THE WIDE OPEN plains of North America might not seem like an easy starting point for a domestic garden, but the work of Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf and others over recent decades has seen this landscape become an inspiration for even the smallest plot.
If you’re lucky enough to border fields, you can visually ‘merge’ with
the wider landscape by framing and borrowing views, but in suburbia you may have to be more inward-looking. However, provided you have a relatively open, sunny site, incorporating plenty of grasses and swathes of herbaceous perennial plants will immediately
give a prairie flavour to proceedings.
Hard landscaping, hedging or topiary will provide year-round shape and interest, and curving paths will echo the planting’s gentle, rolling mounds. A raised deck lets you enjoy the beauty of your prairie from an elevated position, such as from an outdoor rocking chair.
1 No hard standing area to sit and enjoy the garden
2 Large expanse of lawn and lack of planting
means there’s no seasonal colour
3 Neighbouring properties block surrounding views
4 Current shed offers insufficient storage space
Build decking In a sunny spot, a hardwood raised deck provides a useful space for outside dining and entertaining.
Create a veranda Adding swing seats or an outside rocking chair to a raised deck evokes the classic wooden veranda you’d find in the homestead architecture of America’s Great Plains.
Lay curved gravel paths Meandering paths that wind through the planting areas are easy to create with metal-edged self-binding gravel.
Add ranch-style fencing Small sections of classic post-and-rail fencing will not only make the deck safer, but will also evoke the type of boundaries found on prairies.
Plant grasses Ornamental grasses are essential for the feel of a prairie and add height and movement to the space. A good rule of thumb is one-third grasses to two-thirds perennials.
Create blocks and drifts It’s best to limit the number of perennial species so the impact of each is greater. Choose a dozen or fewer species, supplemented with early bulbs to give colour at the start of the year.
Plant for winter interest Adding small sections of fencing or hedging or incorporating some sculpture or topiary will mean the garden has shape and form even when perennials and grasses are cut down at the end of winter.
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