Out on the prairie
We have some grand ambitions for the garden bordering by the guest sundecks – which will eventually become a deep sea of ornamental grasses. Inspired by the prairie planting of Piet Oudolf, we want the grasses to provide both gentle movement, a relaxing rustle and of course beauty – with their delicate seed heads offering winter interest after everything else has faded (the video shows the curly head of Miscanthus Nepalensis in case you are wondering). On a more practical note they should provide screening for the sundecks – from each other and the rest of the garden.
Much as I enjoy gardening I can’t pretend that I know a great deal about grasses so I am learning a new grass lexicon – eragrostis, briza, caerula, molinia, miscanthus, calamagrostis, pennisetum, panicum, deschampsia, stipa – they don’t exactly roll off the tongue do they? The variety is incredible – from delicate annuals to graceful arching masses to impenetrable almost bamboo like clumps and everything in between. If only I could remember which one was which (especially when the guests ask).
We will also use perennials and bulbs to provide a pop of colour – fennel, gaura, echninops, verbena bonariensis, aliums daffodils, artichokes etc. None of them are wild flowers as such but they give that vibe. They also have to be pretty tough sitting in sandy soil in full sunshine.
It’s fair to say that we have a way to go. We planted a few grasses in 2016 but until the sundecks were built (earlier this year) we couldn’t really finish the job. Funnily enough in early photos the weeds were so prolific and healthy it looked incredibly sophisticated from a distance. Only a closer inspection revealed that it was mostly comprised of thistle, ragwort, fat hen and couch grass! The guests didn’t mind as long as there were birds and butterflies – and there were. A few more months of abandonment the weeds were replaced by something a bit more substantial – a five foot hedge of tree lupins. From seed to bush in six months is quite an achievement though a few hours with a pickaxe and they were gone……
With the decks in place and some recent planting it is beginning to come together – which I hope the above photos show. In the interests of full disclosure there is a menacing ocean of nettles only 20ft from the decks. Over the autumn it will be dug over and mulched ready for spring planting. I have made a start and in fact right now my hands are throbbing from those pesky nettle stings.
We are taking it slowly though just to make sure none of our resident slow worms come to any harm….