Photo of Prairie Grasses

Prairie style planting is very popular now and rightly so. Prarie grasses are vital to this kind of garden and add movement, informality and late summer/winter interest to any planting scheme.

One of the leaders in this popular form of gardening is Piet Oudolf who has created prairie gardens in a number of countries. Piet Oudolf combines prairie grasees such as Miscanthus, Pennisetum and Stipa with perrennial flowers such as Echinacea, HeleniumsHeleniums and Achilleas. Eupatorium purpureum and the persicaries are also big favourites of Piet Oudolf.

Planting is carried out in big bold swathes with a minimum of 11 plants in each group rather than the threes or fives traditionally recommended for planting schemes. Tall grasses such as Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' are used to provide vertical accents in the drifts of foliage and flowers. Self seeding and natural migration of plants is allowed giving the gardens a relaxed style.

Examples of prairie-style gardens can be seen at:

Piet Oudolf's own garden in Holland

RHS garden at Wisley

I have started a prairie style garden of my own using a variety of prairie grasses to develop this. This will be a long term project as I have not the budget to buy the hundreds of plants needed to plant up the bold drifts. I am buying the appropriate plants and with time dividing/sowing seed to increase my stocks and expand my planting.

prairie grasses

My own 'Prairie-style' border

Miscanthus grasses are my favourites but there are lots of lovely Pennesetum and Stipa too. Here in the south west of France Pennesetums seem to be the 'must have' for many of the town planting schemes this year and on the whole these are looking fabulous.