Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Getting the ‘Naturalistic’ right.

Getting the ‘Naturalistic’ right.

Some call it 'Prairie' and some call it 'Naturalistic' and English writer Hugh Johnson ('Tradescant' RHS The garden) calls it 'Pseudo Ecological’.

If we are to take the 'Prairie' word usage it becomes rather confusing. Here we have a North American title for certain  natural landscape types which is used in other parts of the word (eg South America) but has also found its way into garden style vocabulary in Europe. Confused?
In many respects 'Prairie' is a New World 'Meadow’.

All the above are about planting styles/content that evoke a certain 'wildness' be it the more controlled/refined model of Piet Oudolf , or the much looser equations used  by others in the design world.

The North American Prairie (at this distance) seems to consist of a mixture of herbaceous perennial’s and self-sowing annual plants as befits the often harsh Winter conditions they have naturally occurred in, which makes them perfectly suited to many parts of Europe.

In the Southern Hemisphere our climate is more conducive to the evergreen fraternity and that plant equation gives forth a year round ‘look’ as opposed to the seasonal displays of many colder parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

We do not use the term ‘Prairie’ in Australia and as far as I can gather have no equivalent term.
We have coastal scrub/plains/wetlands/grasslands etc but no sexy moniker to round it all up!

Add to this lot the term 'Sustainable' (another linked term for Naturalistic) and......

Still confused?


  1. What about Ausralian grasslands? The NA prairie is really grassland with perennial forbs mixed in. Any similarities in Australian grasslands?

  2. Of course but not named Prairie! The Volcanic plain I live in was one of the worlds great natural grass plains..Almost all of the original vegetation was destroyed in a few short decades (the grassy and low level stuff)after white settlement. For some info see

  3. James it is 2.3 million ha (10.36% of the State). Third largest volcanic plain in the world

  4. The Natural Capital of the Landscape
    The most prominent BVTs in this bioregion were grass lands and associated communities. Other vegetation included woodlands, shrublands, riparian vegetation and extensive wetlands. The grassland communities are floristically rich, usually dominated by Kangaroo Grass with a wide variety of perennial herbs. The bioregion supports a wide variety of reptiles, birds of prey, waterbirds and several ground-dwelling birds, but few mammal species. Several species including Eastern Barred Bandicoot, Corangamite Water Skink and Basalt Rustyhood Orchid are endemic to the Victorian Volcanic Plain, and the Striped Legless Lizard is most strongly associated with this bioregion.

    Only a handful of small conservation reserves, including Cobra Killuc Wildlife Reserve and Derrimut Grassland Reserve preserve small remnants of native grassland. Several of the larger lakes are important sites for colonial nesting waterbirds including Australian Pelican and Gull-billed Tern, while tens of thousands of water birds and waders occur on Lake Goldsmith in some years. The remaining native ecosystems, particularly those severely depleted such as grasslands, woodlands and shallow freshwater wetlands, are all highly significant and vital for biodiversity conservation in the bioregion.

  5. James like in the usa the grasslands were taken up quickly by pastoralists and much of the small stuff was destroyed in a short period of time as the land knew not cloven the US I suspect the original Prairie was much tougher as it had Bison throughout its history.
    Most small AU vegetation cannot compete with vigorous introduced agricultural grasses.

  6. One of the most beautiful gardens I've seen was in Cork, Eire.

    It was full of 'prairie' grasses interspersed with big clumps of spiky southern hemisphere Kniphofia, poking up through various fronds and inflorescences, prairie meets spiky southern hemisphere; looked wonderful.

  7. Thats the ticket..use whatever it takes (with an eye to weeds of course) the history of Euro gardening would be rather plain (not such a bad thing) without the colonial collections..its not WHAT you use it HOW you use it!
    Sadly the peddlers of design 'looks' have books to sell and ego's to smooch!
    Onwards dear boy! (as the Brits once believed in!)