"It has become my creed that a garden, to be a work of art, must have the soul of the native landscape in it.”
- Jens Jensen
landscape architect (1860-1951)
“Indeed so reduced is the native vegetation here abouts, that Grinnell College was compelled perforce to establish a small botanic garden, where at least a specimen plant of native species can be had for study and acquaintance.” Henry S. Conard, professor of botany at Grinnell College (1906-1944) Although Grinnell College acquired 365 acres about 11 miles from Grinnell in 1968 (Conard Environmental Research Area), where the biology department has reconstructed over 80 acres of tallgrass prairie and strives to maintain and restore many acres of remnant prairie, the distance from campus creates a barrier for most of our campus community to learn about our prairie heritage and experience some of its diversity first-hand.
The Center has been collaborating with Facilities Management since 2000 to incorporate prairie plantings and gardens into our campus landscape, with the Center advising on species composition, assisting with plant purchase, planting, and maintenance, and offering opportunities for campus and community members to learn about the gardens and landscaping with native plants. In addition to the aesthetic, functional, and historical aspects of having prairie on campus, the plantings serve a pedagogical purpose as well. Biology courses have used the plantings to study insect diversity, floral characteristics, and urban-rural ecological interfaces. Our campus has incorporated several prairie gardens that range in age, size and diversity. In total, we have over 5,000 sq ft of gardens devoted solely to native plants, and many other gardens that have a mix of natives and more typical ornamentals.
Established in May 2008, the Macy House Prairie Garden, located between the Macy House and 7th Avenue, features over 40 native tallgrass species in two areas that total 1,500 sq ft. The species were introduced as plants or seed, with plants placed about 8-10” apart and seed scattered on the soil surface. Species with shorter growing heights were selected, with the exception of compass plant, which was included as a few scattered plants. The garden site was prepared for planting with an herbicide application to kill the existing sod. Plants were dug directly into the dead sod. Many species flowered in 2008 and several short prairie grasses established from seed throughout the garden.
Established in August 2003, the Chrystal Center Prairie Garden introduces campus visitors to our prairie heritage. The garden is located along the east side of the Chrystal Center, which is located at the corner of 6th Avenue and Park Street. The garden features over 30 native tallgrass prairie species and provides a variety of blooms from May through October. You can download a picture guide to the species in this garden. (pdf of Chrystal Center Garden plant photo/illustration ID guide)
Established in December 2004, the Community Garden Prairie began as a small patch about 600 sq ft behind the straw bale garden shed and vegetable gardens located just north of 8th Avenue on the west side of Park Street. The planting was initially established using the seed mix from the college athletic field plantings, and later supplemented with prairie seedlings in May 2005. Jacob Gjesdahl ’10, with the prairie subgroup of Free The Planet, a campus student organization, took on management and expansion of this planting in 2007. The planting was doubled in size and seed was sown in the fall of 2008.
Established in May 2008, the Ecohouse Prairie Gardens were designed and installed by Jacob Gjesdahl ’10, Ecohouse tenant 2008-2009, with other student volunteers. Ecohouse is located at 1130 East Street. As of 2008, the gardens total about 1,250 sq ft. Native tallgrass prairie species were introduced as plants and seed, including black-eyed Susans, partridge peas, sideoats grama, June grass, prairie spiderwort, pale purple coneflower, cream wild indigo, wild petunia, false dragonhead, butterfly milkweed, and switchgrass.
Native tallgrass prairie species have been interspersed with various other perennials around the foundation of the Noyce Science Center, particularly along the southwest and south sides of the building. Some of the native species include ironweed, butterfly milkweed, and smooth blue aster. The inner courtyard of the Noyce Science Center features a native woodland species, wild ginger, as a groundcover.