The prairie garden is a very contemporary development in landscape gardening: future-oriented, sustainable, low maintenance and incredibly rich and beautiful.

A prairie garden really hits you when you walk through it. You do not remain a spectator, you literally become part of it. It is a completely different experience than almost all other types of gardens we know. There is a deep reason for this: a prairie garden comes straight from nature. It is a 'primal' experience. A prairie garden has nothing to do with form, but everything to do with scent, color, sun and rain, wind waving through the landscape that becomes visible in the plants, and infinity.



Yes and no. At the beginning of the 20th century there was already interest in the prairie garden, especially in Germany. At that time, various plant genera from the North American prairies were already being cultivated and experiments were conducted with the possibilities of this type of planting. But it was not really popular then. The time was not yet ripe for it. After the Second World War, the interest in Europe disappeared completely, but in the USA more interest arose in the overwhelming beauty of its own prairie flora and people slowly began to see its value and possibilities.

Leading landscapers such as Piet Oudolf are literally captivated by the prairie garden phenomenon and are looking for their own gardening experience of what they have experienced on the endless blooming North American prairies. Such a natural prairie plant community is a variegated, random opulence with hundreds of varieties of tall, swaying grasses and perennials full of color in a huge variety. In nature, it is an extremely stable system that withstands prolonged drought and other extreme weather conditions well, is self-sustaining and forms a tight unit. Contrary to what is stated in much literature, it is not a plant community in which continuous competition determines the effect. That is a European Western idea and a view that found its extreme extreme in Darwin. Nature as a continuous battlefield. It's just the opposite:(and in fact in every natural plant community) maintain each other as much as possible and thus maintain an incredibly rich diversity. There is always a natural, very species-rich balance. That is also the hallmark of a good prairie garden and the reason that this type of garden lasts so long without much effort.

With the advent of the prairie garden, another visionary tradition in landscape gardening has been broken. An impetus had already been given to this by the application of so-called scatter plants, a development of the last decades in which plants here and there were incorporated quite haphazardly into the whole of a plantation. But the planting didn't get much looser yet.

It was already mentioned above that a prairie garden is not about form, but about other elements. Throughout the history of European and Asian gardening, the man-made form in which plants and other elements are allowed to function has always been decisive. Much literature on the prairie garden speaks of 'a different interpretation of the border'. That in itself is an incorrect approach. With a prairie garden 'pur sang' there is no longer a border. A border is a plant infill against, for example, the outer border of a garden with tight (classic)or less rigid shapes. These less austere forms stem from the phenomenon of a park-like landscape garden in which the various elements are embedded in undulating shapes that are considered natural. Here too it is still about 'forms' and design. In the landscape garden, a more or less rough grassy plain is the binding element – originally it was a grazed meadow in a romantic, Arcadian environment. In the more austere classical gardens – which appear in modified form in many modern garden designs – it is a smooth-mowed lawn or a tiled surface.

The 'real' prairie garden is something completely different. That is part of an in principle limitless whole. You can of course make a kind of border out of that. A plant community that you look at from the outside like a painting, but that doesn't give the right, unique feeling. Landscapers who have truly experienced a prairie want you to go into it. That has to be. Especially in a garden. On narrow paths between the grasses and the other plants. Sometimes completely decided. You have to be able to let your fingers run through the soft culms, feel the plants, be surrounded by the scents, experience the power and tension of this planting and become stronger from it. A piece of prairie garden can give you something unique: the thrill of feeling one with it! This is possible in private gardens, company gardens and parks, but sometimes also in public green areas!


Every piece of prairie garden planting – wherever realized – is part of an in principle endlessly expandable and repeatable whole, a part of a very species-rich plant matrix. In natural practice small local differences arise due to variation in the soil, soil minerals and humidity. But no groups or even fields of the same are created, as is the case with the usual border planting. In it, groups of 3, 5, 7, 11 etc. plants of the same species are used. In a prairie garden, the plants are endlessly mixed, but due to the different flowering times, different species will stand out more throughout the year and then make a crushing impression due to their massiveness.


Prairie gardens can be created on a wide variety of soils. But the plants must find sufficient root depth. Those soils can be from very dry to quite moist (including even along pond edges) . All kinds of plant mixtures are available for this. Prairie gardens have already been realized on concrete floors with a layer of soil of 50 cm or more deep on top. Most prairie plant compositions prefer slightly calcareous soils. Under normal circumstances, it can be quite dry, because the drought-tolerant plants generally have deep roots and seek the water themselves in the subsoil. In addition, the ground is covered with a protective top layer (more on that below). Plants are always close together, because the suitable varieties mainly grow vertically, upright, narrow and not very bushy. It is often just as full of plants as in a cottage garden.

The most ideal places:

  • When creating a prairie garden, choose a sunny spot in an area that is as open as possible, because prairie plants love light and warmth. There should be direct sunlight for at least half a day. If the garden is near a building, never put that garden on the north side of it.
  • The larger the garden, the greater the impact will be. If the available surface area is quite small, planting can be a little closer.
  • Is there enough space to create narrow passageways through the vegetation?


You only have to clean up the plants once a year (end of winter, can be done in February) and mow part of it and dispose of the clippings. Fertilizing and spraying are also little or not necessary. The drought-resistant plants (perennials and grasses) usually take care of themselves very well. The whole garden will bloom long and profusely. Because these are species and cultivars that are still close to wild nature, bees, butterflies and other insects are also attracted en masse. And there are birds again. A prairie garden teems with life. In autumn and winter, the plants are still beautiful because of their wealth of seed pods and remains of inflorescences. Prairie plants are extremely robust.


The low-maintenance character of a prairie garden is also caused by something else: the soil in which the plants grow is covered with a 7-10 cm thick layer of stable material such as gravel, gravel or other crushed stone, sand or boulders. Many gardeners prefer nourishing materials such as dolomite or lava rock. This prevents weed growth, keeps the soil warmer and at the same time prevents the soil from drying out and compacting the soil. In a number of 'border-prairie gardens' in De Tuinen van Appeltern, a top layer specially composed of two different types of lava rock, called Prairieva, has been used. This material has several advantages: it retains moisture, gives weeds hardly any chance of growing and also prevents the germination of the seeds of the abundantly self-sowing plants. Furthermore, it prevents structure decay of the soil and it looks beautiful(it has a natural look) .

Before applying that stony mulch layer, all root weeds must be thoroughly removed from the soil. No fertilizer is applied, but some lime is possibly worked through the soil (depending on the selected species mixture) . The deep-rooted prairie plants are already planted before the application of the mulch layer (and then at half root ball depth) or after (a company in Belgium has developed a handy prairie planter for this that can be rented; the thing is reminiscent of a bulb planter and works through the mulch layer without mixing soil and mulch layer) . The root balls are well moistened before planting. The best construction periods are spring and autumn.


We already mentioned the one-off (per year) mowing and cleaning of the prairie garden. Also check again for stubborn root weeds. Remove that root and all and then put the mulch layer back in order. After a few years, it may also be necessary to thin out some seedlings in plants that have spread too enthusiastically. If evergreens occur in the plant mix, they will of course not be mowed. Do not walk on budding bulbous plants (if any). Make sure that walkways that lead between the plants do not clog. For the first few years, weeding of blown-in weeds will still be necessary. In late summer, light cleaning of fallen plants may be necessary. During the first growing years of the prairie garden, the soil is still quite nutrient-rich and the plants will grow a little more slack and fall over more easily than in the later years. Never give plant food. Maybe every few yearschalksee productDCM Groen-Kalk® - Lime fertilizer - 2 kilograms (Lawn lime 20 m2). True prairie plants are poor soil plants. And another thing: pesticides are absolutely not necessary. And spraying is only recommended in extreme situations. In practice this will hardly occur. All plant species in a prairie garden are extremely drought tolerant.


  • Once properly landscaped, a prairie garden is extremely low maintenance.
  • No need to use pesticides.
  • No application of fertilizers, except sometimes some lime.
  • Hardly any weed growth by covering the ground with lava granulate granules.
  • Thanks to the same top layer, the soil retains moisture much better.
  • Spraying is not or very rarely necessary. In fact, a prairie garden absorbs rainwater excellently because the top layer prevents the soil from closing.
  • Mowing once a year gives maximum living possibilities for plants and animals.
  • There is no better, richer picking garden.
  • The plants never need to be torn (divided).
  • A prairie garden is self-sustaining and will last for many years. More than sometimes a little correction is not necessary. Very durable!
  • A prairie garden is also very hardy.


Dozens of different prairie plant communities can be found in the wildlife of the USA. Most plant mixes offered for the creation of prairie gardens are based on the type of prairie vegetation found mainly in the heart of the USA (Missouri, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Kansas) : a combination of strong, drought-resistant, upright , colorful flowering plants combined with medium to tall grasses (which of course also flower) .

An example of such a mixture is:

  • Silk plant (Asclepiassee productAsclepias tuberosa (Silk plant, American silk plant)), ao, orange blooming.
  • red coneflower (Echinacea paradoxaView plantEchinacea paradoxa - Coneflower), yellow with black center.
  • girl eyes (Coreopsis lanceaolataView plantCoreopsis lanceolata 'Sterntaler' - Girl's eyes), yellow.
  • Tortoiseshell flower (Penstemon barbatus), orange.
  • Feather grass (Nassella/Stipa tenuissimaView plantStipa tenuissima - Feather grass), very graceful.

But also:
(or supplemented with, for example)

  • Old acquaintances likeastersView plantAster 'Prof. Anton Kippenberg' - Autumn aster,EchinaceaView plantEchinacea purpurea - Coneflower,Helianthussee productHelianthus 'Lemon Queen' (Sunflower), Solidago,liatrisView plantLiatris spicata 'Kobold' -Lamp polisher, button snake root,MonardaView plantMonarda 'Prairie Night' - Bergamot Plant,AchilleaView plantAchillea umbellata - Yarrow.
  • yellow coneflowerView plantRudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm' - Coneflower(Rudbeckia), yellow.
  • ironcladView plantVerbena hastata - Vervain(Verbena bonariensis), violet.

Really new species:

  • Baptisia leucantha
  • VernoniaView plantVernonia angustifolia x missurica
  • Grasses such as Sorghastrum nutans,Sporobolussee productSporobolus heterolepis (Pearl Grass),Eragrostissee productEragrostis spectabilis (Love Grass)etc.

And compositions with:

  • Bulbous plants

Many true prairie plants start a bit later in the spring. To get color early in the year, it is combined with bulbous plants such as Camassia, Ornithogalum, botanical tulips, etc.

In De Tuinen van Appeltern , prairie garden-like plant borders and shrubs can be admired in various places. Titled 'Prairie Garden®', several prairie garden mixtures in a series of borders side by side give an impression of the amazing color richness and variation that is possible. Various names indicate that color is the foundation, but you will find that such a plant community offers much more than that. The names of the various borders include: Turquoise, Copper, Topaz, Ruby, Silver, Steel, Quartz, Diamond, Sapphire, Agate, Tourmaline, Jasper, Opal and Citrine. You read that right, they are real jewels!

The more than 30 ready-to-use Prairie Garden® plant combinations can be admired in the inspiration borders of Kwekerij Lageraag Vaste Planten and can be ordered via our webshop.

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