prairie-style planting

How to create prairie planting

Landscape archtect Petra Pelz own garden is a magical mix of structural grasses and a carefully chosen selection mix of colourful perennials. Read her tips on creating your own prairie planting

Landscape architect Petra Pelz has created a magical private garden in Germany using structural grasses and a limited mix of colourful perennials. Petra has used prairie planting to great effect, making the garden feel rich and dense. There is an ever-changing pattern of colours and shapes to keep the interest in the garden going throughout the year. Here you’ll find planting inspiration from Petra’s garden and top tips for introducing prairie planting into your own garden.

View of pond and prairie garden at Redhill Lodge
© Richard Bloom

Using grasses in prairie planting

Grasses, especially Miscanthus and Hakonechloa, feature prominently in Petra Pelz’s prairie garden, providing both the informal structure and the movement Petra loves. “They sway with the slightest of breezes,” she says, “giving an impression of lightness and playfulness. And they give each area of the garden the distinct character I’m looking for.”

From June onwards tall, tufts of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ and the silver-pink plumes of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Malepartus’ dominate the view, providing a focal point that draws your attention away from garden borders, tempting you to venture ever further and discover its hidden treasures. They also help frame Petra’s richly woven tapestry of groundcovering perennials, which blankets the ground completely from spring through to autumn – so densely packed no weed would stand a chance.

Other grasses in Petra’s praire garden include Panicum virgatum ‘Rehbraun’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Fontäne.

Petra’s tips for prairie planting

Praire style planting
Landscape architect Petra Pelz has cleverly ‘borrowed’ the tall trees in a neighbouring property to create the impression that this pretty summerhouse marks the start of a woodland area and not the end of her garden. Photo by Sabrina Rothe.
  1. Foliage is more important than unusual flowers. When choosing plants, focus on those that have consistently beautiful and healthy leaves.
  2. Use evergreen plants to provide structure. These don’t need to be formally trimmed; even left to grow freely they will bring order to the planting, while flowering perennials and grasses create the necessary dynamics.
  3. Use grasses to create a clear focal point. Petra uses both the tall Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ and the low growing but striking Hakonechloa macra to frame her flowers combinations.

    Grasses combination
    Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ frame the flower combinations in Petra’s garden
  4. Focus on a few, hardy and expressive types of plant. Petra combines these in large groups to form a thick carpet of plants and create a clear design. This also makes the subsequent maintenance easier.
  5. Use hardy plants to form flowering islands. Among the plants Petra uses alongside her grasses are Echinacea purpureaAgastache rugosaVerbena bonariensisPersicaria amplexicaulis and Kalimeris incisa.

Written by Michael Breckwoldt
Pictures by Sabrina Rothe


You can find out more about Petra Pelz’s work at