American Prairie

Exciting changes are afoot. We are creating a six-acre North American landscape inspired by the country’s sweeping prairies and vibrant grasslands.

Eryngium yuccifolium

We are transforming the heart of our landscape into a sea of delicate movement and beauty.

Walking down from the Mansion towards the Pinetum, you will be transported to a prairie-like grassland evoking the vast and iconic North American wild plant communities.

Your gaze will stretch out across Wakehurst, where stunning views of the Water Garden and Coronation Meadow will be revealed, having been hidden since the 1930s.

A proportion of plants will be raised from seeds wild-collected in North America by our horticulturists and Kew scientists.

Wander through little bluestem grass and a rich spring carpet of purple Camassia. Explore an immersive landscape, studded with richly coloured echinacea, blazing star, butterfly weed and bergamot.

Why the American Prairie?

As a botanic garden, we plant phytogeographically, meaning the plants are grouped according to where they grow in the world.

The American Prairie will be a floral complement to our extraordinary North American woodland, Horsebridge Wood.

Our climate and soil are particularly suited to the beautiful plant communities of the prairies, and we are excited to introduce them to Wakehurst's gardens.

The new landscape’s location in the heart of Wakehurst will also make the experience of ‘walking the world’ through our phytogeographic planting more accessible to a greater number of our visitors.

The Millennium Seed Bank collaborates closely with conservation partners in North America. Through this landscape, we have a unique opportunity to share our knowledge and resource through a pioneering conservation landscape and living collection.

Baptisia australis and Zizia aurea
Baptisia australis and Zizia aurea Credit: Wayne Lee

How this new landscape will unfold

We are creating the American Prairie through a set of ecological processes encouraging a new plant community to establish and thrive.

We have designed the landscape in collaboration with landscape architects LUC (Land Use Consultants) and Philadelphia-based Larry Weaner Landscape Associates.

At the moment, there isn’t much to see. As with all things worth waiting for, it will take time before the area begins to flourish.

The ground needs to be prepared with bare soil and there will be fallow ground for the first year.

Following a complex programme of plant community creation, we will sow layers of new plants and allow each to establish. We will manage their growth by mimicking wild stresses and disturbances.

Every time you visit, you will witness a new stage of change, continuing Wakehurst's evolution as a botanic garden.

The American Prairie will be flourishing in all its glory by summer 2022.

What's happening now?

The nurse crop of spring oat grass has been established and treated in preparation for seed sowing which is due to take place later this summer.

The sinuous grass path that winds through the landscape is now complete, and the hard landscaping and path resurfacing is near completion.

A new sculpture, called the ‘fire seed’, has been installed, crafted by international artist Walter Bailey. Made from English oak, the sculpture is inspired by the cultural practice of burning prairie grasslands as a form of management.

The formal hedgerows that will frame grass panels located on the lower Mansion panel lawns will be planted in autumn.

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