"Xeric Tallgrass Prairie"

ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

This was new to me that I learned just this afternoon and found interesting.

We were doing some site surveys and fire mitigation recon out at Rocky Flats NWR today and my boss was telling us about "xeric prairies." Now, I have heard about tall, mixed, and shortgrass prairie, and through all my research on the subject, have never once heard this term. I have been lead to believe that all grassland in Colorado fit squarely and neatly in the "shortgrass" column. Not so. Along the eastern Piedmont of the Rocky's remains vestiges of the last ice age! A narrow band of xeric tallgrass prairie. While most of the land in the Centennial State east of the foothills is (or at least once upon a time it was) dominated by "boot high" grasses like blue grama and buffalograss, in my neck of the woods, the landscape is (supposed to be) more reminiscent of that historically found in Illinois, dominated by big bluestem, Indian, and switchgrass.

While all prairies are considered one of, if not the most, imperiled ecosystems on earth, Colorado's Front Range tallgrass prairie is possibly in worse condition than it's more famous brother to the east. In fact, in 1985 found only a handful of tiny parcels scattered through Boulder and Jefferson counties. Livestock grazing, farming and development have destroyed the rest. What those activities haven't taken, invasive and exotic plants threaten to finish off. Smooth brome, introduced by cattlemen from Europe, is easily the single most common grass species in either of these counties, turning one of the most diverse landscapes into a complete monoculture.

To make matters worse, Jefferson, the county I live in, is considering downsizing it's open space holdings along the Dakota Hogback in order to develop more business and housing tracts so they can capitalize on the explosive growth that is consuming the Denver area. It is unlikely that the commissioners or many of their constituents, will mourn the loss.

Anyways, just thought some of you prairie enthusiasts would find this interesting. And heres a link for some further reading.
https://www-static.bouldercolorado.gov/docs/30._boulder_tallgrass_prairies-1-201307091134.pdf

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texasranger2

I found this native grass 'lawn' the other day looking up ideas for grass-scapes. Thats Big Bluestem up by the house and it looks like Blue Grama on the lower part next to a mowed area. You could easily have other kinds of grasses, like Little Bluestem or Indian Grass in swaths. What about planning 'lawns' like this? The contractors around here scrape those areas clean as it is when building, couldn't native grass be incorporated into a whole development? I'd love seeing a whole ecologically minded development area making rules, the way gated communities do, that you have to have native tall & short grass prairie lawns. You could call it Prairie Estates or something like that. I think lots of people would like it, it has a very minimalist, designer modern look. There are several modernist homes being built close to downtown here as urban living becomes more popular, and this type of landscape look is becoming more common as they convert old buildings into apartments and put up modernist homes on cleared downtown lots. Out in the suburbs where new developments are multiplying like rabbits, the opposite is going on. There they scrape off the native grasses and forbs.

Go figure.



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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

A yes , the dreaded never ending growth ,. Keep expanding outwards. never ending. What really gets me is that lot of the growth is s second and third homes in some of these fragile beautiful areas.

Xeric tall grass prairie. It sounds like deep dirt but Montane. Interesting. Do you have pictures?

Beautiful grass scape , TR.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I went googling Xeric Tall grass prairies and came up with one in Pennsylvania. I am falling into a rabbit hole. Somehow , I think they have a different understanding of Xeric. All things are relative, I guess. It is a interesting discussion on relict prairies. A limestone prairie.

Xeric Tall Grass in PA of all places

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

That's an intriguing landscape, TR. I don't like modern architecture, but that lawn is gorgeous. Do you have any information for where it's located?

People here I don't think would go for the "prairie estate" look. They are too convinced that trees are the answer to every landscaping question. Although, I was a bit tickled yesterday talking to my neighbor about how much she wants to get rid of her "suburban forest." Myself, I have several more trees slated for removal in the coming weeks. A large elm and an aspen that are too big for me to handle are being hired out, plus a couple smaller aspens that I'll take care of. At this time last year I had 9 trees in the front yard, after these ones are gone, we'll be down to 2 or three. It's a wonderful feeling, and when I replace them with grasses, it will be quite a site, a beautiful site.

I do not have any pictures, unfortunately. It is still early in the growing season for us anyways, and the native warm season grasses are just now starting to wake up. So, there's not a lot to see right now. We also don't make it out to Rocky Flats too often, it's a site we manage, but don't do a whole lot with. For one, it's not open to the public (though, we are planning on changing that at some point, but we need the infrastructure out there first). For two, it was a nuclear weapon manufacturing site for many years, so for a long time it wasn't safe to work out there except for the hazmat suit wearing clean up crews. And last, but certainty not least, budgets. In any case, the Fish and Wildlife Service used to have a page on the Rocky Flats grassland, but apparently it's been removed. It shows up on the google list, but the link doesn't work. They have a main page for the Refuge, but the only thing it says regarding the XTP "Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge was established in part to preserve and protect more than 630 species of plants, as well as the rare xeric tallgrass prairie." http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Rocky_Flats/

As for soils, it's extremely rocky. Made up of alluvial and glacial deposits coming out of the mountains on the western edge. Reading that link I posted, I guess there was a good, deep layer (very unique for this part of the country) of loamy soil, but most of those sites were the first ones to be turned asunder by the plow during the settling of the West.

Reading the link you provided, to me, it sounds like the "xeric tall grass prairie" they are talking about is akin to what we call out here a "park." Basically a large meadow up in the high country, sounded by the more typical forest that you would expect to see. And the idea of xeric must be somewhat relative. I'm not sure how many inches of rain Pennsylvania gets in a year, but I would wager it's quite a bit more than the paltry 15" we see out here.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

The species that are listed are species that we, in Central Texas grows in alluvial deposits of deeper soil. I can not grow Big Bluestem here but others can closer to floodplains. I would love to, but I am lucky if I can get the indian grass to cooperate in my arroyo and then it is too shady. It grew for a couple of years in a clearing and then it *---------disappeared. I can see why the people would put it under plow first . Deep soil, water source not far.

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texasranger2

I looked it up. "Undisturbed for 30 to 50 years" sounds like a dreamscape. This must be the westernmost edge of what was once the great grassland desert before reaching the foot of the Rockies? That particular area is described as very diverse, they mentioned wetlands. We have strange pockets in Oklahoma too, places you would never think would be here so an area of tall grass prairie in Colorado doesn't sound so very different than places like Gloss Mountains here, you know, those places that spring up like surprises and don't seem like they belong there.

The prairie estates look here would have 99% of the locals screaming snakes and fire, I'm talking about those additions out in the suburbs, those areas where all you see is big ostentatious McMansion roofs (all done with the same shingles) and Bradford pear trees from the roadside. Its really awful to see. Out there people don't want to mess with large lawns and want gated communities that look picture perfect.

The post modern homes appeal to an entirely different sort than the average suburban Joe & Jane and the native grasses fit right in to the whole look and mindset of minimalism in design. I think its all about looks rather than any ecological concern or appreciation of local grasses. Its an snob-art-upper class thing of those highbrow folks not running in the pack, if you get my meaning, they like the downtown scene. I like the art part too, its a perfect landscape for those urban designs and restoration of the industrial buildings going on in Bricktown and around the downtown area. Its pretty cool. Give me that any day over suburbia but then I'm an urban dweller who won't go to places like Starbucks or Panera Bread. I prefer those old cafe's with down home waitresses and truck drivers, the kinds with the Blue Plate specials like "Liver on Thursday" and "Stew on Wednesday".

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Zach, don't have time to do much more than skim the posts here this time of year but I have seen reference to xeric prairie in SW Wisconsin...on SW-facing slopes on bluffs in that corner of our state. It has more to do with soil characteristics and especially slope and aspect than with average yearly rainfall. In fact, it has nothing whatever to do with that later metric.

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dandy_line (Z3b N Cent Mn)

That picture of the house and the nice Bluestem is attractive, but, there's also a fire hazard there. I would really love to live like the original inhabitants, with the fire and all. Bet they had to move their homes an awful lot in order to get out of the way.

I too have been removing my urban forest, all toll about 45 oaks, big ones, all were hollow in the middle, and 20 Populus, ie, common weeds.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Hmmm... this is exactly what I don't like about this prairie thing.^ Now we've got folks in what was heavily forested land thinking it somehow right and proper to remove tree cover. As far as the genus Populus being "common weeds", I strongly disagree with calling any native tree a weed. That's just wrong. A weed is not whatever plant you say is a weed. It is, by definition, a non-native, usually annual or biennial
(and sometimes perennial) species associated with or having made its way here via agriculture. If you're talking about trembling aspen, bigtooth aspen, balsam poplar, or even cottownwood, you might not appreciate those plants but they are assuredly not weeds. Try telling a conservation biologist that early-succession trees are without value and are weeds. They'd disabuse you of that notion in a hurry. Why is prairie the rightful plant community in and around Brainerd, MN?

Finally, whether a tree is or is not hollow is not a part of the decision as to whether it is or is not a native plant for the location. Numerous trees are hollow-I could explain why but won't right now-but this has nothing whatever to do with whether they should be there or not.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Sounds like a development going in.

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texasranger2

Seems we all have our sack of rocks to carry concerning local ecological ideas that get under our skin.

Frankly, I don't see any difference between the universally accepted idea held by 99.9% of city dwellers on the subject of densely planting trees in the urban areas down here where they are free to escape into the surrounding landscape and people taking them out up there^ where you live. Maybe some people desire a bit of sunshine so they can grow something else, like a vegetable garden or some flowers for instance. In an urban situation I doubt this is about the prairie mindset you resent.

There is no way any city is going to be a prairie down here, even if all the trees in Oklahoma City were removed and replaced with prairie grasses and forbs, it still would not serve as a prairie, the roads alone would prevent that.

I don't know how it is up there but down here hollow trees are dangerous to property and people. People have been seriously injured or even killed by falling trees and large limbs during high winds and especially during ice storms. In the wild, a falling tree, like a grassfire, is one thing but its not OK next to your house. The park department here stays on top of this and hollow trees are removed in the public parks. OG&E regularly makes the rounds to protect power lines by dealing with ill placed trees, overgrown trees and especially rotten ones with hollow centers.

I should add that unkempt tall grasses & weeds are kept cut back to prevent fires especially along roadways and you get fined for letting them grow around property.

The once popular idea of planting rows of fast growing Poplars was abandoned years ago but thats like comparing apples and oranges because this is windy Oklahoma where they are infamous for falling over, whole rows would bite the dust in a single storm. People learned quick.

Personally I'd fear living under a rotten tree(s) more than a grass fire.

If a person wants a totally shaded yard where the only thing that grows is a limited selection of shade plants or trees, then go for it and if a city chooses to be located inside a dense forest then I guess thats OK too.

Personally I think everyone one deserves a bit of sun and resent the fact that down here neighbors can totally block other peoples access to what should be freely available--sunlight. It seems incredibly inconsiderate and selfish from where I sit. Down here you can't create noise pollution. You can't trespass on the ground, steal a neighbors property or his water and you can't grow tall 'weeds' or grass in the city --but by golly, dang it all-- you can grow a dense wall of trees and even let it grow into a solid city lot filled with as many dense trees as you please creating a dark sunless thick colony of trees of any height right up to your own home and your next door neighbor's property line if you so choose. If both neighbors choose to do so, which they often do, the poor guy in the middle is denied access to any sun, he's helplessly pinned in from each side and above by these human created mini forests that trespass over his property blocking the sky and there is no legal recourse or anyone to appeal to. If he complains, he's labeled 'Tree Hater'. Might as well be living between a couple of sky scrapers.

I think this is at the very least 'almost' as bad as some dude up there desiring a bit of sunlight to grow a pocket prairie in the midst of what was originally supposed to be a forest but is now a city.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

It's just the sanctimonious tone-that I received but was perhaps not intended-that this is somehow the "rightful" or ecologically correct thing to do (in Brainerd MN). Of course peeps be free to have whatever kind of yard they want. That's the bit about prairies that galls me. Just like up here, when first I was notified that my job would be changing to now encompass this city's "native vegetation" program.....only to find that it was just a cookie-cutter operation that would be appropriate elsewhere....but is not here especially.

What's more, I have read numerous times how prairie is the most threatened of all original N. American plant communities. I get that got that. But that simply does not make these plantings appropriate, let alone "native", wherever they are attempted.

Finally, what's been obvious to me for some time is just now starting to make the media-this country is destroying forests at an alarming rate, primarily due to urban sprawl. So the relative rarity of prairie still exists, but that doesn't mean other plant communities are safe and secure. Not by a long shot.

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texasranger2

Thats true about forest destruction, its been well documented and reported on. As you say, I get that. Loud and clear. All kinds of things are disappearing including old ideas of right and wrong but I particularly liked this thread because its about xeric tall grass prairie and I'd just been combing online the night before looking for ways to use the tall prairie grasses as lawn substitutes and liking a lot I was seeing. In the past, I usually thought only in terms of the shorter grasses. Big Bluestem being used for landscaping as lawn replacement was the first I'd ever seen so I had to share it even if it was slightly OT.

I see so much prairie being scraped clean as the city expands ever outward in all directions for development and had been thinking how nice it would be if they'd at least leave some of it intact around the periphery or use native grasses massed in swaths rather than always replacing it with bermuda grass which they spray and mow all the time and filling it up with trees such as Bradford Pears, which seems to be a real favorite among developers and homeowners. I mean, why doesn't anyone think to do that? Its because they don't see it as having worth here or having decorative possibilities, pictures of examples of using them as landscape choices prove that way of thinking wrong.

The subject is about trees 90% of the time when lost ecosystems are discussed on any forum I've read so any thread on prairie is welcome to me and the news that a tall grass prairie existed in Colorado was very interesting to me and surprising. I googled it to see what I could learn but there's not much info out there.

I sure wish some of those so called prairie enthusiasts you seem to be overrun with in Wisconsin lived around here. If a group of P. enthusiasts do, they are either invisible or very quiet. Tree people are a dime a dozen, just tap the shoulder of anyone on the street and you will find a tree lover.

If housing development is inevitable (and it seems it is) and trees are removed to clear an area or if a city has open space within city limits, I'd rather the prairie enthusiasts take over the selection of plants than some committee or developer who will plant bermuda grass lawns with beds for knock-out roses and other typical nursery imports and call it landscaping or a beautification project. Still, I suppose it could be landscaped in 100% trees and nothing else which I would find dismally boring to live around.

The prairie enthusiasts aren't the enemy of trees in America, those guys couldn't make a dent in removing forests even if they organized and set out to do it. Its always been the greedy corporations, developers, city councils, planning commissions, oil companies, railroads, corporate farmers aka King Corn etc etc etc. who are the problem. Why always pick on the P.E's as the problem? Your attack on prairie enthusiasts made me react in my last post. Sorry but it just rubbed me wrong, especially right now while I'm fighting seedlings + remember, I was called not just a tree hater but a 'rabid' tree hater whose opinion was therefore invalid recently. I see myself as a prairie lover rather than a tree hater and I think thats a different thing altogether.

I didn't read that other post as sanctimonious at all. I took it that Dandy-line was talking about the original settlers on the prairies who faced grass fires and had to leave their homes to get out of the way, back in the days of early settlements. I've read several books about early life on the prairies and along with the violent storms, snakes, insects, droughts, floods, isolation & blizzards the fires caused terror in the heart of man. Now that trees have infested the grasslands its much much worse.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

I am also always trying to think of how to use more tallgrass species in my yard, since that would have been the pre-settlement vegetation. Right now my front yard is mostly buffalo grass, but I suspect it's not going to work too well going forward, except perhaps in the very sunniest sections. We get too much moisture here and it gives other species an edge in competition.

I may give some thought to doing swaths of taller grasses like the ones in that picture above.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Cutting down 45 trees is pretty big.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

"Fire hazard" because of grass... Every year it seems people who live in the High Country and foothills along the Front Range are displaced by fire. Not because of their grass, but because they refuse to remove ANY trees. The fire fighters generally pass by these types of homes without a second look. If people believe that their dog-haired lodgepoles and sickly overcrowded ponderosas is too beautiful for them to even consider the necessary mitigation, which is the responsibility of homeowners in these areas, why should someone else risk their life and limb to save their house? Green and growing grasses pose somewhat less of a fire hazard than do trees, at least regionally speaking, and in a landscape setting the dried and cured grasses are typically shorne before fire season arrives.

I am, like TR, a prairie enthusiast. Again, not because I would prefer to see an endless sea of grass from the Pacific to the Atlantic, but rather because it something I think folks around here ought to be taking much more into account than they do. Too often I think, people are still behold to the idea that this land, as Stephen Long put it, presents "the aspect
of hopeless and irreclaimable sterility." I find it somewhat frustrating that finding grasses for landscape use is a monumental chore in this location, but nurseries and home improvement centers are brimming with an overwhelming selection of trees. I find it exceedingly odd that even the most reputable places have a single row of "Karl Foester" and maybe a few miscanthus as their sole choice of grasses, yet carry a wide array of Japanese maple varieties, all of which are pretty much guaranteed to die in our climate. I had to bite my tongue recently when I overheard a an employee at one of these places attempting dissuade a customer from buying grass. "That all just looks like corn" she said as she ushered towards something "better."

So, I do bring up the state of prairies, maybe more often than I should, but never in an attempt to downplay the state of other important ecosystems and landscapes. Nor as a way to advocate the idea that grasslands are somehow better or more important and therefore should be replacing other native communities. The reason I talk about them more than other systems is because they are what I am most familiar with. And while it makes sense that here we seed large areas with plants like Canada rye, western wheat, and sandreed grasses, that IS what belongs here after all, I do understand that in your neck of woods (no pun intended) it is utter nonsense, and often at the expense of what actually is supposed to be there.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Guys, my specific beef (this time, haha) was at the supposed rightfulness of prairie as better than a bunch of oak trees in northern Minnesota. I'm right there with you in supporting appropriate protection/regeneration of this highly-threatened plant community....where such existed historically. It's just that it gets all the press, all the attention, including in areas where it simply would not have been a pronounced feature of the landscape.

A little bit, this reminds me of all the peeps now on gluten-free diets; It's likely an important step to take for a tiny percentage of our population, but is now trendy. I do hate stuff like that.

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texasranger2

That deal about grassland or prairie communities getting all the press simply must be some kind of isolated local phenomena or an internal fight going on between opposing mindsets where you work--prairie enthusiasts vs the tree people who know better and have studied the issue.

In the rest of the country from one end to the other the flat grasslands & prairies have always been considered empty space with no value except for the fact that it was just begging to be partitioned off and farmed, every square inch of it. Nothing to see out there anyway, its boring because its got nothing of value on top except for some unexpected formation that might pop up out of nowhere (in other words, something to look at) the soil is the valuable part along with the oil and gas underneath it. Its always been up for grabs and no one noticed or cared until it started to blow away. Even so, its never been about loosing a national treasure, its about ranching, growing wheat and especially corn.

Back in the day when the great national parks were being formed to protect large areas, no one was defending or wanting to protect the Great Plains that I know of. Who'd even think of it and why would they? There's nothing to see out there. Who'd want to visit? There is still nothing out there to see for most people and its certainly not a destination or considered a treasure, not like forests, mountains, Great Lakes or canyons. Thankfully, after the fact, a few tiny isolated remnants were set aside, they are not well known spots but at least they are now protected.

Suddenly people are concerned about Monarchs, plants like milkweed and echinacea are taking gardeners by storm and a fad is born. A few highbrow landscape artists brought the 'prairie look' into vogue and others have become interested. In other words, finally a bit of press for the prairie plants. Not much, but any little bit helps. You can even buy a 'prairie in a can' & plant a flower bed and call it a pocket prairie. The sides of highways are good spots for planting prairie plants on too and has gotten some popularity---something to look at when people are driving through here on their way to a vacation spot in the mountains or a lake.

I can understand how someone who lives in and is proud of a naturally forested place like Wisconsin would view the trade off of planting prairie plants where it once was once a majestic forest as an unbearable insult to all thats holy and an insult to the once awe inspiring forest. It'd be like dressing people in denim when they were used to wearing cashmere sweaters and silk blouses. Those more interesting, scenic areas you are talking about have always been viewed as rising to the supreme level of needing protection due to their superior beauty, importance, size, magnificence, appeal to people and on and on. Must be a real put down and slap in the face to have lowly prairie plants suddenly getting press over magnificent trees. I guess I am speaking from some of my own bitter experiences I have had --- there is what I perceive as a snob factor when talking to people who visit or move down in life to move 'here' when they come from a 'there' that has rich forests and a lot more beauty.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

I do think it is at least partly a regional difference -- the prairie thing seems like a pretty big deal in Wisconsin. I used to spend a number of weeks up there working each year, and it's the first state, out of many I worked in, where I started to see fairly major prairie/wildflower plantings in public and corporate spaces.

More than that though, it sounds like Tom is working in a different crowd than the rest of us, dealing with much larger scale plantings rather than an individual yard. Almost every home owner in my neighborhood is still thinking lawns & trees, so going native/prairie is unusual. People are busy planting new pin oaks and Bradford pears like nothing has changed. Maybe they plant a few coneflowers or a butterflyweed, some Miscanthus or K.F., but it's almost always in the context of a mulched bed at the edge of an expanse of tree-shaded lawn.

The public/corporate landscape design community seems to really be embracing prairies and grasses, though. The Kauffman stadium grounds are surrounded by ornamental grasses these days, and you see more and more grasses along highways and on corporate grounds. I went to see Roy Diblik talk not long ago and the hall was packed with landscape architects, urban planners, etc. Prairie is the hot trend with that crowd.


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texasranger2

WoodsTea, I think that is an understatement. Down here the few people like yourself who are concerned or interested in growing natives are pretty much in the same league as the Dog Rescue people. A minority group, and an extremely tiny one at that.

I also believe the severe droughts we have been experiencing for the last two decades which have resulted in mandatory water rationing, high costs of maintenance & rising price of irrigation etc is the singular driving force for the plants we are seeing around government, corporate (only a very few of these by the way) & highways. Anyhow, call me pessimistic but I don't believe its about saving plants or love of prairie, its about saving dollars and as money gets tighter, we will be seeing more cost saving types of plantings. Its always about dollars.

In my opinion, down here Ladybird Johnson is the exception when talking about motives. I might be wrong but from what I have read she singlehandedly turned peoples minds around and started an interest and appreciation of the local plants surrounding us because she had a real love for them herself. We have her to thank for the wildflower seeds planted along the highways.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Well, for sure -- I have no doubt the Royals owners (or whoever actually pays for landscaping at the K) are saving a ton of money compared to when it was all a bunch of annuals. Droughts as well as floods are definitely some of the big drivers around here, too. Here's our water department's rain garden brochure, for instance:


https://www.kcwaterservices.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/KCMO-Resident-Rain-Garden-Booklet-2015.pdf

All the suggested plants are native ones, but the main point is to catch stormwater so that less ends up in the storm sewer system (and so the city doesn't have to spend so much money on capital improvements to increase capacity).

I guess I'm not talking about motives so much. My original motivation was that I was tired of fighting the lawn battle, spending a bunch of money and time and always ending up with crabgrass. I wanted something in the hell strip that wouldn't have to be watered.

What I'm saying is that it's not hard for me to imagine that Tom gets an earful of the prairie people in the context of the job he does. I'm sure a good number of them don't care at all about ecology or sustainability or even cost savings. They're just following a trend started by those who do care about such things. Somewhere along the way a "prairie=good" switch got flipped for these people, and now they want to turn everything into a prairie, whether it makes sense to do so or not.

At the same time I know the thing you are talking about, visitors from forested places coming to visit your prairie state. We used to have relatives visit every summer from the Pennsylvania mountains. They'd laugh when we'd refer to hills or trees, as if they did not see anything fitting that description anywhere. My parents tried very hard to make our yard green and forested so it could be more like Pennsylvania. And that was really too bad -- I wish that from the beginning we could have appreciated the beauty of the local flora. Sure would have saved a lot of wasted effort.

I never get the sense that Tom is one of those types. I think he is just saying that restoration projects ought to take into consideration the native ecology of the area.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I agree every opening in the woods in New Hampshire has an ecology that has nothing to do with the prairie. I do not know tom's neck of the woods but I imagine that there are similarities with these glacially gouged valleys. The woods can be very dark and heavy. I know that TR would be driven crazy by them and the openings in the woods and the old farms are very welcomed slashes of light. They can contain delightful blueberries and ferns . wetlands with another kind of blueberry that sits with wet feet and a mountain laurel that is gorgeous. Wintergreen and all sorts of ephemerals, wild orchids, delicious indian cucumbers. It is a beautiful place.They do have solidago and some similar looking things. These meadows open from a fire and then close in successional growth pretty quickly. I have watched my families house on a brow of a hill that was logged during the last years of the 19th century. My cousin fights to maintain the edge of the woods. I would say that the woods are winning.

I think it is human nature to be amazed at what is different. And the urge to create a reality is seen everywhere. Human just like to alter things. We think we can make it better.... always better. And we never see the consequences till they bite us on the @ss.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Interesting that your family found it necessary to recreate Pennsylvania forests in the local landscape, Woods, mine did exactly the same. While my mother's family has been here since before statehood, my father and his family moved here in the mid 80's from the east. Their idea of landscape design was to cram as many hardwoods into a single yard as possible. I joked that my grandfather could sell timber rights in his back yard, it wasn't so funny when I had to rake up those leaves and clean out the gutters in the fall. In an effort to be kind, I would only put a few bags out for the trash at a time.

Dad used to complain about eastern Colorado, how it was so ugly without trees. He had to move out there for work a couple years ago, now he loves it and it looking toove even further that direction.

Anyways, one of my favorite things about my job is that the whole purpose is to manage and restore the landscape to what it would have been before settlement. Regardless of whether or not people prefer woodlands or deserts it whatever, it's not open to much interpretation. So when we seed areas in native grasses, its because that is what is supposed to be there, not some fanciful notion of what should be there.

Though the relics of that type of attitude can be found all over the site. You can always tell where there used to be a building from the dead and dying spruce trees.

To your point, Tom, I recently read a caption that accompanied a photo of some grass landscaping "become a part of the prairie gardening movement." I think the picture was taken in the North East somewhere. I guess I find it a little "snobbish" in the samr way people are about trees in mine and TRs part of the world. I also find it very disingenuous to lead people to believe that by replacing the existing landscape with one that doesn't belong is somehow helping.

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texasranger2

I looked up "Prairie Gardening Movement". I mostly found information of a gardening style that going on in the UK or Europe. They're calling ornamental grasses like pennisetums, miscanthus, giant stipa, Karl Forester grass and other non-native grasses "prairie" for crying out loud. Sounds like a fad based on a more natural garden look made popular by famous designers. I guess that could transform the idea of a prairie garden into a snobbish or sophisticated idea. Its a fad, it'll go the way of all fads and probably end up being just a bleep on the radar. The idea made me feel weary because it seems so contrived & commercialized.

Something's missing. It took me a while but I know what it is. The monotony is missing and thats what you have to have in prairie country. The flat wide view is missing. The mile after mile after mile of boring sameness is missing, along with mostly neutrals highlighted with a bit of color here and there to break up the endless visual sameness blowing in waves. Thats the very thing that people who come here so often snub and almost always comment on. "Its....so......flat.....and boring and dull looking, I thought we'd never reach the end of it."

Driving out in the country, you see nothing remotely like what a person would choose for a decorative "Prairie Garden Look" garden or prairie styled landscape. Those gardens would be planted in the most decorative, prime choices of 'classic' prairie plants and grasses except they'd be growing unnaturally all together in a single spot-- just the ornamental & showy flowered stuff. I doubt Piet Oudolf or his followers would choose the 'lesser' natives I think of as common low-lifers, the non ornamental plants that make up a huge part of whats growing in real life out there.

I think in truth that unless some of these prairie enthusiasts were born living around this kind of landscape, it would take a very long time to for them to ever really adjust to it or even like it and that they just think they like it because they like some of the plants and how they appear arranged together in a small setting. They might just regret what they wished for if that landscape was actually growing all around where they live.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

That was the prairie that I saw in the Palmengarten in Frankfurt. They had snap dragons as a prairie plant. I don't mind people having snap dragons in their garden, just don't call it a prairie garden., especially in a botanical garden of international repute. I grow school house lilies from Brazil and purple goosenecked loostrife. I guess they could not get or knew about Penstemon cobaea and used snap dragons instead. They do kind of look like snap dragons , only better


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texasranger2

These gardens are also known as 'The New Perennials Style' and are supposed to have not a shrub in sight. I ran across a French one. "I am using the appropriate grasses_______ [I am buying the appropriate grasses]" was part of the description. These appropriate 'prairie' grasses are: Miscanthus (a fav), Pennisetums (a must) and Stipa gigantea because Piet Oudolf combines these 'prairie' grasses in his 'prairie' plantings.

Come on, give me a break. I don't mind the idea, in fact I like the look of the gardens but when they start calling these appropriate prairie grasses, I do an eyeball roll and admittedly, it really does bring out the snob in me. Guilty as charged. Its a bit like when rich people 'rough' it for a week out at a fancy cottage by the lake when they leave their expensive house in the city.

Karl Foerester seems to be a necessary component too along with various types of Deschampsia. I say let Europe keep the claim to fame for having the old castles and interesting architecture. Let America take credit for prairie, fabulous landscapes and natives. We should be flattered they are borrowing from us cultural lowlifes. Around here, if you want a product to the assume an air of culture and sophistication, you hire a person with a British accent to do the TV ad. It does the job every time.

I saw the same thing in the UK with the additions of Nepeta & Knautia macedonica which "look good in the soggy winter compared to the sodden flattened grasses". The hybrid echinacea seem to be popular as well.

I imagine some of this is going on here as well in the NE. Down here in Oklahoma, most people still think of prairie plants as weeds and you don't find them for sale at nursery's.

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Campanula UK Z8

Yep, I have been hugely jaded about this for ages - whilst this New Perennial Movement are happy to pick and choose from perennials, the abject horror at the sight of a woody shrub and the ridiculous rulebound 'pallette' (yes, Tex, they use that term continually), I could scream at the sheer lack of imagination and uncritical use of this little group of plants regardless of soils, style, aspect, architecture, history, geography, culture...bah! Whilst I admit to being guided purely by aesthetic considerations in the early days of my gardening, I think, as we get to know plants and soils and indeed, ecosystems, then factor in culture, ethics and history, our choices become less proscribed by some distant 'expert' and more determined by the wider picture. My location is fenland - a very specific and shifting ecosystem, dependent on water and drainage, flat, flat, flat with huge open fields - predominantly agricultural, which, as in the US, tends to mean Big Ag and not those small mixed farms with hedgerows and dykes. The drained alder carr has given us a legacy of the best deep soils in England and the high water table (we are never more than a couple of metres above sea level, crisscrossed with streams, brooks, rivers, meres and estuary..where would a petunia fit in such a landscape? Or a Japanese Maple?

I don't much like rules...but I do feel it is a better choice to have some sensitivity to the wider landscape and people.

The iconic plants are reed, sedge and umbellifers, with willows, fireweed, valerian, purple moor grass and hemp agrimony,.

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texasranger2

So whats a prairie called over there anyway, I mean the natural grasslands in nature (real life), not the contrived ones? Fenland sounds rather exotic and romantic.

There's so many small shrubs that work so nicely. I couldn't imagine not having native artemisia or Salvia greggii. Teeny tiny shrubs like dogweed are cuter than cute, they have these little woody stems and leaves like tiny pine needles and are about 5 inches tall. I just planted a Pawnee Buttes Sand Cherry that stays low and has red leaves in fall. If I had the space, I'd plant a grove of smooth sumac, it looks wonderful in native prairies with the seeds and red foliage in fall, a great contrast and match made by God. I planted two Artemisia filifolia last year, the color is a standout and its a shrub. Apache Plume is another good one that looks nice with prairie. The Damianitia I finally got growing are real small shrubs that work nice too and so is the Lead Plant, which is a shrub in my book and I wouldn't dig out my leafless ephedra if you offered me money or threatened me with a fine for breaking the rules. Those rules are too limited. Nature allows shrubs here, she's a lot more understanding.. Yuccas. Currents. Blackberry. Wild Plum--we used to pick them for jelly out on the prairie. I could go on but I won't.

Yep, its kind-o-queer. Like we used the word queer back in High School. My palette (gawd!) is pretty colorful right now, I'm anxiously waiting for it to all tone down, (especially the new green growth) to a nice "neutral palette". This reminds me of when my sister was talking about my Dad's "meds". I HATE that word and all the other new obsessive modern pharmaceutical speak and abbreviations for all the diseases and meds. The word MEDs and my Dad don't even go together. Computer tells me meds is a misspelled word.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

"The New Perrenialist". Sounds like The New Millennialist too me. Religious Fundamentalists.... But these guys won't go away judging from their name. LOL. Maybe they will be short lived perrenialist.. I googled them and It looks like Prairies by Disney, or prairies where TX's husband has stepped on the colors with his photo altering. Actually, considering that this is a European development where cottage gardens have reigned and many of the true prairie plants would drown, they have translated it to what they think a prairie Should look like if only a designer and color consultant were involved .. I am glad that they dropped the prairie out of their names. It is more of a cottage garden that has been stretched very large without shrubs and some grasses. I will add , that it is a look that has been in fashion in Texas for a long time with other plants, not quite as colorful since the sun does bleach out most color and many of the plants they grow will not grow here.. We have been very busy trying to do the cottage look with xeric plants. Most people do not have 5 acre fields to let loose on so this still translates back into the cottage look when done to a suburban lot. This look is very interesting and it does have a paint by number mentality to it but still a pleasure to look at , but I can not and will not call it a prairie. Is that the American snob in me. Maybe. I am a little concerned that it will leak across the pond and people here will start thinking that this is prairie gardening at its finest. I love the photo of the Prairie gardener standing surrounded by plants from three continents including Red hot pokers, Brazilian verbena, and a hybrid echinacea.

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texasranger2

I just got found a German prairie garden. I looked up Prairie Garden Palette. This term is all over the place. I must have been "Left Behind" (since we are getting all millennialistic here) because I've never heard of any of this stuff.

Mara, I think one big diff is that people around here aren't always trying to be pure or obtain a look, they are more into just having a garden that will survive summer without looking like a dead dog by late July or August. I'm talking gardens as opposed to land restorations by the way. Gardens are gardens and they aren't supposed to be completely wild or disorganized like the countryside. I have no problem adding a brazilian verbena or a poker. I've got the verbena's myself and several non natives. Its a matter of what you are calling the garden, like you said in your other post. Then theres those rules. I don't like that and I don't like the idea of people attempting to slavishly copy some famous designer down to his plant choices like its a formula. Its OK to get inspired but too much is too much.

I really draw the line with the types of grasses though. Don't dare call Miscanthus or Fountain Grass or those others I mentioned prairie grass in my presence. I'll bite your head off.


Hermannshof: German Genius

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Trying to transcribe a prairie landscape into a suburban lot is a challenge, to say the least. I have always said it's a matter of scale. Honest to goodness prairies look magnificent when they cover many acres, they typically look awful when confined to a small yard. Too often, people who try this approach just end up with a overgrown, weedy looking mess. In my own "patch," I ascribe a wide latitude of "artistic licence" to combat this problem.

I guess it depends on WHERE your idea of "prairie" or "grassland" comes from as to whether or not they are appropriately named. After all, this particular ecosystem covers all kinds of different climates and soil types. Africa has the Serengeti, South America has the Pampas, so to say that feather reed and miscanthus are not "prairie" grasses depends on what location you are talking about. Even Europe has it's own "prairies" and grasslands, such as the moorlands of the British Isles and the steppes of Eastern Europe and into Central Asia.

For example, while here in Colorado we mostly have the short patchy grasses, many of the leeward and montane regions of Hawaii are covered in tropical grasslands. I particularly remember the part of central Oahu, which is a large valley between the Waianae and Koolau mountain ranges. where I lived. The landscape there seemed to me have rather large tracts of grassland/savannah on the uplands that surrounded the tropical forests in the wetter drainage's. While I guess it could be said that the term "prairie" is generally assigned to North American grasslands, it certainly is no "official" designation.

Of course, regardless of geography, the contrived ways in which grasses are arranged is not natural, but like I said, that is really the idea of landscaping. It's not so much a mirror image of what you find in the wild, but rather an interpretation.

I will add though, I will NEVER plant a Karl Foester feather reed, hardy pampas, or hameln fountain grass. Not because they're bad, or even that they're bad looking, but the are, as you say "required" in any and every single planting project that includes grass. Their sheer overabundance and overuse makes me dislike them. I really don't fancy making my yard look like a cookie-cutter commercial landscape job.

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texasranger2

Thats a good point. I'm guilty of thinking of and stereotyping what constitutes prairie around here. I checked the definition. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/prairie

My objection to calling those typical ornamental grasses prairie grass was this: I see that urban expansion every week when we drive out to the north side of OKC. New roofs going up fast as prairie is scraped off. Gas Stations, office complexes, etc. are going in too, almost over night it seems like. Practically without exception they plant commercial Ornamental Grasses in defined areas with other decorative plants and of course, the inevitable bermuda around it thats very green and getting mowed. These are the same grasses Piet Oudolf calls prairie grasses. The actual prairie is still quite visible in the background or right next door to these finished areas. The wild grasses in the undeveloped tracts with the 'For Sale' or 'Inquire for Information' signs by the road are waving in the background looking drab and wild by contrast in comparison to these perfect specimens, which look 100% artificial by the way, almost like they are made out of man-made material. Anybody with a set of eyeballs in their head can tell the difference between those grasses and the prairie grasses-- the doomed ones --- and there is no way they even vaguely resemble prairie grasses, not the ones here on the plains anyway. In other words, "We aren't in Kansas anymore Toto".

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Hey , I am germinating some European grasses, Stipa barbata so I guess I should just shut my trap. It is for my GARDEN, not for the wild part of the works. I was out trash picking and there was this interesting bronze inflourescens. but it just shatters apart into sections. I have never seen this before , but something is tugging on that invasive pesky button. I just thought "shatter grass" hmm. My pants pocket is full of it . I have to look into this further.

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texasranger2

Be careful. I've been pulling an awful lot of stipa capillata seedlings. I got rid of it last summer once I realized how invasive, besides, I wasn't that enthralled with the overall looks of it and form. I'm planting more Sideoats Grama, creating some groups, actually collecting volunteers and transplanting them. It is very underused in my opinion, its a great decorative landscape quality grass. The ones I have are very stiffly upright, showy thick tussocks that bloom early and long and form good sized clumps fast. What more could you want?

I should mention that out in that development area is a gas station. Their decorative grass is a row of Big Bluestem planted in a nice area at the corner of the lot. Aw, good ole turkey-feet. I love it. You don't see Big Blue around here much.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I never put the S, capilata in my garden BECAUSE I got 100% germination with a careless treatment. I got 1/4 germination being very careful with this grass. The Stipa barbata seems a lot more shy and it's form is a lot better, taller with a more vaselike spread, the seeds are longer and more graceful. I am using it in a container and not in the ground , I think. After all, it being an alien, it needs to be in detention.

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Campanula UK Z8

Stipa gigantea, although overused, is still, to my mind, a very beautiful plant, especially when backlit...along with the many stooled shrubby salix (Kermesina, Britzensis, Daphnoides et al) My choices are tending more towards sedges and reeds though....apart from the wonderful molinia.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Well, I'm not sure the problem with New Perennials is Piet Oudolf so much as it is the followers of Piet Oudolf. Or the followers of the followers. He's like any designer or architect, has a certain style, uses certain plants he knows well, but I don't think he would have ever said "this style or group of plants needs to be used everywhere". Also I think one of his distinctives was that he was using plants that had generally been considered too wild or weedy for gardens. You'll see things like sideoats grama and leadplant in that Oudolf/Kingsbury Planting book.

His High Line Park was the garden that, more than anything, got me interested in native plants and a more naturalistic style. It's definitely not just a row of Karl Foerster:

http://www.urbangardensweb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/high-line-new-york-city-timber-press-piet-oudolf.png




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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Yeah, that thing is cool is 'ell. BTW, somebody-was it Zach-up above mentioned the lack of a harmonious look with actual tallgrass prairie bits when placed into otherwise conventional landscapes, and I agree wholeheartedly. They almost never look right, and that's primarily because for a small patch, they are too tall. This isn't restricted to prairie plantings but is a given in landscape design- a very small bed cannot use very much height or the effect is awkward.

I see this all the time, usually with a plaque or sign telling the world how great these people are because they are "restoring" their yards-gotta laugh at that one-via these tiny and mostly ugly patches. I hate that.

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texasranger2

Woods, I'd never heard of any of this until camps brought it up. The native plantings here are all part of a campaign for an Oklahoma Look. They are using local grasses and include other things from our state history being represented such as life sized buffalo statues, reliefs of birds etc being used in the concrete of new underpasses etc and even oil & gas pumps and derricks placed out in a grass landscape. I like it.

I've been familiar for several years now with John Greenlee who planned to go into standard horticulture but then turned away from that because of his memories of playing in grasses as a kid. He started a nursery specializing in grasses and championed the idea of lawn replacement. I first ran across him when I went to the Library to get books on grasses after seeing what they did with the grass gardens down by the capitol because I fell in love with it on first sight. It was the best book at the library for ideas.

Piet Oudolf is only recently on my radar. I'd never heard of him until a year ago or so. I've never followed designers like Gertrude whats her name of any of that. I'm not interested in those kinds of theory's etc. I was amazed on the P. Forum how much people follow them & had to look up names online.

I don't see the New Perennials thing as a problem except that people might make it into a 'with it' garden fad which they will eventually tire of and later view as dated. It seems trivialized and lacks the environmental aspect and will be discarded when the next new movement shows up. That kind of mindset gets under my skin no matter what fad it is. Stuff like this comes across as snobby and part of a social scene.

If an idea is based on eliminating chemical use, water waste and saving the grasslands then it has a different focus and outcome.

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texasranger2

The New Perennials Movement or whatever they choose to call the style, might be why people in Wisconsin are so hell bent on defining those originally wooded area as original prairie. Down here, judging by what the nursery's sell, the idea has never grabbed hold and if you want plants you have 3 choices. Steal from the roadside, trade for seed or order by mail. I'd never heard of it myself as I said. Here its like that shortgrass situation Zack was describing where you can see relics of dead trees and foundations of failed farms. Any idiot can tell what the original landscape was (and still is) here and most people have dealt with THE DISMAL VISUAL PROBLEM by bringing in needed color, trees, shrubs, flowers, bulbs etc. That is still the prevailing mindset. If a place is left neglected, it ends up looking a lot like that link Woodstea posted, that is unless it gets taken over by weed trees.

Anyway, if that is the case, the New Perennials deal could be seen as a bad trend in areas like Wisconsin because it blinds people.

Here's a couple I've followed regularly since I went unconventional:

http://planobluestem.blogspot.com/

https://paridevita.com/


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texasranger2

I think these are nice, ones I've collected from online:







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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Man, you guys sure get ahead of me here. Hard to keep up haha.

Just popping in really quick before bed to ask TR...that link "the miserable gardener" you posted... is he in Colorado? I was complaining about the snow and cold last weekend (just like was in his newest blog post I reading)...

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texasranger2

Zach, call it sympathy via Bob Knowles AKA Miserable Gardener. I love his site, it always cheers me up even though its very sad why he calls himself 'The Miserable Gardener'. You'd have to go back to the early entries to read about that. He's in snowy Colorado, the dog always tells it the way it is, he sounds just like the rest of you all up there.

I've been keeping up with the snows & that night you all got down into the 20's on the 'Gardening!' thread and the 'Snow Days' thread on the Rocky Mountain forum. It sounds awful to have so much snow this late. After Easter no less, even Orthodox Easter which was almost a month later this year. I guess you can feel sorry for us come late July and August when we are dragging around in the heat and feel glad you live up there. I had no idea winter could drag on like that.....You wouldn't think it was possible.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

We took a trip up to Paradise, Michigan-on the shores of Lake Superior two Easters back. Snow was 6 ft. deep on the level everywhere in the woods-not snowbanks mind you-just the depth of snow that remained. I literally love snow but man, not sure I could deal with that. Of course, hardly anybody does. That's not exactly population central up there!

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Yup, we have had snow every other week this year since the end of March. Last year, the final snow was May 10th, when we got a 8-12" and the year before that, the final snow was May 11th, also with 8-12." HOPEFULLY last weekend was the final snow for this year, but I won't be holding my breath for it. In 1947, the last snow in Denver was in the middle of June. In 2007, we had freezes into June as well. Though, I was on hiatus from the Centennial State beginning that year, so I don't personally remember it.

We get the heat, too. We can have snow in May and 115* in July. Course, it doesn't drag on for us like it does for you, maybe a couple weeks at most, and we're minus the humidity too. The heat is really much less of an issue for me personally. I'll take hot over cold any day (unless it's humid, I can't stand humidity).

I used to work with a guy from North Dakota, he said they had the largest swing from winter low to summer high in the country. Over a 100 in the summer and under 40 below in the winter, something like 160* difference! Of course, I always told him summer only lasted a few hours up there so it didn't really count.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I tried to put my winter clothes away yesterday but I had to snuggle up in my wool serape and turn the heat on. This is TEXAS IN MAY and we did not break 50 yesterday! Our bodies are not made for this. We were already trying to get used to 90. I can only imagine what it is doing up your way. We normally have had our first aberrant 100 by now. It is good for the tomato season.

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texasranger2

We got down in the 40's and its still cool today. I was getting worried earlier though. It was getting into the 80's and even a couple 90's pretty consistently about a month back and we'd been dry since, gee, I can't remember. A long time. I was scared we were on our way to one of those summers of drought and the dreaded Heat Dome. I had to water a couple times and I hate doing that in early spring because it scares me about whats coming but the soil was hard as a rock and I was putting in new plants. Our priest moved here from the NE. He says he doesn't know why anyone in Oklahoma has patios and that we have two seasons. Summer and not summer. Sometimes it seems like thats true. Last summer was bearable.

I think the short growing season would do a number on me up there in Colorado. We always hear the reports of the first snows in Denver, about when we are thinking summer will never end well into September and its still reaching 100's. Seems like every year when we were buying school clothes, pencils, notebooks and stuff, it'd be snowing in Denver.

The skiers must love it. Gardeners, not so much. I hate humidity. June is coming up and June is the worst month for it. I don't like June.

Broken record that I am, I found this online. Now why can't they do this in those new housing additions? It'd be kind of like a compromise of sorts. This was titled 'Front--Lawn--Prairie. Oh, and look what else. Not all the trees are perfectly spaced and perfectly formed identical Bradford Pears. It actually looks natural.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Here is my Mixed grass "Prairie". Flower seeds from Oklahoma



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texasranger2

Okies! That made me get a lump in my throat. Thanks for posting it.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

NO , thank you, TR. I look at them and think of your garden. Those Okie seeds didn't much like the limey marl and caliche, but they liked the red clay. I had them planted all the way up the rise on the left but I got nothing from them. They kinda germinated but then they got their toes down into the shizz and had second thoughts. The red clay plays out right about where the shadow is. They are different from the ones around here. They are shorter and their flowers have more red in them before the yellow. I will be spreading them around out front in the clay.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

All these beautiful photos are of "prairie-ish" plantings. Not a one of them looks at all how our planted prairies end up looking. Note the low heights of all the stuff in these pics. The typical "tallgrass" look is way too tall to look good like these sure do.

As such, "nativars" would have their use, if in no other sense, at least in aesthetical ones. They almost always are shorter than the species from which they were derived.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

That is the sort of thing I see also in many prairie/wildflower type plantings around town. Unless these plantings are carefully planned and maintained, they tend to get taken over by tall composites. There is one at the side of a park near here that's mostly goldenrod and aster now. Another one next to a Montessori school is dominated by what might be Heterotheca camporum, gets about 4-5 feet high. There's a trail that winds around inside the planting and leads to a kiosk with some information about native plants. I never see anyone go in there past late June or so as it starts to get really overgrown. I wonder sometimes whether that planting dissuades people from native plants rather than getting them interested.

The other type of planting uses native grasses, but in big homogeneous blocks, or carefully spaced out in a mulched bed. Down the street there's a new brewery next to a multiuse trail along an old streetcar route. They have a bed between the parking lot and the street with some little bluestem and switchgrass, several big rocks, and a lot of dark mulch. I pass it on the way home from work and it makes me smile to see the grasses. Yeah, it's sort of lame, but at least it's not yews and knockout roses.

I often think about this brewery because there's a big grassy area between their biergarten and the trail -- predominantly fescue but with the usual weeds. Nothing is really done with this area, and it would be fantastic as a native planting -- if someone would be up for doing the maintenance. I don't see it happening.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

I get what you mean about the possible dissuading of people towards so-called native landscaping when these various school beds and whatnot are viewed. Mostly, they look (and are) horrendous, even if well-intended.

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texasranger2

I've seen plenty of non-native gardens that I'd call unattractive and downright horrendous too and schools that look like they are in a budget crunch with landscaping thats not award winning.

Usually the tall components in horrendous areas are volunteer trees around here. Not prairie plantings. Actually, I've never seen a diverse 'Prairie Garden' around here.

I've always avoided the tall or thuggish plants and by what I've seen, so does the city in the native plant areas they have done. Grass is easiest, it fills in fast, its economical, low maintenance and makes a great weed barrier once established. Its visually consistent and can be offset with something for contrast or just left grasses. I keep mine simple and organized, its not a free for all with an anything goes kind of attitude but its still gardening on the wild side.

The unkempt weedy streets like down around the Stockyards are kind of fun to drive by, they change with the seasons--- plants like Cowpen Daisy, Sunflowers and various flowering 'weeds' & grasses. Its not really ugly but its not a garden by any stretch. I've collected seeds from places like this before.

Some combinations I have seen done as large scale plantings:

Mexican Feather Grass + Red Yucca.

Swath of Panicum Grass in back. Swath of Bluestem next. then very wide planting of Blue Grama with Red Yucca in front. Cedars in the background. Looks fantastic, the area is huge and planted on a hill with large rocks in front. It was once a large weedy vacant lot in front of a railroad track off 23rd street across from Byrons Liquor and a McDonalds on the other corner.

Mass planting of Panicum with Lantana in front

Panicum surrounded by red yucca (Hesperaloe) on a circular median.

Panicum massed and surrounded by Little Bluestem and then Salvia greggii on the outer perimeter.

Line of Redbuds underplanted in grama grasses.

Solid masses of Little Bluestem backed by Indian Grass with various prairie plants like echinacea, Missouri Primrose, Salvia Azurea, Guara, Rudbeckia etc in front planted in several street medians leading to the Capitol.

Cactus, yucca + short prairie grass on a large intersection planting down by Norman with large rocks. This one wins a prize in my opinion.

Russian Sage in center surrounded by Mexican Feather Grass (RS not native but this looks great) OCU College campus. They have some other combo's but I forget. Native-scapes.

Large scale medians downtown using only grasses, each planted in all one kind. Looks fantastic in late sun and wind.

Grove of Three-leaf Sumac and Desert Willows surrounded by native grasses.

Maybe the amount of rain we have along with the hot summers make the difference? Or, more likely the key is to use restraint and keep it simple. These aren't wild prairies after all. Those are best out of the city or on an acreage like wantanamara has.

I'm seeing some yards being landscaped with natives as well, grasses predominate but easy to find plants like Rudbeckia, Gaillardia and Echinacea are included.

Around here its the neglected areas or private lawns full of volunteer, overgrown, neglected trees and unkempt shrubs that are the real eyesores. Its the signature of Urban Blight in my opinion. Especially the ones with roofs covered in tree debris being smothered by limbs and windows hidden by tangled and tall shrubs of various kinds, places that look like they will start rotting or already are. Its depressing. Its like that show on the History Channel 'Life After People'. If you saw that show, you get the picture. Weeds and tall grasses aren't anywhere near as objectionable to me.

I've read about school projects. I always like that idea myself.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

TR: "If I had the space, I'd plant a grove of smooth sumac, it looks
wonderful in native prairies with the seeds and red foliage in fall, a
great contrast and match made by God."

Definitely, one of my favorite plants in the wild. The color but also the arrangement of the foliage, looks great surrounded by golden grasses. I even like the look of its black stems in a recently burned area when the grass is starting to green up.

Not a possibility of course in my tiny urban yard.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I have the prairie Flame sumac here and they do change nicely but mine have all decided to grow in the trees.

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texasranger2

There's so many growing on the sides of the road I guess I'll have to be content to look at those. I have to limit the big stuff & I've heard the roots really travel underground quite a ways. I usually see them growing along the edge of trees rather than out in grass as a lone grove. If a person had an isolated area surrounded by concrete like between a driveway and sidewalk, I suppose you could do them in an urban yard.

Woodstea, on the subject of big stuff, I'm having the hardest time establishing the Big Bluestem 'Red October' plants. I bought 3 last spring and some more last fall and had some casualties both times, it looks like I might be loosing one more from that late fall order. These are proving harder to establish than Little Bluestem, much slower going. The one I planted year before last at the end of the hell strip in the fall (the last remaining plant at SRG) has really stiff straight leaves about 9 inches tall and they are very deep green & showing a lot of red already, so are the ones that got a good start last year. I've still got 7 plants but I'm surprised what a difficult a time I'm having. I planted a few seeds I saved last year 3 days ago and marked them. I'm curious to see if they come true from seed. I really think a group of BigBS grasses would be striking for color.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

One plant of the 'Laciniata' sumac produces plants coming up 20 feet away in only three years....far worse than bamboo (for spread)....your precautions would be good if those were to be controlled in the yard.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Fire will also tickle the roots into an explosion of babies. that is what I learned at a land conservation clinic several years back.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

I have two BBS I started a few weeks ago... slow going is right, though, the LBS I started from seed doesn't seem any better.

Of course, this is regular "wild type" BBS, not from any special variety that I am just growing for fun. I am looking to replace a couple trees with Big Blue, and I would prefer one of the selected ones for the great fall color and extra height (HCG says "Windwalker" gets 6-8' which sounds about what I'm looking for. Sometimes I can find a handful of switchgrass, little blue, and big blue at the local places (not often, but every once in a while), so I was hoping this year I could source from there. But, as is typical, they have rows and rows and rows of KF, miscanthus, and fountain grass, but that's it for grass right now. Last ear they had a lot of "blonde ambition" blue grama, which I's a great grass (I need at least one more of them) but this year all their "good" stuff is the ones they tried to overwinter but hasn't yet shown any signs of life (I don't mind buying these ragged looking ones, as long as they show evidence they are still alive). So, the hunt continues....

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texasranger2

One of the prettiest grasses I have is Sideoats Grama. In full sun, grown in lean soil it is stiff, upright and a mature plant forms hundreds of stalks early in the year making it one of the most ornamental of all of them. It doesn't take long to get a mature plant which forms a thick tussock and even the babies will bloom right off the bat. No ever mentions this grass and I've not seen it at the National Grass Trials. I keep up with the trials each year just to see the mass plantings and new varieties of switchgrasses and bluestems. I' working on two areas of Sideoats by transplanting volunteers, not anywhere on as big a scale as the photos below unfortunately. I have some growing here and there among natives in more mixed areas.

This is a demonstration planting at Will Rogers Park here in OKC. Big clumps of sideoats with Lovegrass behind it. The lovegrass is one I had to get rid of because its so big and is too aggressive for my small lot but its stunning in this garden. The bluestem they used is a real flopper. Its probably too rich soil because this area was once planted in roses and iris.


This is a hill at the History Center. Its planted in Purple Three Awn, Sideoats, Bluestem and Muhlenbergia riverchonii. In fall in late afternoon its breathtaking. The Muhlenbergia blooms are smokey colored, a strange color of purple.

The purple three awn blooms all summer & really shimmers in the sun, it also blows nice, all of them leaning in the same direction. Its one of the fastest to establish grasses I've ever tried but like Mexican Feathergrass, it loves to seed a lot and you get a lot of volunteers. Thats either the good news or the bad, depending. Its much harder to pull the volunteers than the Mexican Feather grass, very deep roots and they do that quick. In a difficult spot, this grass would work.

I found this online about a year ago and saved it because I thought it was such a nice combination. The Purple Three Awn really works here. This is one tough grass for dry areas.

Hey Zach, how about a lawn in Purple Three Awn? Get rid of that KBG and go radical. You could have paths......



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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

When I worked for state Parks and Wildlife, there was a trashcan full of bags of native grass seeds that they were going to toss. I got some baggies full of them, one was the big blue I mentioned earlier, the other was sideoats grama. I have a tray of SOG going right now, along with more blue grama, which I used extensively last year. I am excited to see how it turns out.

Purple threeawn is a lovely grass, we have a lot of that growing with needle and thread and western wheatgrass around here. Unfortunately, I need a grass that can be cut and take traffic. I have a 5 year old that likes to be outdoors, so he needs a place to roam arouns, and there's not many grasses, native or otherwise, that can withstand his abuses lol.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

It is hard to do a three wheel tricycle through BBS, BUT play acting an explorer in africa is very good in BBS

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

I could do like a corn maze, but with big blue, haha!

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

TR, that is interesting about the Red October big bluestem. I've got some plain ol' big bluestem in the back yard. I can't remember where they came from -- my best guess is that i seeded them in milk jugs in early 2104. At some point I transplanted them into quart-size containers with regular old garden dirt, where they stayed over that winter. I figured they'd be dead, but when they started to come to life last spring, I planted them on the back side of the rain garden berm. Took off like crazy in the wet weather last year, and they are doing great again this year.

It seems to me that big bluestem enjoys more mesic conditions than most of your grasses (switchgrass being an exception). I've seen it growing in some pretty dry locations, like at the tops of road cuts in the Flint Hills, but perhaps in those conditions it establishes more slowly. I would imagine yours might do better as the roots get down into the heavier soil. Or perhaps it is something about the Red October cultivar?

I'm skeptical of the ornamental value of big bluestem as a standalone grass that can grow in a neat clump like little bluestem or Panicum Northwind or the various muhly grasses. I've been trying to cram more and more stuff (composites mostly) where mine are planted so that it's just a big mass, my theory being that they stand up better with lots of competition.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Yes, big blue is fully facultative species, as is switch. Both are good to go pretty much anywhere. Does switch grass take over down in your guys' areas like it does up here? I'm already as sick of that thing as one can be, although a mass of the stuff in fall does look kind of neat. Some plants are just too successful. Then again, I always have it in the back of my mind what used to be where these grasses are being planted up here. And it's a sad thing for me to see these items touted as somehow "good for the earth" or some such idea when pondering the multi-layered forests of yore. I suspect ya'll already knew I thought that! And yes, I refer to my state and similar areas, not where most of you operate.

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texasranger2

Woodstea, just to set the record straight, its not xeric here except in the drought years. Our annual average rainfall is 36.46, I don't think thats too different than where you live. The humidity can be murder, especially in June which I'm already dreading. Give me hot dry August any day. Switchgrass does great here and gets really big + it blooms earlier than most sources indicate. The bigger problem is little bluestem, if the soil is too good or too wet they tend to flop, cultivars are a good way to deal with that problem.

I hear you on ornamental value with the native BBS. I've mentioned that gas station that has a row of them in the corner along with some other plants. The only time they look decorative is when they bloom in fall, otherwise its a boring, non-descript green clump with arching leaves. In the wild, where I rarely see BBS around here, its the turkey feet stretching way up above the others against the azure blue sky we see when the weather cools. Thats always nice after a summer of nearly white looking sky when its so hot.

The Red October has short stiff leaves that are deep deep green with hints of red all season making good contrast behind Little BS. The summer color of the leaves and stiff habit is why I ordered several more after that first experimental one which hasn't gotten big enough to really send up a lot of blooms yet, I haven't really gotten the true 'fall experience' yet and all I've seen is pictures online. I have it planted at the far end of the hell strip as a stand alone plant. The others are planted in front of a white stucco wall behind Little Blue and next to an area of several Panicum 'Northwind' plants. My guess is, there is something about the cultivar, improved through selection for ornamental potential. I'd never considered growing the plain kind because of space limitations and its not really ornamental on its own. Its more moist in this spot than down on the strip and I will let you know how they do.

I chumped off and bought 3 Panicum 'Shenandoah" plants last night from SRG. I also bought their last 12 Blue Stem 'Standing Ovation' and 8 Bluestem 'Carousel'. I've cleared out an area to do drifts.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

I just got done planting 3 more (planted 2 last year) "Shenandoah" P. virgatum's, haha. I was tempted by the Cheyenne sky I saw today, but I figured I had better restrain myself. I have to have somewhere to put some little blues anyways, if I ever find them that is. Actually, the place did have "standing ovation" in BIG buckets for over 20$ which made my eyes pop out of my skull. I don't know who buys that stuff, I hate transplanting such enormous plants, and the smaller ones catch up to them pretty quickly anyways AND I can more for the same price! I have to admit, one of the reasons I like panicum is because it tolerates my clay pretty well. Less effort trying to transplant it.

In any case, switchgrass doesn't take over in my yard. It is one of the more common species of (native) grass that I see out "in the wild" however. But, I'll take it over smooth brome any day.

I am still holding out some hope that I will find some cultivars of big blue at the store. I like what I have seen about Windwalker,tall (which is what I'm after replacing the trees) and it appears to have a nice dark red/purple fall color. Plus, it's from right here in Colorado even! But I really don't like the idea of ordering online...

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Campanula UK Z8

Just putting in a word for purple moor grass - in particular one selected by one of your fellow countrymen, Karl Bluemels - molinia caerulea subsp arundinacea 'Skyracer'. This is looking set fair to be a stunner on my eastern woodland edge (along with panicums and smaller carex testacea. I am also growing the stumpier sesleria autumnalis.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

I've got several P. virgatum 'Cheyenne Sky'. It's been a good grass for me so far, stays fairly low, some nice bits of red in it all season. Too early to tell though how it will perform down the stretch since this is just its third year. I've found a few seedlings near it, but they have a lot to compete with and I don't see it taking over where I've got it.

I see a fair amount of 'Shenandoah' or something very similar to it in plantings around town -- more at businesses or public places than residences so far. I don't think I'd mind so much if I started to see switchgrass everywhere, as long as it wasn't all the same cultivar. That's what bugs me about Karl Foerster, the sameness of it all, like they could all be artificial and you'd never know. Switchgrass is well-suited to our climate here and there really should be more of it around.

I put in a bunch of Sesleria autumnalis this year, mostly replacing Sporobolus heterolepis along the front of my hell strip planting. I wanted something with a lower height next to the sidewalk. It's the first really non-native thing I've planted in that bed. I just couldn't think of a good short height, well-behaved native grass for full sun + mesic soil.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Not at all hating guys-so don't get your backs up-but I do find it interesting that very nearly this entire conversation is about nativars. I myself find such cultivars of interest, so again, don't hate. But in so-called "true" native restoration, many such items are lumped in with the devil herself!

Personally-as items of aesthetic interest-I find much to recommend such plants. The straight-species stuff is almost always too tall for a pleasing composition in a small space.

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texasranger2

Woods Tea, Up the street is a large clump of switchgrass, its as tall as 'Heavy Metal' and it gets really red. I nearly swerved off the street the first summer I saw it in full glory. I have no idea what kind it is. I'm hoping to get something close to that with the 'Shenandoah'. Time will tell.

Zack several years ago I purchased Little Bluestem seeds from Plants of the SW. I did it by mail and I've also ordered over the phone with them. I don't like ordering online either but I finally took a chance with two places. I have never had any trouble with Santa Rosa Gardens or High Country Gardens. When SRG has their sales in late spring and fall, its just about irresistible. Jude Groninger, the owner is personable and will email you if there are any issues. Example, last year she contacted me to say she'd gladly hold my late fall sale order over until spring if I wanted since it was too late to plant them in Oklahoma. Their 4" pot sized grasses establish quickly into gallon sized plants usually blooming the first season.

Anyway the BS seeds I grew from Plants of the SW germinated in about a week or so and grew quickly into gorgeous powder blue, vertical upright plants with fine leaves as pretty as any named LBS I have purchased. I've long since re-vamped the garden so they are no longer there but if I went the seed route again, I'd definitely reorder that strain of LBS seeds. Seedlings are gallon sized plants by year 2 and some bloomed the first year. Big Bluestem----thats another matter. So far I have no germination on the ones I planted this year but I'm keeping the area watered. I grew some in pots several years back and compared to LBS, they are slow going. I never ended up planting those.

Woods--The Autumn Sesleria I planted year before last is in bright shade, the shade part was the reason I got it. The plants are surprisingly large this year and have massed in together so there's no longer so much the look of individual plants. There hasn't been a single volunteer seedling. Next year they could easily be divided if I decide to make a larger area back there under the trees to replace some local type of carex I have next to them. I'm still deciding. Sesleria aren't so much ornamental as they are neat and tidy especially in a mass planting. The most ornamental low grass I have is Prairie Fire carex, its about the same size and habit as the Sesleria. The orangey color and fine leafed, sort of wild grassy texture is really nice in full sun, they are in a spot that stays moist because its where the air conditioner drain thing drips. Both are evergreen all winter and need no trimming in spring.


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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Either too tall or with looser growth habit. Up front in the hell strip I need low height and I care more about form. Out back it's different, as far as I know I only have one nativar out there, a reduced height variety of Viburnum dentatum (Blue Muffin, still should get 7-8' tall). Otherwise it's regular old native stuff.

I do generally prefer locally sourced natives, and ideally individuals from different sources, for diversity reasons. I just don't think it's terribly important in a tiny urban yard, compared to a larger site restoration -- especially up front where I'm trying to make things look as nice as possible and maybe interest some other people in native plants.

That said, I'm a lot more excited about a non-cultivar native plant that ends up performing well for me than I am about a named cultivar.

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texasranger2

Tom, It probably sounds worse than it is in reality. I have an area planted in a local genotype Bluestem, I call them the Big Boys and they are my favorites because they are Okies true blue. Also, massed areas of local genotypes of blue grama (about 60 plants so far and increasing), sideoats grama, two types of local sedge along with 4 types of unimproved Muhly grasses from the big ones to the tiny ones (ring muhly) and two varieties of good ole plain jane straight from seed wild types of sacaton grass and 3 local type Indian Grass plants (our state grass). Purple Three Awn & Mexican Feathergrass both of which I have to thin out occasionally because they like to seed so much. Most of the grasses I grow are from seeds I've collected, its kind of my base or in other words, the lawn replacement.

Shot last year. The Desert Willow tree has been removed, it got slathered in an ice storm and besides, I need the shade like I need a hole in my head.

Seed grown variety of Little Bluestem in front prairie.


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texasranger2

Just one more note because to be honest, I do feel just teeny weeny tad bit defensive. I can grow some grasses up front in full sun that I cannot grow in back due to the shade from neighbors trees (my perennial but futile complaint). Little Bluestem cultivars have solved the problem. The best solution so far I have found is MinnBlue sold as 'Blue Heaven'. It stands up straight in quite a lot of shade. I bought the 'Standing Ovation' plants ($$$) for the same reason. If I could, I'd plant the ones I can grow from seed and would save a heck of a lot of money. In the beginning, I tried it with the seeds I got from Plants of the SW along with some local seed I collected and they all flopped every year and so did the local genotype Indian Grass plants I tried (those have to go up front). Switchgrass involves space issues. On a city lot the unimproved kinds are simply too enormous to be practical although I've seen some dramatic ones on the roadside. They are huge masses. Time will tell on the named variety of Big Blue I planted back there. Muhly, the grama grasses, and others do just fine in back.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

TR: "Sesleria aren't so much ornamental as they are neat and tidy especially in a mass planting."

Exactly what I'm looking for, more of a low mounding type effect, to cover the soil at the edge and open up some space to see the taller plants behind. I've been trying to put more low-growing things into the hell strip:

  • Phemeranthus calycinum

  • Antennaria neglecta

  • Sedum pulchellum

  • Oenothera macrocarpa (just one of these, sprawls over rocks in the hot corner by the street and driveway)

I don't know how the Sesleria will do in a really hot and dry year. Perhaps I will eventually think of a good native substitute for it if it suffers too much.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Also a big fan of LBS 'Blue Heaven'.

I've been interested in this shorter LBS cultivar 'Prairie Munchkin' lately. It looks like it's less blue than some others, which is disappointing. Might pick a couple up just to see how it looks throughout the season.

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texasranger2

Good. I wanted to give you an accurate report. Mine get pretty dry and don't ever seem to suffer for it so when it gets dry on your strip, maybe they will stand up to it. Mine are in full sun in fall, winter and early spring so as a cool season grass, that works out. In a word, I like them. I can't report how they'd do in full Midwestern summer sun though. Let me know.

Have to disagree on the munkin. I dislike it a lot because it doesn't look like a bluestem even remotely, its celery colored with white stalks and looks 'BRED'. I think of it as a 'cut dog' thats been tamed down so much its lost all of its 'bluestemmyness' and I put it in the same category as those double echinacea's that look like Jon Benet Ramsey. They even brag on the fact that its a good substitute for the over used but ever popular 'Karl Foerster'. Better choice for short in my opinion is Jazz or Carousel. I ordered Carousel to plant in front of the Standing Ovation but only because they only had 12 SO's (rats!!) left in stock. I'm getting to the point that my 'Northwind' is looking too artificial and hybrid for my taste. I haven't gotten rid of them but the day may come.....

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

For real you guys, no need to be defensive. If you knew what half of my work entailed-ornamental plantings of often zero native content-annuals (gasp!), things from around the wide world....I have no issue with any of this. Besides, from what I've seen on this forum, your (Tex) garden is amazingly harmonious and well proportioned. Finally, in those fairly large "prairie restorations" we install around our stormwater ponds and stream restorations, it's all nonsense from a native vegetation standpoint. Get this: The reason we use prairie plantings (not restorations) around these practices ultimately has nothing to do with their "nativeness" per se. No, it is because when a big glug of rain comes flashing down the channel, such vegetation will lay down and let the water pass. If it were our true native vegetation-trees, shrubs, and then whatever ground layer accompanies same, it would catch debris, and then catch more debris, leading to complete blockage of flow.

We try to work with nature, but at the end of the day, flood control/mitigation is job one. Whether I like it or not!

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texasranger2

Tom, I've gone through so much trail and error here at 'The Projects' it feels schizophrenic at times and frustrating. Seems I'm always rearranging, removing or adding, trying different types of plants etc, some plants work but many others don't. Sometimes I just have trouble visualizing or a plant doesn't work out like I'd hoped. I found that if I mass an area all in one kind of grass its more harmonious as opposed to too many different varieties all growing together. Right now I'm working on the high side where the soil continues to wash downhill. Its half day full sun from early to around 1 to 2pm. I decided to try bluestem but I need a strain that stays upright. I've tried large cactus, I have a variety that will grow anywhere and takes a lot of shade along with perennials & shrubs but they all leaned. I cleared it out but my next investment for 4 Apache Plume shrubs looked like hell too after a couple years. Its enough sun but those tall trees are looming behind and most plants want to drastically lean away from them in a way that looks awful. Grasses don't lean like other plants did, I know that because before I planted the shrubs I'd planted that robust strain of Los lunas Giant Sacaton developed for windbreaks in the desert and let them grow for a couple years until I had to admit it really looked too coarse and unattractive there even though they filled in fast & did the trick. Now I'm onto trying one of the bluestem strains that stay upright. The area has been cleared out for the umteenth time it seems like and I should get the order today. I hope this finally solves the problem.

There is a certain pressure I feel about having it look right. When you scrape your yard clean and the neighbors are all watching with wrinkled foreheads and looking doubtful, it feels like you have to make good in order to justify what you did or you'll end up looking crazy with a mess. The Crazy Lady's yard, that sort of thing. I've seen some yards that look awful where they grow plants in front instead of a lawn. Mostly these have lots of big shrubs and trees and the plants are ill matched and just wrong. Its an awful effect.

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texasranger2

Zach, I am KICKING myself hard. I just last night discovered, via google, that you can order flats of 38 plants from Santa Rosa Gardens for whole lot less than I just paid for 12 Bluestem 'Standing Ovation', 8 Bluestem 'Jazz' and 3 Panicum 'Shenandoah'. How I missed this until now is beyond me, I just never clicked 'Liner Trays'. You can even order a mixed flat but they will only fill with whats in stock currently-- some aren't. I would have ordered a whole flat of all one kind of LBS if I'd know this because thats what I was wanting all along. A bag of potting soil, some recycled 4" pots, a month of babying them and wham, in the ground they'd go. RATS! The way I figure it is, they sell the wholesale flats for about twice the price of wholesalers. Thats not bad because with wholesale places there's usually a minimum order of about $500.

Typical, seems I'm always a day late and a dollar short (especially the dollar part)

Anyway, I didn't know if this would be of interest to you (or anyone else) since you were looking for LBS plants and saw that one single plant for $20. I bet you could contact Jude by phone and place an order and let her know you are uncomfortable ordering online. She really does work with people.


http://www.santarosagardens.com/Trays-s/10281.htm


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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

or worse , you will be responsible for their lowered resale value.My "yard" has gone all weedy. No time for gardening. Work work work.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

TR, what about Elymus canadensis for that part sun hilly location? Something to get the hill stabilized and that handles shade reasonably well. I'm not speaking from experience, just trying to think of some less than full sun possibilities.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Or Sleepy grass from New Mexico. It likes to grow in high part shade locations around Riodoso and cloud croft. I am trying them out here for under cedars. My only concern is our heat. versus the foothills of the Lincoln Mountains.

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texasranger2

Well, if it makes any sense, I don't want anything 'grassy'. The giant sacaton was really grassy and looked overwhelming and I got tangled up and slapped in the face by the weeping leaves when I weeded or cleaned there. What I mean is I want compact, vertical and dense plants rather than grasses with an open loose weeping habit because that looks too wild. I've made that mistake over and over.

I learned that a lot of weeping grasses planted together easily ends up looking like a confusing mess and although they seem to work nicely as specimens or massed in large scale situations when enough space is available and they can be seen from distance, its not always good in a typical yard or as a backdrop behind other plants, in this case the plants in front are artemisia and other silver plants along with some blue O. macrocentra prickly pear cactus. Further north on the border where it gets shade earlier in the day, I've massed Pine Muhly and its doing good, success at last! It used to be planted in the PoSW seed grown bluestem and those did good until they bloomed and then they lodged.

Sleepy grass would be too see through. I'd like it in a field but not as a backdrop higher up growing in the background.

I'm very confident the Standing Ovation will work, its got unusually thick stems like the Blue Heaven. I chose S. 'Jazz' because its a shorter, non lodging version of 'The Blues'. I planted a lot of 'The Blues' and they grow super fast, stand straight, are light powder blue and they get tons of seed stalks on thick plants. The only problem is, so many seed on too tall/thin of a stem so they lean from the weight of it. They didn't didn't lodge but they did lean a lot, otherwise its gorgeous.

I just read Zack says bluestem goes really nice with P. shenandoah, even if its not all that red, so I was glad to read it, I was counting on that for some nice color contrasts in summer and fall. The late afternoon sun comes through there so I think it will be nice.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

For all your doings and re-doings Tex, I really mean it-your gardening is A number one primo. I actually envy the ability of you and some others here to work with some of these dry land plants. I can grow them through the growing season alright, but the first cold, miserable, and WET autumn does them in every time. Nothing like a nice clump of Agastache or some such with ice crystals forming in its crown!

Oddly-now that I mention that plant-a few actually wintered over this year. I had thought of the winter we had as awful for perennial plant survival-we didn't even get much snow, although there was one nice heavy one in late Dec. that surely helped. But cold and relatively snowless is a bad recipe for these things. Still.....somehow, little clumps of Agastache and in my worst site-the downtown strip-all of which could rightly be termed "hell strip"!

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Tom, perhaps you could plant those dryland plants in a gravel garden?

http://www.wpr.org/gravel-gardens-are-low-maintenance-drought-resistant-horticulture-expert-says


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texasranger2

Thank you Tom. I can't grow agastache either, inevitably a heavy rain will get it or, I'll water when its dry they die a slow death. I finally got irritated with them. I bet Zach is the only one who can, they've got that low humidity and climate for stuff like that.

I got the grasses in the mail from SRG and they are planted and watered in. They really do sell good looking plants.

I chopped on a giant ugly Privet I am sick of looking at and now I'm working out a deal in my head to offer to plant the stuff I dug up if I do the chore of getting rid of it and the strip of tree saplings, weeds and vinca vine growing on the property line but technically in the neighbors yard. I think she will go for it, all they do is hire the grass mowed except for that 2 ft wide mess of vinca major along the fence and she loves all my 'flowers'. She calls everything 'flowers'. Privet is on the invasive species list here so I consider this an act of civic duty. (cough)

With the recent alteration to make room for the grass I've now got good sized plants without a home: 3 Russian Sage, 1 flame Acanthus, 1 Monroe's Globe Mallow, 4 Salvia greggii, two Apache Plume shrubs and artemisia. Stuff that needs no watering or molly-codling. My part of the bargain will be to never have to look at the privet again and even better--- I'll get to stop yanking out crawling vinca major that grows 6 inches a day--------I hate that stuff. Yearly, I spray the tree saplings from my side, they are always either pecan or Tree of Heaven.

Tom I know you really dislike the Russian Sage but it looks so pretty when its really hot and dry, it can take whatever and is reliable. I think its ugly in too rich or moist soil.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

I will have to check out SRG. 38 plants is a lot, though lol. Well, more grass will have to be removed...oh dear, what will the neighbors think as my lawn continues to dwindle ;).

I personally like the Shenandoah with the bluestem, definately. Maybe it's because so many other xeric plants are also blue and/or grey that the the green really adds something when combined with the blue of the little bluestem. Plus, in the fall, P. virgatum turns yellow/straw while the little blue turns pink/red, nice combo IMO, but I'm not quite the artist that you are, TR, so, don;t take my word for it, LOL.

Agastaches are among my favorite, and they do amazing here, I have to say. the three I planted last year (A. rupestris) at least doubled in size this year. I will have to get a picture and show you all (not often that people envy what we can grow here in Denver, haha). As a bonus, they are the broad tailed hummingbird's favorites and they hang out by them for hours. At my brother's house about 20 minutes north of me, he has A. cana 'Sonoran Sunset' that smells like bubble gum. It has grown enormous for him. I planted one last year that didn't survive the winter however, but it was really beat up and sad looking when I bought it, too though.

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texasranger2

There's several plants you can grow there that don't do well (or as well) here that make me jealous. Apache Plume grows here but the plumes aren't as pink due to the hot nights, Rabbit Bush will grow here but its a challenge, Winterfat is one of my favorite shrubs but after 4 years mine started looking really bad and they don't get the massive amount of cottony seeds in fall & winter, White Tufted Primrose and quite a few other very xeric perennials, Bush Morning Glory--I can get it to come up but it dies after a year or so, Miribilis multiflora---I got it to come up too but its small and dismal after three years---its alive but thats about all and I should be turned in for plant torture on that one. I really wanted one too......

Native Buckwheat. I love all of them. This one makes me cry.

Any and all Alpine plants which is sad because there's so many I like.

I could just sum it up by saying, if its got tiny leaves, silver leaves or no leaves at all like Ephedra, I like it. I'm trying that Pawnee Butte's Sand Cherry I ordered from HCG. So far so good. I should add I find I'm in the minority when it comes to many of the plants I like. Most people seem to like the lush colorful bright stuff. I don't.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Rabbit brush grows all over the place out here, lol. It gets BIG though, and hard to find for landscape use. There is a dwarf variety they supposedly sell, but I have never once seen it.

I have been searching for Colorado four o' clocks for a couple years, never have found them for sale, either. I was offered seedlings from a friend, but, they apparently don't take kindly to being dug up. They also dread water I hear, your 36" might just be too much for them.

Alpine plants don't do terribly well here in Denver, either. It just get's too hot and too dry. Aspens are a perfect example. Everyone wants to have the show stopping golden fall leaves in their front yard, but the trees just do terrible at lower elevations. Unfortunately not terrible enough to keep them from suckering EVERYWHERE. I do grow our state flower, Aquilegia caerulea, Rocky Mountain columbine, but to be honest down here on the plains, it's better to treat them as annuals in my experience, though I think some of hybrid columbines do better.

I don't really like the more "typical" garden plants either. Although, I do like some, like echinacea and liatris. I also do enjoy spring bulbs because without them my garden would be devoid of life for more than half the year, so, it's nice to have daffodils and tulips to look at when the snow is still falling in April.

But, overall, I mostly stick to the ones that like hot and dry. Penstemons are, as you know, my favorites, and the rare salvia that will overwinter are nice too. Today I planted both! P. rostiflorius and S. reptans. They are both late season bloomers, and the red and blue should look good together More agastache went into that bed, too. The spaces will be filled with blue and sideoats grama

To take this is a completely different direction... I picked up a couple little blues "prairie blue" today, do you have any experience with that one?

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texasranger2

I like 'Prairie Blues', I planted 4" pots in fall of 2014 but lost about 3 of them, its a seed sown strain so the seedlings will be like the parents. Its very light blue with thin leaves but it isn't as robust as some for me. The plants are smaller in diameter so they form the classic exclamation marks and I really want that look so I'm using seedlings to have more plants up front. They never lodged or leaned or looked messy like some BS, straight as arrows. They seeded lightly compared to other kinds. Mine have been a lot slower coming around compared to the more robust types and three of the plants are still pretty sparse this year, there's a lot of dead grass with only a bit of weak growth even at this late date. Maybe its the soil, its sandy and dry where they are.

'The Blues' is also powder blue with thin leaves but the plants form very large clumps with lots and lots of bloom stems and they have more volunteers the next year. They don't form that thin strong vertical ! look, rather they look like thick robust tussocks with a big diameter. They come back real strong the second year and grow fast but tend to lean pretty bad. The seedlings all look and behave like the parent plants.

If you ever run across 'Blue Heaven' you ought to get it. Its got deep turquoise blue stiff leaves with hints of red or purple early on & the leaves are short & thick, the plants stay pretty low until they send up stiff straight blooms which happened in July here. They color up really nice in late summer. Some seedlings look just like the parents, others don't at all, they are taller and lighter blue.

'The Blues' have foliage which is a lot taller (about a foot tall) and they bloom early too but the fall color isn't all that dramatic. Both it and 'Blue Heaven' bloomed a few weeks earlier than 'Prairie Blues' which would be good for your shorter season.

Prairie Blues was the latest blooming type I had last year but it had the most prairie-like look to my eyes, those thin vertical strokes like you see in a nice prairie.

The Standing Ovation I just bought have leaves that are thicker than 'Blue Heaven' and already were showing hints of purple. The more robust older looking starter plants were amazingly thick at the bases, of the 12 I ordered some plants looked a bit more mature. I'm anxious to see how they do.

I also got 'Jazz' in the 4"pots. The early growth of the leaves is light green and extremely thin compared to the other LBS plants I have.

The Los Lunas variety I bought from HCG last spring bloomed the earliest of all last year and those got tall, one plant lodged out of 6 plants. They came up really thick and robust early this spring and I got lots of seedlings.

I imagine the differences in climates would affect which ones do better in different parts of the country. Maybe Prairie Blue isn't up to our heat? I don't know.

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QUERCUS(Sunset 10[b], arid USDA 8a)

"Xeric prairie" - glad to hear this isn't just a term by the poetic ones I moved from in Albuquerque. They call arid, desert grassland or plain desert "prairie grassland", then plant irrigated "meadows"!

I grew up partly in Aurora Colorado, 15"-ish precip / year, and their steppe is not prairie. I went to college where it is prairie in central Oklahoma; tall grasses on clay, areas of stunted forest (cross timbers) on sands, both 35"-ish precip / year.

I'll now have to check out the places ZachS. z5 notes and the link covers, next time up in Denver. From hearing wisconsitom(Zone 4/5) "xeric prairie" in WI seems the reverse of where it grows in CO...WI = drier, warmer microclimates, CO = wetter, cooler microclimates.

Both OK and CO seem in denial or not caring about what they are and could have, with little of the pampering their landscapes now have. From texasranger2 there's some interesting changes from my 4 years in OK, but also more of the same.

I recently read a book on "Steppes" out of Denver, then "Planting in a Post-Wild World" from the eastern US. The latter gets to the root of this dialogue, as it's about "designed plant communities", meaning know one's "archetypal landscape", then planting ornamentally to that.

Maybe embracing one's own archetype is the root of this issue being discussed? Then knowing how to abstract that in design is next?

Many place's have their own prejudices or at least biases, endangering something natural there. Some worse than others for certain. I hate to see trends or perceptions over-rule reality or what's lasting. I get unsafe situations or other problems that are removed, but I also discern when it's taken too far.

By the time I die, I hope our US culture is more sophisticated and connected to place, instead of changing each. I want to see Phoenix not look like Santa Barbara, or Denver look like Duluth...all 4 different, deserving to be like only each can.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Keep in mind, even prior to the turning of nearly all existing prairie found in WI to corn and soybeans, the title plant community of this thread occupied tiny amounts of land in WI. Restricted to SW-facing hillsides, and then only in far SW WI. Not at all common, ever.

Hell, I'm in E-central WI and there's a knob not far from here with a bit of prickly pear cactus remnant! As this happens to also be a popular chill spot for the kids, most plants have seen a fair amount of abuse. But again, this is way an outlier! Look where New London, WI is, and these hills with the prickly pear are just to the E of that town. Had as much to do with soil-pure sand-as with any climatic factor. It's a fairly wet region.

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texasranger2

Oklahoma is not so much in a state of denial, its more like a mass inferiority complex. The idea that the place has needed improvement since settlement is entrenched, we need gussy-ing up with pretty plants and lots of trees brought in because otherwise "there ain't nothin' purdy to look at out there" because gee, its just so darn flat and boring. I guess a wide view of the horizon for miles in every direction and a huge sky is not enough, it needs to be broken up and the view completely blocked off with trees although to me that seems a bit like blocking the view of the mountains if you lived by them. Most people will grant you that Oklahoma does have good farmland, they will give you that.

Even our state flower, Indian Blanket was recently demoted to the slot of being our 'State Wildflower' and replaced with a hybrid Tea Rose some Japanese rose breeder named 'Oklahoma'. Flattery does work indeed.

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QUERCUS(Sunset 10[b], arid USDA 8a)

Sad on OK's "state wildflower" vs. "state flower". Whether a relic at the extreme dry and wet ends, or in the middle where the norm, do you think inferiority can couch itself as denial, hostility or conceit? That might explain desert and steppe hostility in NM, and steppe hostility in CO.

Good examples all over, and making those hip by tapping into popular imagery, seem to be how TX is more turned on (agave/stock tank fad in Austin) or AZ is (Sonoran natives/water harvesting in Tucson).

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texasranger2

Nah, its just plain ole inferiority along with the lack of ability to appreciate the beauty of something so subtle in color and detail but which needs to be experienced and looked at up close to see that its not miles of boring nothing, in fact, just the opposite.

Weird thing is most people don't choose to live in knee or waist high grass, not that you can blame them but no one realized how fragile it all was. Then there was greed, that played a big part, it always does.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I have always liked the idea of place that comes with Nature.I am not the purist. I also like the idea of place as it come with historical trends of gardening in the my place of Texas that predate modern gardening. Someone brought us school house lilies from argentina a hundred years ago. I thank them. They still mark many an abandoned ruined farmhouse. The Big Box and gardening mags are busy creating its place glued ontop of this timeline continuum of many places . Their place is rife with a unified expectation of lusciousness that remains alien to a natural Central Texas, a place of floods and drought. That last one that the Big Box has put on, is an eraser of all that was unique before. It seems so divorced from regional characteristics. At least the historical gardening trends of Texas had roots in what was here and what was brought here by the spanish , and german immigrants that could survive with minimal or no irrigation. Even when I arrived in Austin in the 70's. Most grass was allowed to dry up in August. That is a thing of the past and illegal in many HOAs. I like the layering of Northern Mexico's flora with Texas. Agave's and Palms seem to fit with our live oaks and Yuccas. Poliomintha longiflora thrives in my yard through thick and thin with out irrigation and protecting. It is from 400 miles south west of me. about the distance of OKC and closer than New Mexico. I consider it an "almost Native" along with my Hinkley Columbine and big bend Salvias that grow un amended and unwatered. Natives do remain the bone of my place. And the natural order and disorder is still what I do because I am your disorganized human. I look for system that will sustain , not necessarily systems that are beautiful and rational statements of mass and color.

I think gardeners have always wanted to put their sense of order on the world from geometric knot gardens to miasmic rules of what colors go with what. They have always brought the unusual from far away into the mix.. Now add to this that we are a populace of constant movement and there is a need to bring from home what made them feel "at home". I think people bring into the desert a remembered preferred palette of colors with rich greens as a background stitched into the backs of their eyelids, not the burnt red, buff or white of the bone dried bare ground. Even the light is different. It will destroy most colors on a good hot summer day. The shade is different. The leaves of the oaks start to turn in a vertical manner to reduce evaporation in a drought , thinning the shade. I don't know how many people come to the Texas forum wanting to know how to grow peonies and forsythias in their new homes. I can only say that southern "Bless their Hearts".

Water rationing is changing the gardening choices in a really substantial way. We have had water rationing for over 15 years now almost non stop. The trend is building. I fear the overuse of Decomposed granite as ground cover will make monsanto very happy in its need to keep it need. They will be happy regardless.

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texasranger2

Correction: Tx is more turned on by prairie grasses. Its a thousand times easier to maintain and design a garden based on agaves, cactus and other desert plants with empty spaces covered in gravel. I tried that early on but it got boring quickly and it doesn't change much through the seasons and has no movement. I found its much more difficult and challenging to attempt a prairie landscape in an urban setting but I'm continually editing and working on it. Its like comparing the planning & detail involved in an intricate tapestry with a simplistic rug design.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Desert hostility... interesting. How about comfort. Desert will always be seen by many as uncomfortable and harsh. Whereas home needs to be comfortable and homey. Water is coupled with life, cleanliness and comfort. Changing those perceptions will be hard nut to crack. Water rationing will make it hard to afford water and that greenery will become uncomfortable to maintain. The Rich still get to. I live where water laws are just plain weird and the wealthy are still maintaining huge water features that they get trucks of water to come in and maintain where people like y friends have to pay $150 per month to get water to flush and boil food in. irrigation is added ontop. Me , I am a water harvester so I am out of the municipal safety lupe. I know where my water comes from.... the sky.

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texasranger2

Was Quercus talking about Texas the state or texasranger2? Tex can't tell.

Yea, we can all talk big talk while sitting in our air-conditioned homes at the computer.

My goal is no watering. I keep planting those native grasses and I'm getting real close. The only ones I'm watering are the new ones I'm establishing this year.

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TX referred to the state (mainly Austin) getting into the desert as a style, and blending it into their own natives like wantonamara Z8 CenTex was noting. Not sure I get who's big talking in their home AC!

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texasranger2

I meant the way we all enjoy the comforts but complain about certain things like land that was taken over for crop production, oil drilling, changing landscapes etc, nothing was intended there or targeted at anyone specific.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Texas has a trend that takes from areas around them and combines. Our land is a combination of the areas. Thank god the azalea/Camelia faze has died an agonizing death. Austinites do have a lush take on desert. A bit of tropical (especially if you are in San Antonio), The influences of the Sierra Madre Oriental, A bit of the south and a bit of the plains mixed in with a bit of the desert and l and a whole bunch of the Hill Country. . Lots of collecting from the mountains around Monterey and Nuevo Leon. But Central Texas is a place where the sense of place changes in just a few miles this way or that. We have the south, plains and the beginnings of the west here. You get that change out in the desert with those sky island mountains that create moisture, wicking it out of the clouds. I have plants from the mountains of the Big Bend that love our wet summers and suffer in our dry ones. I keep telling them , "Your from the desert, so stop your pouting". So many of our natives on my land are at their furthest eastern point and their range extends to Arizona. You might see the Austinites as using dessert plants. They see it as them using Texas Natives..... and their relatives. Its a big family LOL.

What is interesting is even the Big boxes are being forced to sell us plants that don't grow in South Carolina and actually are from Texas.

Yes it was hot and I had a hard time not hanging in the AC today. My un air conditioned shop was not calling me.

My cat was named Quercus. We build out of Oak a lot.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

I have an interest in the state of Florida. Not in the usual way, like golf courses, and retirement complexes. Just the actual state with its actual vegetation (where such has not yet been pushed into a big pile and burned), and as such, I often participate in the Houzz Florida Gardening forum, at least during those times of the year when I have the time, which is mostly not now. In any case, it drives me up the wall the number of peeps showing up there with posts like "Can I grow hostas in Florida" ad nauseum. Why, why, why do not people take what a place offers-which is more than they can reasonably deal with in a lifetime-and work with that? Drives me insane.

Then there are those that lament about the same state that it is "so flat"! Duh....it's a sand bar with some limestone mixed in here and there! How mountainous should it be? As it is, I find that that very flatness adds a certain something. It's hard to describe, but even in so wet and humid a place as it is, one can find amazing vistas through the scrub.

I'll probably never end up living down there though. Wife hates heat/humidity and for my part, at least half of what hits me while down there is heartburn over all the wanton destruction going on......so that people can have cookie-cutter subdivisions with the same ill-suited plants, the same endless irrigation (I hate that too, lol) and the same mow, blow and go guys parked out front. So sad.....and such a pale imitation of what could be.

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I hear you, wisconsitom(Zone 4/5). That can be said about many places, and you're not alone on Fla.

One might even say there's more opportunity in Fla as areas get restored back to their ecology, including incorporating aesthetics scaled for the site, since they care about aesthetics more than say, where I live. I designed a small bank in central Fla years ago, and I fear what it became after some disconnect with the architect, owner, and my end.

Not much time to catch up on all the posts right now, just too busy with the day job. Try the Fla Native Plant Society blog - http://fnpsblog.blogspot.com/

I remember some good posts on that site, though I haven't visited in the while.

Funny how we switched to better landscaping or restoration of various places from the original topic of "xeric prairie", the latter being something I hoped to focus on!

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Heh, you can always count on me to turn convos ever more off-topic! Sorry 'bout dat.


I've got literature from the FL Native Plant Society and I right like it. I know I'm not completely alone. But probably as I type this, some hedge fund guys in SoCal are drawing up plans for another mega-no children allowed-paradise-cookie-cutter hellspot for right outside of Fort Myers or something! Money is and will continue to rule the downfall.

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texasranger2

There are many kinds of prairie, more than I attempt to keep track of. I typically think in terms of Tallgrass, Mixed or Shortgrass.

There are: Dry Prairie, Dry-Mesic Prairie, Mesic Prairie, Wet Mesic Prairie, Wet Prairie, Limestone/dolomite Prairie, Dry Mesic Limstone Dolomite Prairie, Dry Prairie, Chert Prairie, Dry Mesic Chert Prairie, Dry Sandstone/shale Prairie, Dry Sand Prairie and Hardpan Prairies.

I assumed the term Xeric Tall Grass to be a general term describing one of the above types of prairie. There was once a Tall Grass prairie that I imagine would have been described as xeric in the Texas Blackland before it was wiped out, I believe that is dry soil there (?) wantanamara is probably more familiar with it or would know about it.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

No, Texas Backland prairie is not that dry. Most of it is east of IH 35 . The highway that seems to go down a climatic and geological boundary.

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texasranger2

Is there any prairie still there at all? A conservation effort or anything? It really is hard to think of Texas as Tall Grass but most people tend to stereotype and think of west Texas. I even forget about NE Oklahoma. Its a different world up there.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

I remember when I first participating in this forum, I had just read (In one of my restoration newsletters) about an article entitled Texas: A Sea of All the Wrong Grasses. That's a while back, but the gist of it seemed to be that while "grasslands" are alive and well in the state, they are almost entirely composed of invasive and largely undesirable grass types, including even from the rancher's perspective-I think.

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QUERCUS(Sunset 10[b], arid USDA 8a)

I hear you wisconsitom(Zone 4/5), but as a planner and landscape architect, those with savvy and money can get ahead of those with just money, and there are some areas of the US getting that.

Not the majority of development nor all areas, but better developments than the usual you note exist. Someday, perhaps more of that money and savvy will be available to all incomes, not just the well-moneyed idea of "all incomes"! The latter is what I strive to do as a planner. The right landscape architect can make it work, too...not many where I am, but more elsewhere.

Google the work of Ten Eyck (Christy's office is now in Austin) and Environmental Survey Consulting. As to Florida, look at Watercolor and Seaside, in the panhandle. All the above for higher income projects, but I'm positive that will change.

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QUERCUS(Sunset 10[b], arid USDA 8a)

Taking a quick break to chime in over lunch...

True on those prairie types, texasranger2, and there are probably more. They sound based on some meeting of different factors - soils, microclimate, or local moisture conditions. Agreed the original topic of "xeric prairie" sounds like that.

wantonamara Z8 CenTex agreed on Blackland not being xeric, with 30"+ rain / year. As a student of geography, climate and vegetation, Blackland Prairie in TX or other true prairies are dry only when compared to places like Alabama or Michigan.

I'm thinking of climate, not just shorter-term weather or a drought period, but the wet periods too. Same variation with temperature.

A roadtrip last summer shows differences, clicking on images shows rainfall for that area too - https://dryheatblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/eastbound/

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I was amazed at how wet things looked in a lot of places out in NM last summer. TRUE it was a wet year there and a dry summer in Texas. We had NO rain from mid June to mid late October. It was a bad drought bookended by horrendous floods. Our Brackett soil on my limestone hill holds the water for only a short time. we had 20 inches in 3 or 4 days split on either end of a long dry spell. It warped our yearly annual amount upwards but does not tell the whole story of the land. I googled a Ms Ten Eyck Utube and even she mentioned that she was not prepared for how porous the water holding capacity on the soil was on the limestone hills. Backland prairie is a whole other story. They are different animals. It is not a desert, not even semi arid by the numbers, but it has its problems if one is looking for a no water garden or trying to introduce plantings into a field restoration. These hills share plants with much of the arid west. I look west for techniques. I am looking west at those green globs of the monsoons drifting across with envy. Something is wrong when you look at a desert for water envy . LOL. That said , we are still relatively green right now.

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texasranger2

Quercus, I'm confused about what you are attempting to get at. In your first post you mentioned a book on Steppes, planting in a post modern world, designed plant communities & how in each region people should be embracing their own local archetype and how to 'abstract' that in design. That sounds like landscaping to me.

Then you write that the topic got off the original subject of xeric prairies, which was the topic you had intended to focus on but we had veered off into better landscaping and restoration.

What exactly are you getting at other than being glad the term Xeric Prairie was not just a poetic term used by people in Albuquerque?

Maybe we should focus on the word 'xeric' and what that means. A plant which can withstand long periods, such as a decade of drought but is not necessarily a desert plant is one I would call xeric. That would include Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indian Grass, Sideoats grama and several forbs with would do well in situations like we have with extremely long periods of drought. As long as the roots are very deep, those plants survive. It sounds like what Zach was referring to was a pocket of something from a past time, some remnant left from a time before settlement perhaps.

wantanamara and I get pretty much the same amount of annual rainfall but our soil differs drastically. I can grow tall grass prairie plants while they would surely fail or sadly struggle and be stunted in her caliche and what she calls 'marl' (is that limestone?). We have sandstone up here and much deeper soil. Other than that there are our zone differences with her being quite a bit further south so she can grow several plants that wouldn't stand up to our winters. We both grow several desert plants, the ones that will tolerate our wet periods.

Even with the same annual rainfall, her soil makes her place xeric-ish compared to what 'Yours Truly' can grow big up here--it sort of evens out that jealousy problem I have with the cold zapping plants she can grow but I cannot.

Oklahoma is described as a land of too much. Too much water, too much drought, too much heat, too much cold, too much wind, too dry, too humid. In other words. its hard to grow stuff around here but the Oklahoma natives have adapted to these extremes. Some years (or even decades) the prairie is 'xeric' but then in other years its wet.

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QUERCUS(Sunset 10[b], arid USDA 8a)

Fun stuff, wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I think there are common techniques to use, but the much greater rainfall in your wetter years could be a problem for what we take for granted (dry or drier) - I wonder which adjustments are needed to adapt an arid dry soil regime to a sub-humid dry soil place?

You may get a kick out of the comparison of rain and sun El Paso to Austin. Your wet season is almost the opposite of our "wet" or monsoon season -


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QUERCUS(Sunset 10[b], arid USDA 8a)

texasranger2 - not sure I was attempting in my 1st post or since, other than what I thought I clearly stated on a vast topic. It's a heirarchy - broader ecoregion informs what specifically "xeric" means (or "xeric prairie"); know ecoregion / climate 1st, apply that thoughtfully 2nd to restorations (revegetation) or ornamental landscapes (hence the books others might appreciate).

In other words, don't try forcing alpine meadows or prairie into a desert or forest, desert into prairie, etc, as noted from WI. Instead, work with one's ecology.

I was laughing at myself being a part of veering into other applications, but it all relates and is good.

Xeric plants - a function of ecoregion / climate, then soils, microclimates. My xeric is different than yours' - I average 8" precip/year, 3" to 15" the extremes. Plus I have less cloudiness and humidity, sandy loam, and am 4000' elev. I get that on soils and other nuances on a regional to site level, as I've been mapping that and vegetation/ecoregions to make sense of it, and designing with that 2+ decades.

My xeric plants - Big Bluestem and Indian Grass are not xeric here, though Sideoats is in most of town; in foothills Little Bluestem is xeric. Also xeric for me - Mesquite, Desert Willow, Ocotillo, Soaptree, Creosote, Sand Sage, Claret Cup Hedgehog, Fishhook Barrel, Bush Muhly, Purple Threeawn, etc.

When I just rewrote our county's landscaping code, I stated how moisture availability (soils, water table) determines some plants' water use in our valley compared to elsewhere - Cottonwood, Sycamore, Crepe Myrtle, Coyote Willow, etc.

Hopefully that gives me some cred! More later...

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Xeric, as Tom noted earlier in this discussion is more a description of "habitat" than "habit." In the gardening/landscaping world the term has been more applied to the particular traits of certain plants ("habit") and "xeriscape" describing the "habitat."

The difference between these two understandings is highlighted in the original topic of this post: xeric tallgrass prairies. The specific plant species themselves are virtually the same as you find in "mesic" tallgrass prairies, but because the climate/soil/etc is much drier they are classified differently.

As for other dry areas... eastern Colorado is indeed prairie, although due to the more arid climate, the dominant species are much more diminutive ad a result of the scarcity of resources. Calling it steppe is a little disingenuous, though ecologically synonymous with "prairie," both being terms for grassland. Here in the U.S. however, steppe is a (colloquially) understood to be more like the "sagebrush steppe" of the intermountain west, a scrubland ecosystem.

I'm fact a lot of places that would be considered "desert" really aren't. The Four Corners region is typified by a lot of pinion/juniper woodland, though the dominant species there being little more than glorified shrubs themselves. And so it is with the area around Albuquerque, New Mexico. While you may "see" desert, it is actually a grass-dominant ecosystem, and very typical of what is called the southern great plains, which encompass the grasslands of Texas and New Mexico such as the llano estacado. Although a very dry landscape compared to more easterly grasslands, they are grasslands just the same.

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texasranger2

I like the word adaptive. Plants around here need to adapt to cold, extreme heat, strong wind, uncertain precipitation, droughts and floods. I have some plants that come from dryer regions because I have better luck than ones that need more moisture.

Quercus, as far as cred (credentials?) are concerned, I claim none in the field of restoration, native habitats or landscaping so I'll will gladly leave the technical stuff to Zach and Tom since they are far more qualified than I. I'm just a professional artist who happens to be partial to and loves prairies with a pretty good eye toward composition but its mostly a reason to get outside, escape from work and unwind after hours of tedious details. I'm not out to change the gardening world or anything. I suppose its a lucky thing I just happen to like what called 'prairie gardens' or (gag me) 'The Prairie Style' considering I live in a prairie state.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

All of my "landscaping" knowledge would fit neatly and squarely in a space the size of an index card...single sided. Art? I had an uncle named Art, but other than that I wouldn't know it if it jumped up and bit me in the ass. And when compared to folks like Tom, who have a lifetime of experience in the area of restoration and conservation, I am a complete ignoramus on the subject. "Technical stuff" can typically be found in books. Anyone with a library card can be up to speed on the "technical stuff" in just a few months time. Credentials... often we get too wrapped up in them. In my opinion, the most "cred" a person can have is being open to learning. A perfect example would be the "anti" folks. We know the type, the ones who who believe that a single non native indevidual is a veritable Armageddon and that to crack open a bottle of herbicide is THE cardinal sin that will send a person to plant hell no matter how much they repent. Zealotry and ego are two things that I simply cannot stand. Fitting that the two are part and parcel to each other.

In the end, we all have our own unique strengths and weaknesses, our own backgrounds, skill sets, and knowledge. I have a good friend who told me one time "You can learn at least one thing from every single person you ever meet, no matter how dumb you think they are." And that is one of my favorite things about this forum. No, not that you all are dumb, but that every time I come here, I learn something new.

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texasranger2

The quote I like is: "Even a broken clock is right twice a day".

The kind of artist you might be thinking is probably one of those bohemian creative types who have work in galleries or art shows. I'm more like a craftsman with a lot of technical rules to carefully follow, the work is tedious and labor intensive. I used to be a draftsman for oil companies but that didn't mean I knew very much about the oil business. Its pretty much the same way with what I do now.

Quercus, in defense of Oklahoma I don't see us as being in state of denial, not caring about what we are and could have. I don't sense hostility and I especially don't sense conceit disguised as inferiority from people here. Its more like many are pretty set in their ways, old habits die hard but mostly people don't think of such things because its never even been presented as something to think about. Most of the people are down to earth, unassuming and very friendly. People who move here or visit almost always comment on how friendly the people are.

Zach, come to think of it, I haven't personally met a single native plant freak in person, I've only read that stuff online & I know what you are talking about.

Because of water shortages, or more precisely the higher water bills, native plants are catching on here. I see stories on the news about seminars, education and native plant sales. If the stores sell them, folks will buy them. Trends seem to be slow in getting here but they do eventually arrive. As it is, I'm proud of what OKC is doing with the native grass plantings around the capitol and several developments downtown with the Riverwalk, Stadium, Bricktown etc where the city has put in many new features that celebrate our heritage, history and native plants.

As far as people getting in touch with their surroundings here and landscaping accordingly, that would mean tall grasses and wild plants which to most people look like country weeds and it would result in yards that looked like overgrown weedy messes, which is against city codes. Its not going to happen. I think Tom mentioned something about that weedy look some time back and how awful it usually turns out. Its challenging to have a prairie garden, it seems like you are always about one season away from complete chaos and a mess. I sort of like that kind of challenge myself, makes it seem more appealing because it gives me something like a puzzle to think about, continuously planning and problem solving.

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