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Bracknell prairie - planting day


By AndrewR


While parts of the country had heavy rain today, here in balmy Bracknell it was cloudy but dry (and incredibly windy). Back in January I announced I would be replanting my front garden as a prairie. After months of looking at pictures and videos, scouring websites, reading up on the subject, planning, and ordering plants, today was the day it got planted

This is the bed in question. By waiting until mid March, most of the bulbs already in there have put in an appearance

Here are the plants – hmmm, doesn’t look that many :-(

But when they are placed (and yes, I had a planting plan to work from), suddenly there seem to be lots!

Several hours later, and they’re all in

I gave the bed a feed and will now get some woodchips (free) from a local tree surgeon to mulch the bed

These are the plants I have used:
Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ and ‘Shenandoah’ (these are upright grasses, growing four to five feet tall during the season. ‘Heavy Metal’ is blue-grey, while ‘Shenandoah’ is green but takes on red tints in the autumn)
Pennisteum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (this is more of a fountain grass, reaching three to four feet with fluffy ‘bunny tail’ seedheads)
Sporobolus heterolepis (grows to three feet and is topped by light and airy seedheads which, unusally for a grass, are scented)

Amorpha canescens (sub-shrub up to three feet. It has pinnate leaves and tiny mauve flowers with orange stamens that attract both butterflies and insects. The plant is also very drought tolerant)
Leptodermis parvifolia (I haven’t much information on this shrub. I have grown it from seed and all I know is that it likes full sun and grows to about five feet – we shall see)

Achillea ‘Terracotta’ (orange) and ‘Walther Funcke’ (red)
Agastache ‘Kudos Gold’ (soft orange flowers)
Asters (there are already a few shorter varieties in the bed)
Chaerophyllum hirsutum ‘Roseum’ (like a two foot tall cow parsley with pale pink flowers in early summer
Dianthus carthusianorum, cruentus and knappii (small flowers on arching stems – carmine, red and pale yellow respectively. Should stand out among the grasses I hope)
Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’ (globe thistle)
Euphorbia schillingii (upright to three feet with lime green inflorescences, prefers part shade)
Geranium sanguineum (there are already some of these around the edges)
Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus (the flowers of this species have been described as “custard yellow”. It starts flowering relatively early)
Knautia macdonica ’Mars Midget’ (maroon flowers on short plants. Unlike the taller version, this doesn’t get mildew)
Lobelia x speciosa ‘Tania’ (Barbie pink flowers later in the season)
Monarda ‘Gardenview Scarlet’ (red flowers and mildew resistant)
Phlox amplifolia ‘Augenstern’ (a taller variety with smaller flowers but more tolerant of dry soils)
Pimpinella major ‘Rosea’ (four foot cow parsley with pink flowers in early summer)
Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ (blue) and ‘Rose Queen’ (pink)
Salvia pratensis W&B BG H-3 (not exactly a name that rolls off the tongue, but it has mauve flowers. I planted it between the other two varieties so it might look like a hybrid between them)
Sedum telephium subsp ruprechtii (creamy lime-green flowers, glaucous foliage and pink stems), ‘Matrona’ (pink flowers and foliage flushed purple. The most popular variety with insects at the RHS sedum trial at Wisley) and ‘Red Cauli’ (dense clusters of wine red flowers)
Silene asteras (small drumsticks of crimson flowers on stems about 18 inches tall)
Solidago ‘Goldenmosa’ (two feet tall) and rugosa (three feet on poor soil)
Verbascum chaixii (white- and yellow -flowered forms self-sow in this bed)
Veronica grandis (blue flowers and a taller variety at three feet)
Veronica longifolia ‘Blauriesin’ and ‘Schneeriesin’ (upright varieties with blue and white flowers respectively)
Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Album’ (white) and ‘Erica’ (pink)

Gladiolus ‘Purple Mate’ (not hardy but should give a shot of colour in the first year of this project)
Lilium lancifolium (orange flowers on stems up to five feet tall)
Lilium pumilum (bright red flowers on two feet stems)

I will take pictures through the rest of the year, partly for my own records, but also to share so we can all see how it has worked out

More blog posts by AndrewR

Previous post: Corydalis corner

Next post: Some like it pink



It's going to look great, I'm adding to my favourites so I can study what you've planted. Alot of research there Andrew.

16 Mar, 2019


Wow so many plants can't wait to see the bed when they are all established.

16 Mar, 2019


Great I will look forward to seeing it's progress, I have bought some agastache blue boa and bareroot phlox but the phlox are not growing I potted them over a month ago

16 Mar, 2019


a wonderful selection of plants, some I recognise and grow others that I don't grow and several I had to look up. the grasses in particular. it will be wonderful when it all settles and growth starts in earnest. I will look forward to photos as the year progresses.

17 Mar, 2019


Dawnsaunt - the principle is to use plants that are upright but don't spread at the roots, flower over a long period, and are long-lived. Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, who started this style of planting, has a list he generally uses so that has made life a little easier

Daylily - I couldn't source the agastache variety I wanted, so I will start with a similar one and keep looking for my original choice. My agastache and phlox are only just beginning to show any signs of growth

SBG - most of the grasses came from Knoll Gardens (as recommeded by Dottydaisy). I'm already growing 'Heavy Metal' (for its blue colouring) and that is the one I have used the most

17 Mar, 2019


Piet Oudolf redesigned Scampston's wall garden near Malton, North Yorkshire. It is a beautiful garden and if any of you are ever that way it is worth checking out.
most of my phlox are only just showing new growth too.

17 Mar, 2019


Andrew sounds wonderful and I look forward to following, seeing how it looks later as they grow and fill out, I added grasses in the bed I revamped when we removed our old apple tree, I also have Phlox and Solidago amongst others in the same bed, was very dubious when I first did it, but very pleased with how it looks, I now know I can be brave and place some taller grasses amongst them..
I too have added to my favourites, thankyou for naming and adding the descriptions Andrew, very informative and helpful..

17 Mar, 2019


All those plants seem to have disappeared now planted so do please keep us posted about their progress. I've never seen a prairie in a private garden, will be interesting.

17 Mar, 2019


To be effective, I think you need a large space for a prairie. This is as big a space as I can manage - about 200 square feet

17 Mar, 2019


Crikey, it's like the end credits from a Lord of the Rings movie!😄 How's your back?
Really looking forward to seeing the next batch of photos

17 Mar, 2019


My back is fine Darren, thanks for asking. Heavy rain last night so they are all well watered in

17 Mar, 2019


Very interesting Andrew, thanks

18 Mar, 2019


Just looking up your plants Andrew, like the panicum Shenandoah, I had my eye already on the Monarda Gardenview good to know it's mildew resistant, all lovely plants, love the Achillea too but it doesn't seem to come back in my garden, might be a little shaded though I had to replace it the last 2 years, hope it returns this year

18 Mar, 2019


Daylily - I hope your achillea puts in a reappearance. I chose those two varieties because they were said to be "more reliable" so it will be interesting to see how they perform and last

19 Mar, 2019


Thanks Andrew, I have terracotta may try walther

19 Mar, 2019


Just catching up with you're blogs..... fascinating, so many plants...we grow Shenandoah and Heavy Metal both favourites here!....

16 Aug, 2019

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