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-style 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-style into your own garden.
Using grasses in prairie-style planting
Grasses, especially Miscanthus and Hakonechloa, feature prominently in Petra Pelz’s 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 garden include Panicum virgatum ‘Rehbraun’, M. sinensis ‘Kleine Fontäne.
Petra’s tips for prairie-style planting
Foliage is more important than unusual flowers. When choosing plants, focus on those that have consistently beautiful and healthy leaves.
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.
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.
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.
Use hardy plants to form flowering islands. Among the plants Petra uses alongside her grasses are Echinacea purpurea, Agastache rugosa, Verbena bonariensis, Persicaria amplexicaulis and Kalimeris incisa.
Written by Michael Breckwoldt Pictures by Sabrina Rothe
You can find out more about Petra Pelz’s work at la-pelz.de