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New to Gardening?

but you are a bit unsure, no interest in growing food, etc. Well read this below.

First, don’t put down any plastic or groundcover to protect your garden from weeds. If you don’t believe us please leave the premises. Bye.

Still here?

One style of gardening that is quite fashionable is called ‘Prairie Style’ or ‘New Perennial’ led by mostly European designers, notably Piet Oudolf. Almost every art gallery now has a New Perennial style garden lurking nearby. New Perennial gardens you might know include the Highline in New York, Le Jardin Plume in Normandy, and Lurie Gardens in Chicago.

I think this style is perfect for beginners.

The gist of the style is this: no shrubs, no trees (Praire, innit?!?) about one third grasses and two thirds flowering plants (herbaceous perennials) roughly the same mature height. Plant randomly, let them flower, then let them dry out and produce winter structure (seeds heads, etc) only to cut back to ground level around early March. Some people even use a strimmer or lawn-mower to cut them back, but most use clippers. Then they grow back again, yes, they come back every year and you don’t need to buy new ones.

To give us an idea of what this looks like let us have a look at the famous High Line in New York, as designed by Piet Ouldolf, throughout the seasons....

High Line, NY, Spring ..... By Bryan Ledgard CC-by-4.0

High Line, NY, Summer ..... By Mike Peel CC-by-4.0

High Line, NY, Autumn ..... By Mike Peel CC-by-4.0

High Line, NY, Winter ..... By Ed Parsons CC-by-4.0

High Line, NY, Cutting back plants in March ..... By Frank Schulenburg CC-by-4.0


You can see why this appeals to beginners? Sounds simple, is simple, looks good, no expensive trees, and no years spent waiting on shrubs to reach their full size, no wondering where to place them in the border. Apart from lots of weeding at the start, New Perennial Planting is perfect for the New Garden Gardener. By the way, you ALWAYS have to weed the garden, little and often is best with a beer/wine/coffee/tea. For now, a weed is a plant you didn’t buy. Try weeding every two weeks, you may begin to like it.

So beginners, let us limit ourselves to a dozen different cheap-full-proof-prairie-style-plants, I know expensive plants freak you newbies out. Let us assume you have a border weeded and ready to go. To start you need perhaps one plant for every square foot of your border, more or less depending on how impatient you are. But relax, you can always dig these out and move them around, put in a pot, throw out, give to a friend, add more – we’re not pouring concrete.

A: The grasses:
1 - Deschampsia: try Deschampsia cespitosa 'Goldtau' 
2 - Molinia: try Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea 'Moorhexe' 
3 - Stipa: try Stipa gigantea  
4 - Another grass from above, try Stipa tenuissima
B: Late spring/Early summer:
5 - Aruncus: try Aruncus dioicus (m)  
6 - Allium: try Allium 'Summer Beauty' 
C: Mid Summer:
7 - Rudbeckia: try Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm' 
8 - Persicaria: try Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firedance'  
9 - Knautia: try Knautia macedonia 

D: Late summer:
10 - Veronicastrum: try Veronicastrum virginicum f. roseum  
11 - Helenium: try Helenium 'Chelsey'
12 - Symphyotrichum: try Symphyotrichum 'Pink Star' 

The sunnier the spot the more flowers you will get. By and large, these plants are pretty vigorous, hardy, reliable, etc and will grow in most places, wet or dry. That list contains 12 plants, if your border is 12 square feet buy one of each. If your border is 24 square feet buy two of each. Perhaps just pick a random number randomly from the list.

Costs too much? I pay for more expensive drinks when in London....but, ok, just buy one plant for each section, that’s four plants. You can afford that? This guide alone is worth four plants.

You have no borders, only pots? Then just use the grasses mentioned. They look great in pots and don't need a lot of water.

These are your gateways drugs. We have a basket ready for you to buy one each: click here.

When they arrive: TAKE THEM OUT OF THE POTS! Then put them into the border, with the surface approximately level with the border. If in doubt plant them about a finger width too high. Water in heavily for 1 or 2 days, then leave them alone. Plants only need fertiliser if in pots, not when they are in the ground. Use tomato feed to keep pot plants fertilised. Still worried? Take photos, email them to us! Customers only please, we have payroll to make…

See how you get on, and we’ll see you next season…. then you can start on Lilies, Geranium, Acers, Ferns, Forget-me-nots, Climbers, Roses, Hydrangea, Phlox, Astilbe, Spring ephemerals, etc

More photos

In the process of creating this email I came across a few other relevant photos of ours that I think represent the style of a prairie garden. By jove, am I going to use them....

BEFORE: Grasses at Dublin Botanic Gardens, Late February. Note, again, how hard they can be cut back.

AFTER: Grasses at Dublin Botanic Gardens, Late September

Prairie Style Planting at RHS Wisley, October

Grasses at Ballyrobert Gardens, November - Easy to imagine the same effect with the grasses in pots, isn't it?

Prairie Style Garden at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris

Prairie Style Garden in October at Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado

Prairie Style Garden in October at Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado

Prairie Dogs ..... By USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Public Domain