Prairie Haircut Time

It is the time of year when the Prairie Borders have their annual hair cut.  This is a definite sign of spring for my garden, but it is also the start of the period when these borders look at their worst.

Before the haircut they look like this:
The borders consist of Stipa tenuissima, Stipa arundinacea (which is now apparently Anemanthele lessoniana) and verbena bonariensis.  There are a few Vebascum bombyciferum as well dotted through.  All the plants were grown from seed and I weed it carefully to stop other self-seeders from wandering in.  All through the winter they give movement and structure to this part of the garden.  When rained on, when frosty, even if we get some snow I think they look good.  Even the dead echinops stems give height and colour and provide winter sleepy-places for insects and wildlife.

I began planting out this area way back in 2011, a few years after I came to live here.  I wrote about their origins here.

Once the weather starts to warm a little and there gets to be a flush of green in the stipa tenuissima showing it is starting to grow again, I know it is time for its haircut.
This hand sickle from Burgen and Ball is the tool of choice for this task.  You can see it is a few years old now and it makes light work of the grass cutting.  I usually twist the S.Tenuissima around and then saw through it close to the base.   It is a very satisfying way of spending time in the garden.
As the work progresses the borders start to look really quite grim.  There is no disguising this.
It also creates lots of composting material.  I like to think that all the nesting birds in the area have lovely stipa-lined homes.
Even Esme gets interested in the process.  As I am cutting the grasses back I am always delighted to find how much the wildlife love these borders.  I had worried they might be a bit of a monoculture and not very interesting to wildlife.  In the summer they are alive with bees and butterflies, particularly on the echinops but also in the grasses as well.  As I was working on this day I found several large bumble bees.  I am not sure if they nest in the borders or what, but I had to be careful to work around them.
Several hours later and it is all done for the year.  Like I said, it is not looking pretty, but I don't mind this.  Not every part of my garden is at its best for every part of the year.  The Spring Border is at its best now (clue in the name),and in September I will be looking more at these Prairie Borders and thinking that the Spring Border is way past its best, c'est la vie!


  1. Do you find Esme likes to sit on the clumps of grasses as they re-grow. (And squash them?) Spring border . . . wouldn't it be good if someone were to invent a daffodil that retracted its leaves five minutes after flowering?


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