prairie – patterns, processes, and proliferation

Prairie gardening, as Larry Weaner says, “is a fundamentally different way of designing and building landscapes”. But what does Larry know?!!!! ha, just kidding.

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above, Sandy Calder’s stabile and Darell Morrison’s meadow, bound in nuptials, Storm King Art Center and Sculpture Gardens

Prairie gardening is also a different way of looking at landscapes, a different way of enjoying landscapes. Prairie gardening is a way to reconnect with the earth, the soil below our feet.

Back when I was just a wee chap, knee high to a Miscanthus, I had a heavy hankerin’ for all things grasses. It was a different time then, before Al Gore’s internet. It was a time when you learned things from people you found through other people or you read it in a magazine or newspaper. The written word was in hard copy only. You couldn’t google it back then. Dang I am old. 🙂

It was a life time ago. I was so fortunate to have happened to one day serendipitously find myself living in the picayune town of Picayune, Mississippi. I moved there to escape from city life- I had the Green Acres affliction. It was not long after I had settled in to the country life, that the Crosby Arboretum opened in the early 1990’s, just down the road a piece from my humble homestead. I had been cutting my teeth on exotic-non-native grasses, having been inspired by an article I read about the famous grass nurseryman Kurt Blumel. Back then, there was no such thing as availability of native grasses (still isn’t, ha). Exotics were good enough. I delighted in the crappy gardens that I produced. I was on the cutting edge, I thought.

One of the highlights of my career was spending the day with Mr. Blumel at his nursery during a break in the Eastern Native Grass Conference- Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 2007. I once had a photograph that someone had taken of Mr. Blumel and myself, two fellow Slovaks, at his nursery that day. The photo is long gone, but I keep the image of it, nice and tidy, in my mind. It seems like just yesterday….

II have been so fortunate to have met so many people who are some of the pioneering geniuses (my friend Gail Barton calls them whiz-kids) of horticulture. Gail doesn’t know it, but I consider her to be one of those hero wiz-kids. 🙂

One of the most important and influential days of my career was when, in the summer of 1991, I found myself in the company of two of these genius-type wiz-kid fellows, in another picayune town, Eunice, Louisiana, in the heart of Cajun country- Acadiana- the Cajun region of Louisiana.

It was that day that ecologists Dr. Charles Allen and Dr. Malcolm Vidrine gave me a tour of their newly developed ten acre garden, the Cajun Prairie Restoration site. The garden was flush with the lushness of prairie. I had been experimenting with growing prairie plants by seed, in my sad little back yard nursery. I walked away from that meeting just like I always do when I visit that same garden- totally inspired and enthused.

It was that day the skies had opened up for me just like in the Monty Python movies, and the sun shined through as the Prairie gurus walked me through their handiwork. As Oprah would say, it was my Aha moment!

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I determined to do something bold and different. I would build a business that specialized in prairie landscapes. I wanted to be a prairie landscaping dude. Still working’ on it, folks! 🙂

Professor Darell Morrison encapsulates the prairie concept best I think, in this beautifully done ten minute video. Take some time for yourself and click the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYAdTQIU110  Morrison

If you have an hour one day, check out Larry Weaner‘s presentation on prairie proliferation below. Larry’s a master of designing and managing prairie landscapes and naturalistic – native gardens. His website says it best when its says that the firm “blends environmental science and fine garden design” to produce wild and crazy-colorful,  incredibly beautiful landscapes. click the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfMKI6vTDt4  Larry Weaner

Get Smart!

Two significant prairie educational events are taking place this year in Louisiana. One is the Louisiana Native Plant Society annual meeting/ conference in the metropolis of Pollock, Louisiana, where people who know prairie will share their prairie gardening life-stories.

The other is a Restoration Round-up event that is to be held possibly in the southwestern Louisiana area with everything you wanted to know about prairie landscaping, but were afraid to ax. The details are being determined right now for this event. It will likely be held in September. Stay turned, same prairie time, same prairie channel, ya’ll.

I am looking forward to the Round-up. I am proud to say I was on the board of the Coastal Prairie Partnership when we developed the idea for the first Round-up, held south of the Houston area in the summer of 2013. This should be a fun time, with expert prairie folks gabbing and mechanical equipment – machinery, on display for your enjoyment and pleasure- with folks who know how to work the machinery- that sort of thing.

Awesome!

Landscaping with Native Grasses – Strom King Art Center – New York

One day I want to find myself visiting the Storm King Art Center not only to see Mr. Morrison’s grass garden designs but especially to see the amazing Calder Sculptures and of course, and most especially to float on Maya Lin’s “Waves”.

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Maya Lin’s “Waves” – Storm King

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Sandy Calder’s “Arch” 1975, painted steel, 50 x 41 x 34, Storm King

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Calder, Five Swords, 1976, sheet metal, bolts, and paint, 17 x 22 x 29, Storm King

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Calder’s “Black Flag”, 1974, sheet metal, bolts, and paint, 23 x 19 x 17

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Manashe Kadishman, “Suspended”, 1977, weathering steel, 23 x 33 x 48, Storm King

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Crosby Arboretum controlled burn, 2014

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Meadowmakers Farm and Nursery, Carriere, Mississippi, circa 1999 (before google earth)

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Meadowmakers Farm prairie plantings first post-burn, 1999

 

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