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Indigenous Prairie Grasses on the Museum’s Roots

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

There’s a question that pops up often about our landscaping: will we be able to walk up the Museum’s roots?

The short answer is: no.

The longer answer is that three of the four roots will be covered, top to bottom, by indigenous prairie grasses – not the kind of grass you would mow with your lawnmower. In fact, the grasses will consist of about a dozen different species.

 
Roots
The fourth root is covered by an amphitheatre
 

Why a dozen species – why not just one?

It’s to ensure constant growth. The intent is to mimic natural conditions where weather can vary season over season. One species might flourish in dry conditions whereas another one prefers wet conditions. Planting different species ensures there is always growth, with the added bonus that the look of the grasses can change from one season to the next, depending on the weather.

 
Prairie grasses
Three of the four roots of the Museum will be covered by indigenous prairie grasses
 

When will they be fully grown?

They’ve already been planted and are slowly coming in. Slow growth is required to make sure they out-compete the weeds.  

Bob Somers of Scatliff+Miller+Murray, has been working on the landscaping for the last few years. He explains it this way: “Basically, what we’ve done is set up the conditions for the ecosystem to take place”.

Of course, natural eco-systems take thousands of years to evolve. Our landscaping timeline is a little shorter than that. We’re expecting to see significant growth on our roots in about 3 to 5 years. Once fully grown, the grasses should reach a height of approximately 3 to 4 feet.

 
Grass Prairies
Here’s an example of a similar mix of species currently growing in South Winnipeg. Due to slight differences in growing conditions, our grasses may not grow quite as tall as these.
 

Are the grasses low maintenance?

The grasses are perennials, naturally re-seeding every season. They do not require mowing. They do, however, need to be thinned out every 5 to 8 years. Since, historically, indigenous grasses would have been thinned out naturally due to fire or by being trampled by bison, we’ll most likely opt to mow and bail the grasses instead.

Do you have any questions about the indigenous prairie grasses or about the landscaping in general? Feel free to post them here and we’ll do our best to answer them.

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