Rediscovering a Vanishing Landscape: A Horticultural Homage to the Southeastern Piedmont Prairie

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This talk will focus on the design and construction of a piedmont prairie-inspired landscape in the Blomquist Garden of native Plants at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. During the past three years, the staff of the Blomquist Garden, inspired by the fragile, fragmented remnants of the once expansive piedmont prairie ecosystem, have created a one-acre interpretation of this biodiverse natural landscape. Using wild seed from over one hundred species of grasses and forbs, all collected by staff from sites within twenty miles of Duke Gardens, we produced in-house over twenty thousand plugs for our prairie landscape. Extensive field research conducted in existing prairie remnants was used to inform our ecosystem-based planting design and species mix. Planted in 2015, the project’s subsequent growth and maturation has garnered attention from landscape architects and designers, as well as lay visitors, all of whom marvel at the plant and insect diversity now to be found in a space that had been essentially a southern yellow pine monoculture. Not only has the landscape industry taken notice, but Duke University faculty and students have begun to use the space as a research plot for, among other things, a valuable site to monitor insect diversity. Perhaps the most rewarding outcome has been the copious community partnerships formed with local corporations and environmental non-profits. Using lessons learned in the design, construction and monitoring of this diverse landscape, staff now act as consultants to these groups to aid in the creation of new urban biodiversity hotspots similar to our prairie. As a result, local interest is growing in, and awareness is being raised about both our rich natural heritage, and the need to enhance our urban, often depauperate landscapes with local-ecotype native grasses and forbs.
Erie, PA
Distance Learning
Course Equivalency
Historic Preservation
Horticulture / Plants
Parks & Recreation
Site Planning
Sustainable Development & Design
Health, Safety and Welfare
Learning Outcomes
(1) Attendees will learn how to source ecosystem-based design with local-ecotype flora.
(2) Attendees will learn techniques for using on-site timber in sustainable architectural design projects.
(3) Attendees will learn about fire as a landscape management tool in a public, high visitation setting
Annabel Renwick
Website Registration
Course Codes
Ernst Conservation Seeds

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