Prairie Grass

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Prairie Smoke

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Common Spiderwort

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Baptista

The other day a woman stormed in to our restaurant and ripped into the manager, my husband Rohit, about why we don’t bother to cut back the weeds in front of our restaurant.  He explained to her that “the weeds” are all native prairie plants.  They are not only beautiful they are good for the environment because you don’t need to water them.  They are also a habitat for wild life.  She said “OK but I hope you can cook better then you can garden.” 
I love the prairie grass in front of the restaurant.  I loved it so much that I planted the side yard of my house with native prairie plants. Last August I converted about 2000 square feet of lawn to native prairie. I did not do it by myself either.  I had some help.  David Roesner is the expert, his company is Dropseed Design.  He added several varieties that really filled out the grasses.  From using a field guide I identified some of the plants in my yard: blazing star, great Blue Lobelia, cone flowers, wild bergamot, common spiderwort, grey headed conflowers, compass plant, black eyes susan, butterfly milkweed, prairie smoke, some variety of blue aster, boneset, rattlesnake master, foxglove beard tong and this is not all of them.  I think it looked spectacular.  It was “artificially” put together so most of the plants are blooming plants.  The flowers really popped this year.  During the fall and winter I will leave the plants up.  I know a friend who lives in Winnetka that has a prairie yard.  They managed to get the village to give them a permit to do a controlled prairie fire.  It is so good for the soil. I’m not that ambitions yet so I’m just going to cut it down in the spring and let nature take it’s course.
Somehow, when I drive home after a 14 hour day working in the kitchen, looking at my prairie makes me feel connected to the land.  I think about trying to convince all my neighbor’s if they would change all the lawns and make an environmental statement all the way down the street.  You wouldn’t have to spray pesticides on the lawns or water during the summer. You would not have to pay for a weekly service to cut your grass.  You could pick flowers, support the local wildlife and enjoy the connection to the land.  

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  • It would have been funny if your husband invited the customer back to the restaurant to eat something made from some of the wild edibles that may be growing in your prairie garden.

    I am an advocate for prairie gardens myself. The sidewalk vegetation outside my apartment was never really paid much attention to by the City and was overgrown with so many of these wild flowers, weeds and grasses that it was really pretty. I contacted the alderman's office to propose preserving in it in such a way that it would be just neat and tidy enough to be acceptable by public standards. Someone who wanted to achieve some brownie points on the local condo board beat me to my idea by having the area sodded. (I wasn't that jilted--after all, I think my idea had no chance of being taken seriously). At least I have my special memories of it preserved here: http://thepleasanthouse.com/2009/08/18/urban-prairie-my-sidewalk-i-knew-her-when-she-was-wild/

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