Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes
by Sally Wasowski
While in the library I picked up a copy of this book… I was in the middle of writing about prairie gardens as a style, and so it caught my interest. Little did I realize what a gem of a garden book I had happened upon. Literate, expert, and easy to apply, I think any gardener would benefit from having this book on their shelves. After all, don’t many of us grow coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and experiment with grasses, already?
Generally, it helps to know the origins of a plant, and an area’s climate and soil conditions. You can grow your plantings with the pig-in-a-poke mentality, and probably have a lovely garden doing it (if you are an observant and nurturing gardener), but gardening knowledgeably increases your own joys as well as helps you have more success. ‘Gardening With Prairie Plants‘ does just this: helps you garden knowledgeably with prairie plants.
A Journey Of Understanding
The chapters take you through a journey of understanding: Part I beginning with “Getting Acquainted with Prairies” gives an overview of the types of prairies and their native regions. From depictions of some of the gardens incorporating prairie plants and styles to a breakdown of facts about plants and their growing conditions in a prairie, “Anatomy of a Prairie”, concludes this part.
As you follow though each part and its chapters the subtle beauty of this landscape form begins to draw you in, aided by the easy prose and the wide range of diverse facts. The detours, to which a large topic can lead, fascinate. Yet, the author keeps it tightly bound together in a way which keeps the detours as tantalizing glimpses, while pursuing the main road of giving an expert basis for understanding what defines a prairie and how gardeners can bring this into their own landscaping plans.
Great Information, Great Illustration
While largely an informational book, it is richly illustrated with photos of both large and small scale plantings, of wild nature and gardened places, to bring home the promise that this is truly an accessible style of landscaping, with specific rewards to us and the environment. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all sort of garden or garden book, and that is something important the author, Wasowski, makes clear. In Part II, the reader is helped along a sequence of determining conditions that then produce guidance in choosing the types of plants for a particular type of prairie. Discussion of maintenance is given its own chapter. That seems to be the downfall of many a well intentioned prairie/ or meadow space, and so was a welcome chapter inclusion.
Guide To Grasses
Part III holds an excellent section all about profiles of grasses, which makes this an ideal volume for those who want to grow more grasses, as opposed to lawn, in their gardens. And the wide range of forbs, the non-grasses, makes this truly a garden book, with perhaps a new vision on how to use many plants we are already familiar with. Savannah trees and shrubs bring up the rear, to outline a full spectrum landscape which hearkens back to the native growth of our wide open spaces, now largely farmland spotted with suburban outcroppings.
I found myself savoring the pictures, and planning more of the look of a wild prairie garden for my own yard. It incorporated all the hard won lessons I have experienced into a new vision of where my garden might best go and grow in the future. The discovery of the intricacy of the prairie plant world was a delightful outcome of poring over the pages and the stories of the particular gardens. Garden plan illustrations were included for example, and while not the lions share of the book, they greatly increased the value of the information for home gardeners.
This is one book I want on my bookshelf, and believe you will, too. There have been few books I would recommend as highly for educational resource, horticultural expertise, and eye for beauty.