Native Habitat as an Educational Centerpiece

In the heart of Driftless Wisconsin, Viroqua is home to the TPE chapter support office. We are lucky to be surrounded by many prairie remnants and State Natural Areas (like Romance Prairie). Within walking distance of the office are several public native gardens. One consists of a planted prairie and small oak savanna between two schools.

This outdoor classroom is an urban oasis for bees, butterflies, and birds. What was once an asphalt playground has been transformed into a native plant "Greenspace." TPE staff have led field trips for students there and assisted with the management plan. As you will see, the native plants are a wonder to behold. 

Sign greeting visitors to the PRWS Greenspace. Photo by Joe Rising

From the Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School website:

"In 2012, Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School (PRWS) was able to begin the Greenspace Permaculture Garden in the area between PRWS and the Landmark Center. This had been the former roadway (East Ave) and was an asphalt playground area between the two schools. It was prone to flooding during the spring thaw and generally had limited aesthetics for our school grounds. The focus of this project was twofold: 1) to provide another outdoor classroom area for the children that would incorporate our native habitats of the Driftless Area as well as edible landscaping using Permaculture design, and 2) to enhance the aesthetic of this school and public area between the neighborhoods surrounding our school while improving the infiltration and drainage of water on the site."

Mark Shepard, a permaculture expert and designer of the PRWS garden, said he "used two different seed mixes both sold as blends by Prairie Moon Nursery [in Minnesota]. The majority was the PDQ mix and in the 'rain garden' corner it was their wet prairie blend. I haven’t seen a whole lot of wetland associated species... I especially wanted the Joe-Pye weed to flourish because I have fond memories of it as a lil' tyke."

Learn more about the School's nature programs and outdoor classrooms here.

Thanks to Chris Larson for helping assemble this photo gallery. She has a great eye for natural beauty.

 

 

Construction begins. Photo by Cynthia Olmstead

 

The completed Greenspace. Photo by Joe Rising

 

Joe Rising and his daughter help plant the prairie. Photo by Cynthia Olmstead

 

TPE staff lead a prairie plant tour. Photo by Kay Fandel

 

Chris Kirkpatrick, former Executive Director for TPE, identifies native plants. Photo by Kay Fandel 

 

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta). Photo by Joe Rising

 

Many compass plants (Silphium laciniatum) have sprung up. Photo by Chris Larson

 

A summer bouquet: rough blazing-star (Liatris aspera) and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

Photo by Joe Rising

 

Partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata). Photo by Joe Rising

 

White wild indigo (Baptisia alba). Photo by Chris Larson

 

The beauty of native habitat. Photo by Cynthia Olmstead


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