Monday, 23 August 2010

The Star of the Month: Prairie Blazingstar

The real peak time for the prairie in Alnarp is now in August. At the moment hundreds and hundreds of Gayfeathers or Prairie Blazingstars (Liatris pycnostachya) color the whole planting area in lilac shades.
In natural habitats in North America the Prairie Blazingstar normally prefer mesic to moist and even seasonal wet sites although it sometimes can be found also on fairly dry ground. The mature plants can resist drought well, but young seedlings are more vulnerable.

In Alnarp it grows on a fertile but rather dry soil together with Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium), Upland White Aster (Aster ptarmicoides), Ohio Goldenrod (Solidago ohiensis), Smooth Oxeye or False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) and some other typical Prairie forbs and of course grasses as Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) and Sideoat Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula).
Ohio Goldenrot (Solidago ohiensis)

Browneyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba) and Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

Here the Blazingstars flourish in harmony with Rattlesnake Masters (Eryngium yuccifolium)  

Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya)

Liatris pycnostachya in full bloom

Monday, 16 August 2010

A Great Park in Vlaams-Brabant

De Tuinen van Hoegaarden is the city park of the little village Hoegaarden in the province Vlaams-Brabant east of Brussels in Belgium. If you travel in this part of Europe a visit in the park is a must. However remember that the park is still under a process of change.

The head gardener Geert Derom and his staff has already made a great work with renovating and developing the old park and still much are on the schedule for the future. So the park will be even more worth the visit in the next couple of years I suppose. In my opinion the staff has to increase in number though, to be able to manage the maintenance of this big and diverse park even in the future.

Here I now publish a cavalcade of pictures to show some of the interesting parts from this wonderful park.

The most interesting plot in the park at the moment is a newly planted prairie inspired garden made by Jan Spruyt. Here the grass Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' is dominating and interplay well with a great number of sun loving perennials and other ornamental grasses.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Private Prairie Style Garden

At the front garden Jan Spruyt has two square formed prairie style plantings surrounded by a formal lawn

In the great private garden of Jan and Anna Spruyt we admired the large prairie style planting just outside the big greenhouses with the huge tomatoes.

The big prairie style planting in Jan and Anna Spruyt's garden

Vernonia arkansana `Mamuth', the Ironweed  has sturdy stem and violet flowers

The Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, prefers moist or wet sites 

The Pale Coneflower is followed by the Largeleaf Phlox, Phlox amplifolia 

The Pinnate Prairie Coneflower, Ratibida pinnata

Prairie inspired plantings

On several places in the nursery Jan has created small plots with very expressive perennial plantings. Here there are some excellent combinations especially with structural perennials together with soft, sweeping grasses.

All plantings are made in a very beautiful naturalistic style. Jan use to call them all for Prairie plantings and there we have a small disagreement. In my opinion a true Prairie planting has to consist of or at least be dominated by plants from North America and preferably from the Prairie itself of course and not be a mixture with European or Asian plants.

Here the the Red Feather Clover, Trifolium rubens, earlier made this spot glowing hot. 

If possible I also want it to mirror the ecosystem of the prairie, there all species has different roles. The typical prairie grasses are important to use because of their ability to penetrate and nearly totally occupy the upper layer of the soil. This makes it more difficult for unwanted plants to take root. They also grow extremely deep into the ground and can therefore tolerate long periods of severe drought.

The American Pale Coneflower, Echinacea pallida, does well
with the Giant Feather Grass, Stipa gigantea, from the Old World

There are so many true Prairie plants to choose between so it is really no need for the use of plants from other regions. But still Jan’s plantings of course are very enjoyable and nicely composed in all other aspects. Although Jan is a nursery man by profession he has a great talent in garden design as well. However I prefer to call his plantings for naturalistic or prairie inspired plantings. I hope he can forgive me for that...

Outside a big tank for storing water for irrigation a little bigger spot with a really nice prairie style vegetation can be found.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Jan Spruyt - Van der Jeugd

Geert picked us up at the airport of Brussels and drove us to Mostenveld in Buggenhout there we met Jan Spruyt inside his office. After a cup of tea Jan kindly showed us around at the huge nursery area.

BVBA Jan Spruyt - Van der Jeugd is the biggest perennial nursery in Belgium, around 6 ha of perfect maintained growing perennials, both well known market busters and seldom seen rare collecting plants.

As his son Nik nowadays runs the nursery, Jan himself can concentrate more on selection of new perennial cultivars and his other big passion – naturalistic prairie inspired plantings.

Jan Spruyt and some of his Echinacea seedlings

On the trial fields in Mostenveld there are many interesting seedlings from a big range of different perennials. Jan has a great interest in American prairie and meadow plants and he tries to select forms with better and sturdier growth habit. Many new forms of Echinacea purpurea are also growing in the beds and some of them can certainly be an improvement of the existing already vast assortment.

Some few years ago the company invested in a new planting machine

The extensive assortment of Heuchera

Lilium 'Landini', bruinzwart en erg mooi

I wonder if this is the darkest form among all Lily cultivars? The flowers of Lilium 'Landini' are anyhow tinted in a very dark blackish brown shade and the stems are very dark as well. It grows about 70-90 cm tall and flowers in early summer. Something to dream wet Lily dreams about. Have you ever seen a darker one?

The beds for shade loving plants are shaded by nets

Perennials ready packed to be delivered to a Garden Centre – and these will be very easily sold, don’t you agree?.