Prairie Garden, september 2013

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The 2014 Prairie Garden

Gardening in the Netherlands

Lianne Pot

by Lianne Pot

Pennesetum orientale ´Tall Tails´ with Liatris spicata, Scuttelaria incana and Heliopsis var. scabra ´Asahi´

Lianne is the owner of Lianne’s Siergrassen, a nursery with a show garden and prairie garden in the Netherlands. She is a designer who has always been interested in how to use grasses in gardens. <>.


consider myself a designer with a passion for ornamental grasses and now “prairie gardens”. In 2000, we opened our nursery “Lianne’s Siergrassen” in the Netherlands, selling over 300 species of grasses. Our ‘Show Garden’ was designed to provide inspiration and information to gardening visitors on how they can use grasses in their own private gardens — as a solitary plant, for ground coverage, for borders or in single decorator pots.

When we started our nursery, I was very inspired by Piet Oudolf and in 2007 I travelled to Germany to see the ‘prairie gardens’ in Weinheim and Hannover. Here I really developed a passion for the prairie garden. Then in 2008 I flew with my family to the United States for 6 weeks visiting the states of: Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Kansas and the Prairie State Park in Missouri. In Kansas we visited the


Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, and the Konza Prairie. While in Kansas, I had the pleasure of talking with a teacher who told me all about the prairies in North America, especially the plants and grasses in the Konza Prairie. In 2009 with the help of my husband, I designed our own ‘Prairie Garden in the Netherlands’. In our prairie garden, I wanted to show the many different possibilities for the gardening public to be able to have their own prairie planting in a small or big garden, using the examples of mixing high grass plants and group plantings. We designed the garden in a large open space 3500

The 2014 Prairie Garden

m2 (.9 acres) next to our nursery, showgarden and the grass collection. Garden visitors can walk through and look over the large groupings of prairie plantings which provid several different themes. They feature the border of prairie plants surrounding our garden. A true prairie where you find only original plants based on their colour, drawing the eye to the differences in the medium to high grass prairie landscape. We also designed nine smaller gardens showing how these wonderful plants can be used in small home garden. When designing a prairie garden, we use round forms as a whole

Lianne Pot

The ‘true’ prairie with original prairie plants: Monarda istulosa, Pycnanthemum and the lovely seed heads of Echinacea purpurea


Eva Kovacs

The 2014 Prairie Garden

Lianne Pot in her garden overlooking many prairie plants

design but also have prairie plantings in square or rectangular forms. While in Germany at the beautiful Hermannnshof Garden in Weinheim, I was introduced to a prairie garden based on several biotopes. Our prairie garden has design themes based on the sandy loam that we have in this part of the Netherlands, showing many possibilities to create a prairie landscape, be it a border, a perennial meadow with mixed prairie plants or medium and high grasses. When planting a new garden, we use lava around the borders for two or three years to help control weeds. Lava keeps moisture in the soil, but the surface dries quickly preventing growth of new weeds reducing weeding and watering. Some of my favourite prai-

rie plants are: prairie flowers - Vernonia arkansana, the Liatris species, the Echinacea species; for grasses: Andropogon gerardii (Tall-grass; big bluestem), the Panicum species and Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem). People here are excited about this new method of prairie plantings, using the many species of grasses and perennials in their own gardens. Grasses in general are symmetrical and look very natural, providing a magnificent winter silhouette. What amazes me is how beautiful the prairies can be, with much less maintenance. Grasses can be used in different places — in shade or bright sun, in small or large gardens. They have many different heights, beautiful colours and structures. To keep grasses young


and healthy they should be divided every 4 to 5 years. Extras can be replanted or gifted to friends or neighbours. North American plants and grasses grow very deep roots, which helps keep out weeds. The plants adapt well to their environment; wet to dry, dry hot summers, or cold winters. In gardens, when used in the right mixture, they don’t have to be divided again. Designing with a good balance of prairie plants and grasses means less maintenance. Prairie gardens are strong, healthy and are a long lasting community of grasses and perennials, making a great environment for people, animals, birds and insects. A great promise for the future but most of all, a striking view all year long with warm colours and structure. It is possible to have a prairie landscape or prairie garden in Europe, because the climate in a tall grass prairie is very comparable to mid-European regions. In North America the differences in temperature are more defined (very cold in winter, heavy snow fall; summers that are hot and dry or hot and moist) but the plants are strong and well adapted to the climactic extremes. People ask “What is the perfect mix between perennials and grasses?”, “How do I mix the different species and how many is too many?” My answer — there really is no perfect mixture, it is a matter of taste and preference for the different types of plants. Because I like grasses, I

The 2014 Prairie Garden

plant many, but I also like colour and form to make a nice combination: a ratio of 60/70% perennials to 40/30% grasses, but even 50/50%. It is a matter of design and one’s taste. The number of different species to mix, depends on the size of the garden. A few species planted as a group because of their long lasting structure or a combination together can be very striking. In mixed planting I use 10–15 different species, especially in smaller places for less maintenance. In my own prairie garden I made a frame around the garden with different large groups of grasses and perennials (border-like prairie planting). In the middle of the garden, we have more than 15 mixed planting schemes by colour, structure, North American grasses and perennials, using different colour combinations through the season or just one colour combination through a whole season. People in our area are becoming enthusiastic about creating this new type of mixed prairie garden using many specimens of grasses and perennials, and I am also very excited, because I believe it is a great promise for the future of the prairie garden landscape here in my home region and in yours.

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