Iowa is the only state that lies entirely within the natural region of the tallgrass prairie. Early documents indicate that 95 percent of the state—close to 30 million acres—was covered by prairie vegetation at the time of Euro-American settlement. By 1930 the prairie sod had been almost totally converted to cropland; only about 30,000 acres of the original “great green sea” remained. Now, in this gracefully illustrated manual, Shirley Shirley has created a step-by-step guide to reconstructing the natural landscape of Iowa and the Upper Midwest.
Chapters on planning, obtaining and selecting plants and seeds, starting seeds indoors, preparing the site, planting, and maintenance set the stage for comprehensive species accounts. Shirley gives firsthand information on soil, moisture, sun, and pH requirements; location, size, and structure; blooming time and color; and propagation, germination, and harvesting for more than a hundred wildflowers and grasses.
Shirley's sketches—all drawn from native plants and from seedlings that she grew herself—will be valuable for even the most experienced gardener. While other books typically feature only the flowering plant, her careful drawings show the three stages of the seedlings, the flower, and the seedhead with seeds as well as the entire plant. This practical and attractive volume will help anyone dedicated to reconstructing the lost “emerald growth” of the historic tallgrass prairie.