized by vigorous activity and progress.
  2. 2.
    the theory that phenomena of matter or mind are due to the action of forces rather than to motion or matter.

The British gardeners have known this for some time.

Examples are, I am told, are all over the British Isles. I am hopeful, one day, I get to see some of them. I watched a great video a client gave me featuring the head gardener of Sissinghurst Castle talking about managing the gardens through the seasons of the year. Though they talked about rose training onto Castle walls (which to me was quite interesting), there wasn’t much said about the meadow gardens, I suspect because they don’t do much to manage them. The Brits have mastered naturalized and native meadows gardening, through the centuries.


above, looking to the tower of Sissinghurst from the “Orchard”.


above, looking from the tower, onto the “Orchard”, in early spring





above, an evergreen hedge is a most comfortable partner for the Sissinghurst Orchard garden.

The late, great Sir Christopher Llyod’s gardens of Great Dixter, below, East Sussex, England. An Orchard-meadow combined with topiary, near the 15th century barn. Evergeens and meadows…  structure and architecture…..






I saw Sir Christopher speak in Raleigh, N.C. back twenty years ago, along with, Dr. J.C Rauston, Tommy Dodd III, while attending the Southern Nurseryman’s meeting conference. Awesome dudes.



Our native meadows establish, here in the States, while teaching us ecology along the way, much like our garden teaches us about gardening.

I rest well in knowing that the process comes-along, and gets better over time, like a painting on a canvas on a good day (not that I know how to paint on a canvas).

I don’t have a 15th century barn, but I do have some fun and lots of thorough enjoyment as I “graze” my meadow gardens, even when its 95 degrees, 90% humidity, and not a faint breeze within fifty miles. ugh!*&*

I did a controlled burn last week at the farm. It finally got dry enough, and I had prepared the two-and-a-half acre site beforehand, creating good fire lines, and such.

Yea, it just wasn’t hot enough for me, ya’ll. 😦


above, looking west, about 1999, after the initial meadow burns at our prairie farm in Pearl River County, Mississippi. I had planted scattered seedlings of Long Leaf pines throughout. I was trying to create structure with a natural pine savannah canopy. Some took, even though we had three years of severe drought, 1999-2001.


Looking west, yesterday, four days after the burn, rusty brown, on left. On the right is the lush green-vegetative result of a December 9th, 2014 burn.


looking southwest, into the pine areas, you can see the result of much more intense burns, stoked by Long Leaf pine needles. In a simple fire-effect study two years ago, Dr. William Platt’s demonstration in his LSU Conservation Biology lab class at my prairie planting in Chappapeela Park showed temperatures three times that of native prairie areas without pines. Dr Platt says this condition encourages species recruitment of prairie grasses and wildflowers, while in areas with less intense heat, species recruitment is less, and I suspect, so is species conservatism values.


Helianthus Mollis in full flower, on right. Happy bees and butterflieees!

The summer burn is for hurting woody plant species which are shade makers and steal the sun from the prairie. The fire steals the woody plants from the prairie.


My boots. Toasty under the pines, yes?

I let the woody plants go in my fields, for 13 years, to see if the fires alone would actually manage them out of the landscape. This happened in the case of plantings that were heavily seeded with lots of native grasses, since the grasses provide hotter fuel than non-grass prairies. The grass-dominant areas at the farm have 80-90% less woody plants than ones without graminoides. Grass fires burn hotter than non-grassy fires. Grassy areas have a particularly competitive character.

Natural succession is seemingly speeded-up with hotter fires. Land management is made easier and more effective through fire, with the grass landscape.

Dr. Malcolm Vidrine says that “fire is the ultimate disturbance”. This statement seems more true each year.

Truly amazing things happen before your eyes in the dynamic, perfectly sustainable prairie-meadow garden.     … seen on TV, folks!


this is a photo of me before I found prairie. 🙂

It got much better after that.


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