Garden Photo of the Day

Fall at the gardens at Oakwood Village Prairie Ridge in Wisconsin

Crabapple tree with 'Lo-Gro' fragrant sumac behind.

Today's photos are from Chris Neumann in Wisconsin (we visited him at work back in April HERE and at home in September HERE). Chris sent me these photos onNovember 11th. He said, "Here are more photos from my work at Oakwood Village Prairie Ridge continuing care retirement community. It’s a cold, dreary, rainy day with a little snow here in Madison. But it’s also the last real day of fall according to the weather forecasts. Tonight the polar vortex gets us with highs in the twenties and lows in the teens for the foreseeable future.  So I decided to snap some photos around campus before we hit the deep freeze." Gorgeous, Chris! You have som much fall color in your grasses. The meadow and the stream bed are stunning. Thanks so much for checking back in!

SEND ME PICS OF YOUR GARDEN! Email me at [email protected]. Thanks! –Michelle

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Prairie near the Pioneer Prairie independent living building. Big bluestem and indian grass dominate this tall prairie planting.  They make for great fall and winter interest. The seed heads of the wildflowers – pale purple coneflower, gray-headed coneflower, beebalm, ox-eye sunflower, stiff goldenrod and many more – provide food for the winter birds.

One of the fall displays. This one is by the entrance to the Health and Rehab Center. 'Redbor' kale, flowering kale, rooster tail grass (sedge), 'Midnight Rose' heuchera, 'Yellow Belgium' mum, and, of course, pumpkins!

Dry stream bed between the Health and Rehab Center and the Knoll Memory Care Unit. Proves that weed barrier under gravel does no good. 'Caesar’s Brother' Siberian iris and 'Husker Red' penstemon have seeded themselves into the gravel along with LOTS of weeds. The weeds we pull.

Prairie near Settler’s Ridge independent living building. Last of the New England aster blooming.


The meadow in the Meadow’s assisted living courtyard. 'Halward's Silver' spirea, 'Northwind' switchgrass, 'The Blues' little bluestem, and prairie dropseed provide color. There are over two thousand bulbs waiting for spring in this area as well.

Close up in the Meadow’s meadow. 'The Blues' little bluestem, 'Munstead' English lavender, prairie dropseed, 'Six-Hills Giant' catmint, and 'Lo-Gro' fragrant sumac.

Swamp white oak.

At the Rockwall Garden near Settler’s Ridge. Lambs' ears, Sedum 'Red Cauli', catmint.
Part of the fall display in front of Settler’s Ridge. Kale, cabbage, mums, gourds, and pumpkins.
Tropicals and tender perennials in their winter home dreaming of warmer days to come. These are the ones that require light and water over the winter. Off photo to the right are the potted bananas and tropical smokebushes, sans leaves, and the elephant ear corms in their peat-filled plastic bags. These will not be watered again until spring.

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  1. Nurserynotnordstroms 11/18/2014

    Oh Chris fall looks so beautiful there. I love the switch grass and the oak leaves,actually all of these photos are so beautiful,we didn't color up like usual this year I fact with our long freeze we still have leaves on some of the Japanese maples. I would love to see these gardens in the winter.

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      Our fall color was odd this year. Many things did beautifully and others, including a couple of sugar maples, just dropped there leaves still green. Mother nature likes to switch things up. Which is good because it keeps us on our toes and doesn't let us take the world for granted.

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 11/18/2014

    Gosh, Chris, what a fall cornucopia of wondrously warm colors and endlessly fascinating textures and shapes! Your sharing about how determined the reseeding instinct is for the siberian iris and penstemon made me smile...I'm sure their flowers are very welcome. Seems like there must be a lovely view from every one of those windows looking out on the prairie plantings.

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      I keep saying I am going to transfer some of those wonderful volunteer plants to other areas but I always seem too busy. Maybe next spring. Most of the residents are very appreciative of the prairies. When I started and they hadn't established well yet, we had some complaints. But several prairie burns later, which knocked back the weeds and encouraged the native plants, the prairies have matured and now look grand.

  3. perenniallycrazy 11/18/2014

    Thanks Chris for sharing the fall fireworks on your neck of the woods. Love all the brilliant colors and textures. Hard not to fall in love with those ornamental grasses. I look forward to the emergence of those 2000 bulbs in the Spring.

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      I guess I better send in those spring photos as well.

  4. GrannyMay 11/18/2014

    What a difference between these scenes and the containers in the photos you sent last time! I love the natural wild prairie look that you have shown here, somehow very suitable for the end of the gardening year. The containers were gorgeous too and show the versatility that you have been able to incorporate into these grounds. I can imagine that the spring show will be entirely different again. Beautiful! Please keep sharing Chris.

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      We have a very diverse campus. Since I started there, I've tried to find ways to add new and interesting plants while making it easier to take care of. The prairies were originally planted before I started but two did need some additional work. Now that they are established, they are almost no work - burn every two or three years and keep an eye out for a few nasty weeds.

      I will try to send some photos in of some of our other areas.

  5. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 11/18/2014

    Really wonderful, Chris. The colors and textures are beautiful and I bet it all looks great with snow cover as well.

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      The snow does bring out the best in parts of the landscape. Until it all gets buried that is. Thank goodness for interesting trees and shrubs.

  6. terieLR 11/18/2014

    I have always appreciated the warming colors of Autumn on those cool, threatening days. It brightens even the greyest of skies. (And moods) You've captured those cheerful vistas Chris and I am positive that all who enter and dwell Pioneer Prairie can not help but notice.
    The 'birder' in me couldn't help but notice the thistle sock and feeder that draw feathered friends in for onlookers. Hooray for the caregivers, both inside and out! Blessings.

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      I love Autumn. The residents love the birds. I myself am more partial to the hawks and herons we get, but the songbirds make everyone happy.

  7. user-5829577 11/18/2014

    Chris, I don't know how I missed your first post in the spring of this amazing facility in Wisconsin. I so enjoyed your photos of your own home in Madison but didn't make the connection between your photos today and then. I must have missed your April photos but visited them today and it struck me that the residents and visitors of Oakwood Village are blessed with spectacular views of midwest prairie, native perennial borders and the creative container gardening as the seasons change. Along with the views I can imagine the scents that greet one as they walk through all of this wonder. The idea that one can garden here as a resident is ideal because once a gardener one can't imagine not having a load of dirt from head to toe and smelling the earth in the spring. That is healing in itself. Do you ever give tours to garden groups? You have done amazing work and your interns are VERY lucky. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      We have only done tours for prospective residents. Garden groups would be welcome because then I could appeal for more volunteer help ;-) We have some amazing gardeners amongst the residents. Some have been gardening since childhood. Others didn't have gardens until they moved to Oakwood. I consider helping people get their hands dirty as one of my main duties.

  8. greengenes 11/18/2014

    Grass, grass and grass! I so enjoy the grass! Even in the picture of the rock streambed it looks great! That good that you pointed out about even though you had put down the weed barrier it still dosent work with the "seed" that blows in. It is all so beautiful! I really want to get one of those crabapples like the one you showed us. They are so decorative. But I did find out the deer loves them so iam waiting to see if there might be a space around our house, close by. How did the banana plants do this summer in front of your house? Do you dig those up for the winter and use them next year? Iam sure all the tenants there enjoys your labor! Thanks for teasing us! I sure would like to see pictures of all the bulbs in bloom!

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      Technically, I didn't put down the weed barrier. It was specified by the landscape architect and the contractor who installed the stream bed put it in. It has another purpose besides being a bad weed barrier. It separates the pea gravel between the cobbles from the subsoil below. But it shows how silly it is to put under gravel if you think it will keep out weeds

      The bananas at home did fine. I dug them up and they are resting in our basement until next summer.

      I will be sending blooming bulb photos along with a few more hopefully interesting pictures to Michelle.

  9. digginWA 11/18/2014

    Kudos to this facility for providing such a wonderful landscape for residents to enjoy and experience. I do so love that little bluestem and the Lo-Gro sumac.

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      Thanks Tia. Look at my comment to Sheila Schultz for why our landscape is what it is.

  10. user-7007140 11/18/2014

    I am just starting to use grasses and find the variety incredible. I do so wish I had taken the opportunity to photograph them last week as they bloomed and swayed in the breezes, because yesterday I woke to find them squashed almost flat under five inches of snow!
    At the Eden Project in Cornwall, there is great use of grasses and I was entranced by a slope entirely covered in various types including one I long for named Stipa Gigantea. Unfortunately too tender for zone 5 except as an annual.
    Your photos and captions are very valuable as I search for something as beautiful. Thank you so much for doing such beautiful work for the residents and for sharing with us all.

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      I had to look up the Eden Project. It looks fascinating. It caught my eye because I confused it with the organization called the Eden Alternative - which, while having a very different focuses, actually overlap in certain areas. I suggest anyone interested in environmental education check out the Eden Project. Anyone interested in improving the lives of elders, see the Eden Alternative. And anyone interested in how the environmental changes can help improve the lives of elders should check out both.

  11. sheila_schultz 11/18/2014

    Absolutely stunning, Chris. You always surround the village residents with such natural beauty no matter the season... You and Mother Nature make an amazing couple!

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      Shhh! Don't tell my wife.

  12. GrannyCC 11/18/2014

    Love the prairie garden and how it fits in the broader few. How lovely for the residents to have those gardens to wander in and enjoy. So many of our public buildings can be faceless but you have changed that. Looking forward to Spring!!.

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      I can't take all the credit. Ken Saiki Design was part of the masterplan group when the campus was being developed. They the designed the original plantings. I have been editing that design since I was hired at Oakwood, but the well set bones were already in place.

  13. schatzi 11/18/2014

    Hello everyone. I love the dry streambed and the assisted living courtyard. Who knew grasses could be so colorful?! I'm still learning about grasses. I resisted them for so long because so many are invasive, but I'm finding some I like that behave themselves. Can't wait for spring pictures of those 2000 bulbs... The rockwall garden has beautiful textural contrasts. What a lovely setting for the residents. You do a great job, Chris.

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      Thanks Shirley. I love playing with colors, textures, and patterns. Grasses are great, both as matrices and as specimens. And I will have more photos.

  14. susan749 11/18/2014

    Wow! So much more beautiful than the lawn and plain vanilla plantings at my mother-in-law's brand new assisted living facility.

    1. Chris_N 11/19/2014

      Unfortunately your mother-in-law's campus is typical. Taking care of a landscape like ours is a financial commitment. Size helps. We have 300 residents in independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. Our sister campus has 600 residents. Tradition helps. Our sister campus was built in a beautiful oak woods. It had a long tradition of volunteer gardeners. When it came time to build the Prairie Ridge campus, there was a strong incentive to make it as attractive as possible. An enlightened management helps. From a marketing standpoint, a beautiful campus is an obvious plus. But more importantly, research has shown what every gardener knows. Digging in the dirt is therapy. And having access to a well designed mix of flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees leads to happier, healthier lives. This is well documented in numerous scientific studies. It makes me sad that so many places ignore this.

  15. Chris_N 11/19/2014

    The variety of little bluestem also affects whether it stands straight or flops. And, yes, I have the best job in the world.

  16. thevioletfern 11/19/2014

    Amazing displays - both natural and contained. Just love those grasses. I am a big fan of gro low sumac - I have to ask you, when I purchased mine the tag claimed I would have berries. I have the catkins of the male but not any berries. I would love to find a female for the berries. Do your sumacs have both on the same plant?

  17. jeannetrimble 11/20/2014

    A Senior place like this would make me want to go there. I have avoided talking about leaving my home for a senior village because I do not want to loose my garden. This place would be wonderful to spend the rest of my years in!

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