The After Picture

The After Picture

Part of Ep. 601 Landscaping with Wisconsin Wildflowers

Visit the 20-year-old garden of retired UW-Madison Arboretum Ecologist Dr. Virginia Kline. This mature prairie garden uses differences in the terrain to highlight plants.

Premiere date: Feb 28, 1998

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
This is what happens when you take time to do a site analysis. You end up with a garden of beauty. I'm back with Evelyn Howell. Evelyn, tell us a little bit out this garden.

Evelyn:
Hi Shelley. We're here in the front yard of Dr. Virginia Kline and her husband, Bernie. Ginna was the UW-Madison Arboretum Ecologist till she retired about a year ago. And we've come to take a look at your yard. Is that okay?

Ginna:
Welcome, enjoy!

Shelley and Evelyn:
Thank you.

Shelley:
Evelyn, I heard you collaborated on this yard, so tell me a little bit about what we're looking at.

Evelyn:
Well, this planting is about 20 years old now. And one of the nice things about being around a site that long is you really get to know it's characteristics. One of the things we talked about when we did the site analysis is about low spots in the yard. And this place does have a nice low spot that Ginna has filled beautifully with Cardinal Flower, which is a prairie plant that like moist soil.

Shelley:
So, again, it's a great way to increase the diversity of your prairie garden-- by taking advantage of natural features like that.

Evelyn:
That's right. There's some other plants there, too, like blue joint grass and Brittle's Goldenrod.

Shelley:
Now, is this something that was seed scattered or was it really much more of an element of design involved.

Evelyn:
Well, this was deliberately designed. There are a couple of nice design features we can talk about. One thing that you'll notice is that there are clumps and groups of wild flowers or forbs scattered throughout the planting. This is an example of one, the yellow coneflower. And these are deliblerately designed in to allow drifts in the planting, to allow your eyes to follow along the planting.

Shelley:
So, they're going to stand out better en masse like that.

Evelyn:
That's right. You can see them nicely from a distance. And just as in a real prairie, this is desiged with some species that are very common, and others that are here as only one or two individuals that are rare.

Shelley:
So, we have specimen plants in here, too.

Evelyn:
That's right.

Shelley:
So, something like this little bluestem is the only one I see in here.

Evelyn:
Yeah, little bluestem is, in this case, a nice clump of it. And in this case, this is a plant that actually comes from the mid-grass prairie or the short grass prairie in Wisconsin. And it's here even though the soil is more of a tall grass prairie soil. And that's because even though the forbs are taken from the tall grass prairie, we've brought grasses in from the short grass prairie so they wouldn't grow as tall as the big ones will.

Shelley:
Because the really tall grasses you wouldn't be able to see anything then.

Evelyn:
Right, they'd be ten feet tall and block the views.

Shelley:
And speaking of views, I assume a design element, again, is "do you want to see something like this from your windows?"

Evelyn:
That's right. And as we talked about during the site analysis, this house fronts right on the prairie. And you can see a very nice view, sweeping across the praire from the front windows. And then, moving your gaze out over the prairie and over into seeing the sky, which really gives you a wonderfully expansive view.

Shelley:
A sense of openness, even though we're in a very small yard.

Evelyn:
That's right, yeah.

Shelley:
Do you want to tell me about some of the other individual plants that we see? Now, this one is also kind of planted en masse.

Evelyn:
That's right. This is looking really nice this time of year. It's called sweet black-eyed susan. It's a relative of brown eyed susan that many of us are more familiar with. And this plant has actually been managed a little bit. Ginna has clipped it off earlier in the year, in order to keep it from growing very tall and also making it bush a little bit more.

Shelley:
Again, that's to keep it kind of in scale with the other plants.
Evelyn:
That's right.

Shelley:
And yet, you've got another plant I see here that's very tall, it's out of scale.

Evelyn:
That's right. That's prairie dock. And prairie dock is used here as a specimen planting to draw the eye to that part of the yard. It is so tall-- I'm sure it get eight feet tall, at least with the flowers that grow here. So, you don't want too much of it here.

Shelley:
Again, a design element is to use something tall like that as a focal point.

Evelyn:
That's right.

Shelley:
What about management of something like this?

Evelyn:
Well this praire has been burned every year for about 20 years. And it does very nicely buring in the spring, keeping it looking very healthy. But if you're unable to burn...

Shelley:
Or nervous...

Evelyn:
Or nervous or whatever, it can be managed by mowing. In the spring, mow off the vegetation and rake it off the site.

Shelley:
So, just one time a year. Great. Thanks Evelyn and thanks for sharing this beautiful garden with us.

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