Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The "perfect lawn" is now an urban prairie

Thanks to Joan Weintraub who championed replanting lawns with native plants in last Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in her article, Urban prairies are yards away from usual lawns. It's a good, brief article.

Purple coneflowers grace my own native yard

Since the dominant culture in cities and suburbs remains the standard mown lawn, it is good to be reminded that lawns are artificial, a remnant of our history as a colony of the British Empire. Independence can be slow in coming sometimes. Planting a yard with native species is not a new concept, however. Weintraub mentions the always laudable efforts of the Urban Ecology Center. But she missed an opportunity to raise awareness about the Wild Ones, a non-profit organization with the specific mission of promoting native landscaping.

This is an issue dear to my heart, as you can imagine. Planting a quarter-acre city lot with native species is a relatively small thing as urban wilderness goes, but it's both symbolic and a way to make the issue very personal. One need only look out the window to be reminded that nature lives in cities too. I would have an urban prairie in my yard except for the fact that my tiny yard came with a gigantic maple tree that I didn't want to cut. So, when I bit the bullet and had my yard landscaped with native plants two years ago, it couldn't become a prairie. It became a woodland. In fact, visitors have a hard time seeing our house from the street!

In her article, Weintraub identifies a section of Riverside Park, which is adjacent to the Urban Ecology Center, as her favorite urban prairie. That's cool. She lives nearby; everyone should have a park nearby for the enjoyment of the urban wilderness. My own favorite urban prairie will come as no surprise to followers of Urban Wilderness: it is Milwaukee County's newest park - a 55-acre part of the Milwaukee County Grounds in Wauwatosa. The land, which has been fallow and controversial for a long time, was rezoned as parkland in May, making official what has been open prairie-like, park-like land. The image below is from this past weekend, on a lovely foggy morning.

For more images of the county grounds go to my flickr page and my website.

To read a previous post about UWM's imminent purchase of part of the county grounds, click here.

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