The Texas Prairie Project
Updated: Nov 3, 2021
In recent years, flower lovers and florists alike have discovered the beauty of locally grown flowers. The Farm to Vase and Slow Flowers Movement have highlighted that sustainable floristry is gorgeous and accessible.
A large part of sustainable floristry is sourcing flowers from local farmers. As a farmer, I cultivate a slice of land in order to grow my flower crops. To do so sustainably, I must evaluate every bloom I grow from a variety of views: suitability to my climate, water needs, invasive/reseeding levels, and soil needs. Then I provide lots of inputs - additional nutrients/water, etc. to meet the needs of these plants. This means as a farmer, I am extremely intentional about the varieties I grow.
So what does the Prairie have to do with this? Quite simply, native untouched prairies have an abundance of flowers. Flowers that grow naturally: requiring no soil amendments or water inputs, no disturbance of the soil, and no additional resources in order to exist. They are sustainably grown in the truest sense because the land has been growing them by itself for hundreds of years. They just grow, bloom and are beautiful!
The problem? Native prairies have almost disappeared from our national landscape. According to the National Audubon Society "Fewer than 40 percent of the 550 million acres of historical grasslands that once stretched from Alberta to Mexico remain today. Most of these grassland acres were converted to cropland, others to energy development or other uses. As these tallgrass, mixed grass, shortgrass prairies, and desert grasslands are lost, so are the wildlife that depend on them."
In working with the brilliant Shane Connolly, I remember his constant admiration for the beauty growing around him in whatever geographical location he happened to be in and a commitment to design with that beauty in it's wild and true forms. Thus was born the Prairie Project, a collaboration to save and preserve native prairies by sustainably using Prairie flowers in design.
This collaboration includes a vast swath of natural prairie land in North Texas. It is full of native plants and even some endangered native prairie species. This prairie is registered with the Native Prairie Association of Texas and is a mix of private ownership and adjoining prairie leased from an energy company. Much of the nearby Prairie is slated for development. We began mapping out the different types of flowers, their prevalence and testing them for use in design, foraging less than 2% of the Prairie flower species that are abundant.
By showing that Prairie Flowers can be used as a beautiful cut flower, we hope to protect this land from development, draw attention to it's natural beauty and educate the larger public on the importance and beauty of Native Prairies.
This project aims to highlight the important of Prairie Flowers and also make them accessible: inspiring an evolution for the cutting garden. Cutting gardens are one of the most beloved types of gardens and for good reason, it provides beautiful blooms for both the outside and inside. Imagine your cutting garden as a source of beautiful flowers for your home AND a restoration of important prairie plants and native habitats for wildlife. How incredible would that be?! I can not explain how excited we are about this project!
As we continue to education ourselves about the importance of preserving our Native Prairies, the use of prairie flowers in design and the cutting garden, we hope you'll join us for the journey. Both the Audubon Society and the Native Prairie Association of Texas are excellent resources for understanding the Prairie. You can also begin by simply planting more prairie plants and one of our favorite books on the topic is "Prairie-Style Gardens" by Lynn M. Steiner. Many prairie plants are also wildflowers and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has an excellent online database and resource for native flowers and their habitats.
Let prairie flowers capture your imagination and heart and preserve them for future animal species, plant diversity, and flower lovers!