Prairie Up by Benjamin Vogt – an approachable introduction to prairies

By Morgan Abbott

A violet and pink sunset in the backdrop of a field of tall prairie grasses and wildflowers.
Benbrook Prairie, Photo by Kim Conrow

Look for Prairie Up in the Native Plant Society of Texas Bookstore.

Book Overview

Benjamin Vogt’s newest release, Prairie Up: An Introduction to Natural Garden Design, is a beautifully written and approachable introduction to prairies and their re-introduction into suburban communities.

From a practical gardening perspective, Vogt incorporates the importance of soil types, sun and slope considerations while moving away from hardiness zones by including the Level 3 Ecoregion Map in a two-page spread in the second chapter: “Learning about Native Plants and Plant Communities”. Additionally, Prairie Up offers advice on obtaining and sowing seed, benefits of using plugs and reducing erosion by increasing soil stability through the Plant Sociability Rating system. While I understood the need for the Plant Sociability Rating and thought it was an excellent example of simplifying complex plant interactions within their communities, the plant list itself is limited. However, this could be a resource that is offered locally through Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) chapters as a companion to this book.

Some Limitations

Prairie Up focuses on North American prairie plants that grow in the Midwest, Northern Plains, and Southeast. The author does mention grassland ecosystems outside of Texas, but the recommendations are limited for mixed ecoregions with unique features. If you are looking for guidance for arid areas of Texas or areas that overlap multiple ecoregions, reach out to your local chapter for advice.

There are resources available to determining an unknown species besides a quick internet search or using Google Lens as proposed by Vogt. Please consider visiting an herbarium in-person or online, calling the forest service office, hiring a botanist, asking experienced community members, utilizing Native Plant Society of Texas resources, and using iNaturalist to document species on your property. Waiting, watching and documenting species and other characteristics of your garden will be the most helpful, as native plants likely already exist on your property throughout the seasons that can describe its history and what plant introductions will be successful.

Great for Home Gardeners and Professionals Alike

Despite few in-text citations referencing complex ecological processes, I do recommend Prairie Up to home gardeners and landscape professionals in Central, Eastern and Southern Texas seeking to foray in to the world of native plants, especially if they are looking for a well-rounded, accessible and inspirational guide to re-prairie their communities.

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