Dry Piedmont Prairie
The Garden’s current meadow is taking on a new life as a natural dry Piedmont Prairie in fall 2018! This prairie will offer a glimpse into the prairie that once blanketed the land at least 200 years ago. Black-eyed Susans, butterfly weed, showy goldenrod, Carolina prairie rose, farkleberry, rattlesnake master, goat’s rue, wild quinine, and a variety of other forbs, grasses and shurbs will cover the vast prairieland that guests will be invited to explore beyond Canal Garden. Follow along as we prepare the land for the dramatic transition back to the days of the original Piedmont Prairie. For more info on Piedmont Prairies, read the article below published in DSBG’s Fall Garden Path member magazine.
Prairie Entrance (Above): A. Canal Garden, B. Overlook Patio, C. Stairs & Landing, D. Stone Walls, E. ADA Ramp, F. Clipped Native Evergreen Framework, G. Screening, H. Native Mixed Border Plantings, I. Prairie Promenade
By Todd Beasley, Director of Horticulture at DSBG
A prairie is a type of biome scientists collectively call a grassland, defined as a place on earth where precipitation is slightly more than evaporation and allows flora such as grasses, wildflowers and an occasional shrub or tree to thrive. Grasslands exist globally with significant differences being based on their location which determines the climate, flora and fauna in that order. Wildfires are prevalent and the burned organic matter of seasonal burns creates a deep, rich soil that is perfect for farmers. Today, much of our grasslands have disappeared due to overgrazing and over farming.
What many people do not realize is that prior to European settlement, North Carolina contained a grassland. This grassland is known in our region as a Piedmont prairie and was essentially a break or opening in the hardwood forests that dominated the area. While it certainly was not the immense, wide-open plain of the mid-western states, it was indeed a unique ecosystem that provided habitat for rich biodiversity. Large herds of elk and woodland bison once roamed North Carolina within these habitats and explorers left notes in their journals about the large expanses between the trees that were high and dry. One reference noted that one could ride a horse at a gallop among the few shrubs and trees which would be an extremely daunting task today in our
crowded wooded areas.
Whether by lightning or from indigenous people who learned the value of fire, the grasslands burned periodically. Like the prescribed burns used today to manage the forests, the fires of pre-Columbian times cleared the areas of debris that would either cause an area to burn bigger and faster removing everything or allow the growth of more shrubs and trees thereby changing the breaks into hardwood forests. Essentially this allowed the breaks in the forests to continue as grasslands. However, like many of the hot spots for biodiversity around the world, much of the grasslands of the Carolinas have virtually disappeared.
Thankfully, efforts are in place to restore areas that were traditionally part of the vast prairie ecosystem of the southeast. Most notably to date has been the restoration focus of the wiregrass savannas of the longleaf pine-grasslands that once dominated a swath of land from southeast Virginia to east Texas. In recent years, however, more attention west of the sandhills and fall line of the Carolinas has been on the Piedmont prairie system. As part of our increased efforts focusing on sustainability, environmental education and pollinators, the Garden is currently restoring a 1.3-acre site into a
The ‘Meadow Project’ is the unofficial name of an extremely exciting signature garden space focusing on 131 different plant species that benefit pollinators and habitat restoration and would have been represented in original Piedmont prairies and surrounding woodlands. Located at the south end of Canal Garden, the new concept envisions an entry promenade connecting Canal to the meadow with a winding path that displays prairie plant cultivars similar to those in the meadow, but more readily available for home gardening. A gentle curving surfaced path will lead guests through a dazzling display of high intensity plantings of 24 different species of wildflowers and grasses while smaller mown grass pathways will offer self-guided discovery to plant boutiques that connect to existing perennial gardens. Some of the more notable perennial, herbaceous plant species will include Amsonia, Asclepias, Baptisia, Coreopsis, Echinacea, Eryngium, Phlox, Liatris, Aster, Rudbeckia, Stokesia, Tradescantia, Hypericum and Andropogon cultivars. Examples of woody material that will border the meadow in boutiques include Amelanchier, Cercis, Chionanathus, Hamamelis, Ilex, Rhododendron, Magnolia, Viburnum Opuntia, and Hypericum.
The Garden is proud to collaborate with Steven Lee Johnson of SiteWorks Studios in Asheville, Tres Fromme of 3Fromme Design and Carolina Silvics with a completion goal of fall 2018.
If you are interested in helping to fund additional features in this space, including the Bosquet Garden, the Board walk, or some additional plantings, please contact Michelle C. Spreitzer, Director of Development, at 704-829-1273.