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  • Luthy Botanical Garden Prairie BorderThe prairie-themed border is created using drifts of grass, forbes and even shrubs, native to the prairie. A sculpture, titled “Variations,” created by Jennifer Costa, acts as a focal point that brings both structure and character to the border. With its Prairie School influences, the sculpture blends beautifully with the naturalistic planting.

    The Gray Dogwoods, noted for creamy white flowers in spring and white berries on red pedicles in summer, are a great backdrop for some fantastic prairie natives. One of the shrubs found in the prairie is the LeadplantAmorpha canescens. Reaching 3-4’ in height, it produces 6” long spikes of iridescent violet-purple flowers. (Photo right)

    Luthy Botanical Garden Prairie BorderNew Jersey Tea Ceanothus americanus is a small deciduous shrub that grows to only 3’ tall. It bears tiny white flower clusters. The dried leaves make an excellent tea that was very popular during the Revolutionary War, when English teas were boycotted.

    Anchoring the rear of the border is a cultivar of Big Bluestem, the backbone grass of the tallgrass prairie. Pawnee Big Bluestem Andropogon gerardii‘Pawnee’, at 6-10’ in height, is noted for its upright habit, characteristic bluish purple foliage and warm bronze fall colors that persist into winter. Big bluestem has an extensive root system that can extend down 10-12’.

    While Prairie DropseedSporobolus heterolepis lands at the other end of the spectrum, it is a short tufted, finely-textured grass reaching 24-30” in height. Tiny flowers and seed heads appear in late summer giving the entire plant a soft airy appearance. It will turn a beautiful golden fall color.

     

    Luthy Botanical Garden Prairie Border

    Lastly, if you visit this border in spring, you will likely see, one of my favorites, the Prairie Smoke Geum triflorum. It blooms in mid-spring, producing unmistakable nodding pink spring flowers that form feathery, smoky-pink seed heads in early summer. At 12-15” tall and 18” wide, it slowly spreads by rhizomes and can be naturalized to form an interesting ground cover or specimen. Like many prairie plants, this plant prefers well-drained soil.