McCrory Gardens in Brookings, South Dakota, has been in bloom for visitors this season since the tulips of spring. But in October, the native prairie flowers and maturing grasses define the 25 acres of botanical gardens in the vision of Harvey Dunn’s painting (1950), “The Prairie is My Garden.”
Dunn’s painting of the South Dakota landscape, in the South Dakota Art Museum in Brookings, refers to his vision of the prairie and more. “The spirit is the only thing that is true about anything. So the expression of this spirit—that is the main thing.”
McCrory Gardens horticulturist Chris Schlenker and staff express the prairie spirit of this site in the artfully tended native plantings now in season maturity by a sculpture after Dunn’s painting with yellow goldenrod, purple prairie clover, and grasses. They show how to display maturing native plants in ways a gardener can appreciate.
Perennials such as the tall feathery miscanthus in the back are planted in this massive bed of grasses with fieldstone décor.
Repeating lines and shapes of beige mature side oats gramma and now brown heads of prairie clover are highlighted with fieldstone granite.
Yellow goldenrod and the worn fieldstone of glacial till are featured along crossing walkways in the gardens.
The cottage and its garden, a marker at McCrory Gardens, has perennial North American native purple ironweed in bloom. It attracts the butterflies heading south. The tall stems of ironweed are sturdy in prairie breezes.
Of course, McCrory Gardens fulfills its mission to “display, educate, and further the development of new varieties” with other plantings along with native grasses and forbes in the gardens. All-America Selections annuals show their features in flowerbeds under trial this season. Plants are evaluated at cooperating sites, such as McCrory Gardens, around the United States to determine performance in various regions of the country.
The dark-leafed ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Onyx Red’) has a feature spot in the flowerbed. The All-America Selections display gardens at McCrory Gardens are the nearest site to see this season’s plant performance under this region’s weather conditions.
Public gardens, like our own yards, can look worn near the end of the growing season. One of the strengths of McCrory Gardens, to this visitor’s eye, is how the native grasses and flower heads are displayed for continuing interest into the winter. It’s worth a visit for gardener ideas in one’s own yard of native plants.
The McCrory Gardens website contains coming events, visits, hours, and phone information. The McCrory Gardens Fall Festival is on Sunday, October 9th, and the grounds are open on Native American Day, October 10th.
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