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E-Garden Almanac: Resilient Grasses

E-Garden Almanac

The E-Garden Almanac is the push-button, real human journal of Kelly D. Norris. All errors, grammatic grievances, and opinions are that of the author. Kelly is a freelance writer and Master Gardener from southwest Iowa. His passion and obsession with horticulture, plants, and gardening embodies nearly every function of his life. The E-Garden Almanac serves as the web extension of his columns, articles, and lectures.
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Location: Iowa

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Resilient Grasses

I just got back from the Twin Cities earlier this afternoon after spending a very cold couple of days interviewing for graduate school. The drive from Ames to St. Paul transects a number of biomes, beginning with the tallgrass prairie and phasing through the transition from grassland to forest. The area is floristically diverse, historically, and thanks to both state's Departments of Transportation, the roadsides sport a network of restored patches of native prairie grasses and forbs.

But it's now that I appreciate those grasses the most, for their resilience mostly. Amidst snow, ice, and the occasional wrecked car, these fine textured plants hold forth with evolutionary determination to sail in the breeze again. Their roots extend meters into the ground, below that of most plants and the frost layer. Their strategies at thriving, not just surviving, in one of the more turbulent climate zones of the world warrants my admiration as I drive along an otherwise monotonous stretch of highway. Can you honestly imagine views like that above (taken in a prairie at the Lake of Three Fires State Park north of Bedford, Iowa) stretching for miles on end dotted every so often by fireworks of color from summer-blooming forbs? I honestly can't, though the temptation crosses my mind frequently. The very idea of millions of acres stretching endlessly beyond either horizon moves me to do what I can as a gardener to recreate the feelings associated with such an edifying wild place. Gardening in this way becomes not just a means to cultivate plants for aesthetic value but a conduit through which to transmit emotive ideas.


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