Sussex Prairie Visit

We recently visited Paul and Pauline Mcbride: owners and creators of the beautiful Sussex Prairie Gardens. It is amazing to see how they have used our compost to create such a unique and inspiring garden. If you have not had a chance to visit then it is definitely one for the bucket list.

The relationship between Sussex Prairie Gardens and Heritage Products started in 2008 when they started planting their interpretation of a naturalistic prairie garden.  In the beginning we partnered with Olus our sister company to use their tractors and trailers to deliver bulk loads of compost to the prairie to add organic matter to the wealden clay. It is a great showcase for how recycled green waste compost can improve soil and transform landscapes. A product that could have gone to landfill has been re-used to help create such a idyllic place. In just 9 years they have managed to increase their topsoil by 20cm.

The word “Prairie” tends to be used in reference to temperate grasslands in North America. The word prairie is French for meadow, which is effectively what it is. The real etymological root is from the Latin “Pratum” meaning meadow also. Paul and Pauline have created a contemporary naturalised prairie garden which was inspired by their time working for Dutch landscape designer Piet Ouldolf who is a leading figure in the “New perennial Movement” and famous for his planting design for the High Line (2006) in New York city and the Lurie Gardens in Chicago (2003).

The “New perennial movement” is defined by herbaceous perennials and grasses planted in abundant clumps, with no bare soil, to give a natural look.  It is a very holistic approach to garden design.  The overall planting plan gives colour, structure and texture all year round, sometimes all at once. The style is not just aesthetically pleasing but also ecologically sound. Summer and spring provide plenty of food to pollinators and insects which in turn provide food for other animals. Once the plants have stopped flowering the plants are not just cut back they are left for their autumn and winter colour and texture which again provides much needed sustenance for birds during the leaner times.

Perennial planting has many advantages. Well established roots help improve the structure of the soil and bring nutrients and water from deep down in the ground which helps to make them available to shallower rooting plants. Their permanence in the earth helps to retain moisture and prevent erosion and nutrient run off.

If the stunning plants are not enough Paul and Pauline also collaborate with local artists to help showcase their work around the garden and in the teashop which creates a unique experience. After a walk around the garden you can relax in their tea room with a hot drink and one of Pauline’s delicious homemade cakes. Before you leave don’t forget to have a look around the nursery for plants, all grown on site, to create your own prairie garden. Paul has kindly contributed to the blog with a list of 5 of his top prairie plants which we have listed below:

1)Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea).

2)Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum Shenandoah):

Source 'Andrey Zharkikh' -under creative commons license

3)Amsonia tabernaemontana Salicifolia:

Source: Leonora (Ellie) Enking - Under creative commons license.

4)Kalimeris Madiva:


5)Sanguisorba Red Thunder:

If after visiting the prairie gardens you are inspired to create your own then please contact us for all your soil improvement needs.

Sussex prairies is open Wednesday-Monday 1-5pm. Dogs are welcome. See for more information.

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