Tallgrass Prairie Inspiration

– Posted in: Garden Photography, Garden Travels

I have wanted to go to the Tallgrass Prairies for many years.

Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, Oklahoma with  Rudbeckia hirta and Wild Rye.

My very first successes as a nature photographer were documenting serpentine grasses in the Ring Mountain Nature Conservancy preserve in California. I have done two garden books featuring grasses, one on ornamental Grasses with Nancy Ondra who started Gardening Gone Wild with Fran so many years ago, and also the American Meadow Garden with John Greenlee.

Prairie milkweeds  in Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

In The American Meadow Garden I traveled across the country to see native grasslands that might inform gardeners which type of meadow is best suited to their climate.  While I did go photograph the short grass prairies in New Mexico and mixed grass prairie in Minnesota, I just couldn’t to get to Oklahoma to see the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, protected by The Nature Conservancy.

Rudbeckia hirta Black-eyed Susan – Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, Oklahoma

So what better time to continue exploring the vast ecosystem of the Midwest prairies than early summer when the wildflowers dominate the land ? I know the grasses here are dominated by warm season grasses that showcase their beauty in the late summer and autumn, but the garden photographer in me knows flowers are a big selling point. Not everyone sees grasses as amber waves of light catchers.

Piet Oudolf has certainly popularized the prairie look with his groundbreaking design and use of prairie native plants.  It is the flowers that folks respond to, even though grasses are the backbone of the ecosystems.  And the prairies are covered with flowers now, before the warm season summer grasses get too tall.

Tall Grass Prairie with flowering Rudbeckia, Achillea, and Wild Rye.

It is in these rich Prairie grasslands we are learning ways to appreciate soils and give us some small hope to restore balance to nature, long ravaged by humans. Grasses rooted up to 14 feet anchor the earth, cycle nutrients, breath out oxygen, and show us the earth itself is alive.

Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, Oklahoma in early summer with flowering wildflowers

Gardeners intuitively understand this connection of soil and life.  Perhaps we can help spread the word that we need to find ways to bring healthy soils across all farmlands and across the earth.  We certainly know healthy soils lead to healthy gardens.

And certainly this helps explain the popularity of the prairie look in garden design.  Let’s heal the earth.

Verbena stricta  blue flowering wildflower in Tallgrass Prairie

Wildflowers ? Grasses ? Gardening? Prairies and meadows ? Vast open spaces and big sky ? Freedom to  let the mind roam with the Spirit that infuses all of this? I will be back.

A gallery of photos can be found my PhotoBotanic Archive.

Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of PhotoBotanic.com, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at www.photobotanic.com. https://photobotanic.com
Saxon Holt

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