After two full growing seasons, this is the Meadow.
On an unseasonably cool, July day, I met Dr. Sherry Haar (of the Department of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design at K-State) in the Meadow for an intro lesson in natural plant dyes.
Dr. Haar’s research centers on natural plant dyes and expands into many areas of sustainability. She has recently begun work with textiles that may impact natural funereal and burial practices. Fascinating, isn’t she? Now that I have your attention, here’s a bit of what Dr. Haar showed me today:
Dr. Haar began by testing several species of flower using fabric test strips. Each strip contains different samples of fabrics in a fabric family, such as silks, or cellulose fabrics (cotton, linen, rayon…).
The test strip quickly absorbed a brilliant orange color from Coreopsis tinctoria (annual plains coreopsis).
Dr. Haar explained other processes she uses to experiment with natural plant dyes. She will often “bundle” plants in fabric pre-treated with a mordant, to reveal what effects the flower, leaf, or stem of a plant may create. She also “pounds” plant material into pre-treated fabric, which results in brilliant colors with realistic pattern impressions of the plant’s structure.
Dr. Haar’s fabric designs are stunning; she has designed many fabrics for garments and other uses. We look forward to her use and her students’ use of the K-State Meadow!
Postscript: After the Meadow visit, Haar placed the bundled plants in pretreated fabric in a sunny, outdoor location.
After several weeks in the sun, Haar opened the bundles to view the plant dye effects:
The Meadow was conceived, in part, as a contemplative space in the heart of the K-State campus. The Meadow’s initial installation was possible thanks to a memorial donation in honor of Professor William C. Hummel and Sara T. Hummel. Descendants and extended family of the Hummels have enjoyed visiting the Meadow and often take part in volunteer work days.
Summer 2015 brings a new layer of meaning to the Meadow. This spring, a group of K-State staff in the Division of Communications and Marketing decided to remember their colleague, Trevor Davis, through a contribution to plantings at the Meadow. Thanks to Mr. Davis’ friends, nearly 200 wild blue indigo (Baptisia australis) plants will blossom in the coming years. Wild blue indigo typically takes two years of growth before it blooms, so we’ll expect to see this purple tribute in 2017.
Mr. Davis, a writer, is remembered by his colleagues as full of verve for life and a true joy to be around.
Fred Henley (BLA 1960) and Judy Henley (BS 1959) recently established the John and John T. Henley Meadow Excellence Fund as a resource for interpretation and maintenance of the Meadow. The Henleys are interested in the Meadow’s potential to serve as a “pointer” to the nearby Konza Prairie and as a resource for interpreting Kansas grasslands.
Thanks to the Henleys, 400 new plant plugs of little bluestem were added to the Meadow in May 2015 and a seasonal student employee has been hired to help with Meadow maintenance. The Henleys gift will help fulfill many needs at the Meadow.
If you’d like to learn more about supporting the Meadow, please contact Katie Kingery-Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard Dean Prudenti is a post-baccalaureate student in the Department of Landscape Architecture / Regional & Community Planning at Kansas State University. Prudenti is employed by the Beach Museum of Art and coordinates special projects, including Meadow landscape. He also serves as a graduate teaching assistant for the Environmental Issues & Ethics course for the College of Architecture, Planning & Design.
Prudenti dedicates this blog entry to his mother, Josephine Depasquale Prudenti who passed away earlier this year. When he was a child his mother assisted him in creating a special flower garden — starting with the drama of a sunflower seed transforming into a towering figure of hope. This scene has served as a source of inspiration for many of his endeavors throughout life.
In the Meadow, weeding, during fall 2014. Photo by Kraig Weber.
Have you ever gazed into the face of a sunflower? The rounded form, the seemingly countless seeds, the radiating pedals… these ignite our imaginations. With this flower we are suddenly wrapped in a special moment. Whatever variety, wherever you are, this flower inspires appreciation for our world, especially the universe of plants.
Sunny days are ahead as I think about the meaning this flower has produced for me over the years. I was just finishing the first grade when my mom encouraged me to grow my very own flower garden. My first grade teacher bestowed a gift of two sunflowers per student in my class. We seeded them in a trays kept by the window for sunlight. We were growing a flower that we would take home on the last day of school. My mother helped me prepare a tiny plot in front of our enormous woodpile for transplanting the sunflower “plug.”
Me at age 7, watering my sunflower plants just after completing the first grade, spring 1985. Photo by Josephine Depasquale Prudenti.
At this point I must confess, I stole a seed from one of my classmates. Shocking. For some reason two seeds were not enough in my eyes. So I dug out of the tray a seed from one of my classmates. Perhaps I could say this was an innate understanding about design — the concept of grouping in three’s. The presence of one works as well. So I could say I was doing him a favor, too, right? I would have three and he would have one, and both are perfect design-wise. Okay, kidding. Still, I am now pursuing a degree in landscape architecture, and perhaps it all started with my aesthetically pleasing arrangement of three sunflower plants.
Now that this is off my chest, below is a newspaper article from 1984. My first grade teacher, Susan Armstrong is seated, while my father and mother are kneeling to her left. Miss Armstrong (now, Mrs. Recenello) was an inspiration in many ways, including giving me my first journal (I became a journalist), and encouraging me in drawing (I work for a museum), and of course starting me down the path of enjoyment of plants (I now pursue a landscape architecture degree).
Newspaper article from the Mount Olive Chronicle.
My three-point arrangement of sunflowers towering above me and all the other plants had company because my mother encouraged me to grow other flowers. My mother had her own garden up the hill. Too young to appreciate all the scientific wonder of plants, I did appreciate the bounty of seeds that the sunflower produced.
By summer of 1985, the sunflowers grew to a “towering” height. I am on the left, grasping for the sunflower head. My older brother, Danny is beside me. Photo by Josephine Depasquale Prudenti.
At some point I packed up my garden tools and pursued other interests. These included music, theatre, journalism and art. My interest in plants never died, though, and years later I joined the Master Gardeners training program in Bentonville Arkansas. I am under no delusion that growing a garden is simple and easy. It takes thoughtful planning, hard work, and dedication. One must deal with weather, soil conditions, disease and wildlife. Recent experiences that have bolstered my appreciation for plant species include working at the the Flint Hills Discovery Center. The discovery center brought me to Kansas from Arkansas just over three years ago, and after a year there I realized I had a passion to pursue — the combination of interests in plants, art and design. By fall of 2013, I was enrolled in landscape architecture program at Kansas State University.
Just before this time, Linda Duke from the Beach Museum of Art had brought me on to assist in the development of the Meadow. I started overlapping my work experience at the Discover Center with special projects at the museum in June 2012, and a year later she asked that I be the museum’s representative on the project, working with Katie Kingery-Page who directs the project.
In June 2013, the Meadow “opened” to the public to serve as an educational tool for learning about native plants. The Meadow is an experiment on campus, meant to grow native plants through more natural processes void of pesticides and fertilizers. I’ve been a part of the development including seeding, planting, watering and weeding the Meadow.
A new season… My brother, Daniel and I flanking the expanded garden I created in my backyard. The sunflowers are gone, but their memories live on. Photo by Josephine DePasquale Prudenti.
Herbaceous plants make up the Meadow inventory, which has great value for me as an up-and-coming landscape architect. I’m in the post-baccalaureate program as a graduate student and plan to complete a Master of Landscape Architecture in May 2017.
Trees are a secondary (existing) material of the Meadow. As landscape architect endeavors to improve conditions through enjoyable outdoor spaces, I grew more interested in the use of trees — how they define space, create place, and provide for the ecological health of the landscape. Below are drawings alongside thee real leaves of the Hamamelis virginia (Common Witchhazel) and Tilia americana (American Linden) trees, on the left and right, respectively. These renderings were created using color pencils during my Landscape Architecture Plant Materials course this past fall.
I see the creation of landscapes as a way of making the world a better place. Besides the creation of habitat, the Meadow allows people a place to rest, contemplate, soak up the sun, and enjoy life. Within this native plants landscape, sometimes we see volunteer plants pop up. To my pleasant surprise, two, non-native sunflowers managed to make their way into the Meadow ensemble.
These plants are “volunteers” because they are were not planned. They may have come alongside other seeds or plants that were brought in for the site planting design.
For the sake of establishing prairie plants in the Meadow, the non-natives had to go but the sunflowers served a great purpose for me as they reminded me of where all this interest of mine originated – how the love of a plant could lead to so many experiences in life, and helping me smile throughout my time in Kansas.
I never imagined that I would end up in the “Sunflower State” of Kansas, attending graduate school and pursuing landscape architecture with interest in creating vegetated space for human use. Sunflowers are not appropriate for every design solution, but they have held a great purpose in a variety of contexts. I’m sure the sunflower will continue to be a source of inspiration as I move forward and upward in this new field and in life.
Me guiding a tour of the Meadow for K-State alumni, November 2014. Photograph by Taylor Lininger.
This group of volunteers helped “groom” the Meadow with weeding and cleanup, spring 2014. Photo by Katie Kingery-Page.
Post written by Richard Dean Prudenti and Katie Kingery-Page.
Seeding of the Meadow began nearly two years ago. In that time the campus and community have witnessed the growth of a native plants landscape at K-State, just north of the Beach Museum of Art. Many people have shown great appreciation for the plants, the habitat and the landscape design elements. This became apparent when Richard Prudenti (graduate student in landscape architecture and co-author of this post) provided a tour of the Meadow for several alumni of landscape architecture during the 50th Anniversary celebration of the landscape architecture program at K-State.
The alumni questions and observations were enlightening, as this was their first visit to the Meadow. For example, one person inquired about the non-native trees in the landscape: How is it possible to create a sustainable Meadow with the current tree inventory? Will we replace them with native trees? As we await the regrowth of spring, we want to take a moment to answer these questions and others posed by visitors to the Meadow:
Q: Will we replace the current tree inventory with native trees?
A: The site currently holds six trees; two are native to Kansas: a Chinquapin Oak and an Eastern Red Cedar. The trees provide shade conditions that are much denser than that of an upland prairie, but this canopy does evoke a savannah-like feeling. Understanding the amenity of healthy trees in a campus environment, it makes sense to preserve these trees for their qualities of shade and enclosure of space. To a purist, preserving the healthy non-native trees that came with the site might be anathema, but the Meadow is a landscape of compromise between human needs and the desire to showcase native plants.
Our plan is that in a few more years, the Meadow can sustain itself and require very little maintenance. But just as in a natural grassland, tree seedling growth must be suppressed. Currently, seasonal mowing suppresses seedling trees in the Meadow.
Q: How was the under-story of plants designed?
A: The plant palette is drawn from the documented plant composition of the nearby Konza prairie, and includes species selected for a cohesive aesthetic effect as well as creation of animal habitat and a resource for understanding human use (for example, some native species are used by pollinators; others have been used by people for food and dye plants). Species were combined in five different mixes in response to sun/shade and edge conditions of the site. Still in its second year and a work in progress, it will take 3-5 years to reach the point where the Meadow maintains a dynamic equilibrium of native grasses and wildflowers.
During the 2014 growing season, transplantation of plants from K-State greenhouses increased species on site from 20 to more than 40, including milkweed and other species that provide food and habitat for Monarch butterflies and other pollinators. In the future, monitoring pollinators will be paramount to validating the Meadow’s existence and perhaps supporting the creation of additional “meadows” on campus.
Q: Will the Meadow be burned at some point?
A: Gaining permission for controlled burns is a concern, especially as close as the Meadow is to the Beach Museum of Art, McCain Auditorium, All Faiths Chapel, and other campus buildings. We feel a controlled burn could be safely planned as a celebratory and educational event. If the planning team is successful in obtaining permissions, a burn still cannot be held until the plants have sufficient root growth to survive a fire–typically not until 2-3 years after planting.
Q: What are the sustainability goals of The Meadow?
A: We have altered the landscape from turfgrass to native plants with far less water and chemical use than conventional lawns. Once fully‐established, the Meadow’s need for herbicides/pesticides and water usage beyond rainfall should be minimal or nonexistent. In addition, we believe the Meadow will decrease stormwater runoff into existing inlets on the site. We hope to begin monitoring stormwater runoff, chemical and water inputs, in comparison to a typical campus site, later this year.
Q: Will there be lighting in the Meadow?
A: Currently there is not a budget for expanding electrical service on the site and adding light fixtures. Our aspiration is to develop artful lighting.
Q: How is this landscape funded?
A: Thus far, the Meadow has been made possible by the generosity of private citizens such as the Hummel family (William and Sara Hummel Memorial Fund) and the Henley family (John and John T. Henley Meadow Excellence Fund). K-State’s Green Action Fund, a pilot fund through the Student Government Association, has also provided support. In addition, numerous in-kind hours of work have been given by faculty, staff, and community. We continue to seek out funds to accomplish a number of objectives.
Q: How will the memorial function of the Meadow be visually expressed?
A: From the beginning, the Meadow has served as a living memorial, which will be recognized on a sign planned for summer 2015. Since the construction, several people have approached the planning team asking that further memorials be incorporated in the Meadow. The Meadow planning team feels that for the meadow to function as a contemplative landscape, it must remain free of visual clutter. Thus, people have developed creative and meaningful ways to memorialize, including sponsoring and participating in planting days and donating seating elements.
Q: Will there be signage to explain the goals of the Meadow?
A: Every effort is being made to preserve the visual aesthetic of the Meadow. A subtle sign planned for the Meadow will refer visitors to a touchtable exhibit inside the museum. This display of visuals and information is currently under construction.
Q: Will we be monitoring the changes in soil and habitat, the use of water, etc.?
A: Kingery‐Page led an interdisciplinary team to plan and design the Meadow with “ecosystem services” in mind, as defined by the Sustainable Sites Initiative:
- Local climate regulation
- Air and water cleansing
- Erosion and sediment control (the former turfgrass had areas of erosion from runoff and native plants now slow and capture sediment).
- Hazard (flood) mitigation
- Habitat functions
- Human health and well‐being benefits
- Food and renewable non‐food products
- Cultural benefits
In Fall 2014, faculty from the departments of Landscape Architecture/Regional & Community Planning and Bio-Agricultural Engineering applied for an EPA grant to monitor several sites on campus. The research anticipated at the Meadow will compare the chemical and water inputs as well as stormwater infiltration at the Meadow to a typical turfgrass area of equal size on campus.
Q: What is the primary goal of this project?
A: One of the overarching goals is to heighten awareness of the need to protect grasslands worldwide. More than 49% of grasslands have been destroyed worldwide and only 4 percent are currently protected.
The Meadow is a setting for careful observation, discussion, and drawing activities, encouraging visitors to make meaningful connections between art, science, and enjoyment of the natural world. The site fosters lifelong learning about the Flint Hills ecoregion and sustainable landscape management.
A Special Thank You
We greatly appreciate those who participated in touring the Meadow fall 2014. Your interest in learning about the Meadow, its purpose, and what we might be doing next proved quite valuable in our planning efforts. Your thoughts and responses to the Meadow experience will continue to help us as we develop the Meadow.
Since May, we’ve been busy planting native plant plugs (some we grew, some we purchased, all funded by K-State Green Action Fund), weeding, and grooming the Meadow.
Plant establishment is going well, as you can see in the lush photos, but we are still fighting several weed species. We continue to rely upon cutting back (weed whipping) and hand pulling to manage weeds. We did make a rare exception for a one-time herbicide application to a very small area of bindweed (about 12 feet along a 3 foot deep swathe of the western edge of the Meadow).
This week, we enjoy the blooming bee balm, butterfly milkweed, plains coreopsis, and rose verbena.
Spring 2014 thank you’s are due to:
Kathrine Schlageck, Boy Scout organizer extraordinaire
Boy Scouts of Manhattan Troop 75
Dr. Valerie Wright
Dr. Rhonda Janke
Dr. Zakary Ratajczak
Troy Britt, museum employee, art student, and expert ‘raking artist’
Chelcie Sutherland, museum employee and photographer
Lindsay Smith, museum exhibit designer, willing weeder, and constant Meadow groomer
Richard Dean Prudenti, museum special projects employee and LARCP student assigned to the Meadow
Joe Myers, Annette Finkeldei, and Dan McGee of K-State Grounds for their expert and timely assistance
With the cold winter behind us and the advent of spring, volunteers are returning to weed and plant a second wave of species in the Meadow on the campus of Kansas State University.
Less obvious, however, is that even in the heart of winter, volunteers and team members have been busy: starting in late January a team of students, faculty and staff sowed seed that had been stratified in cold storage within greenhouses in the northwest area of campus. Seeds were either purchased through monies provided by the Green Action Fund or donated by Valerie Wright, retired environmental educator for the Konza Prairie Biological Station and adjunct professor of entomology at K-State.
Prairie plants are now growing in the greenhouse. These native plants of the Kansas Flint Hills will be transplanted to the Meadow in the coming weeks to increase species on site from twenty to more than forty, including several milkweeds and other species to provide food and habitat for Monarchs and other pollinators.
Be on the lookout for upcoming volunteer days to transplant plugs. Species include:Asclepias sullivantii Asclepias tuberosa Asclepias viridis Aster drummondii Aster ericoides Baptisia bracteata Carex blanda Carex meadii Dalea purpurea Elymus villosus Glandularia canadensis Liatris aspera Liatris pycnostachya Monarda fistulosa Oenothera macrocarpa Ruellia humilis Ruellia strepens Salvia pitcheri Schizachyrium scoparium Verbena stricta
Professor Rhonda Janke, Extension Specialist & Sustainable Cropping Systems, generously donated soil, supplies and space at the mist house on campus. This has allowed plants to stay hydrated in a controlled environment monitored by professors and students. Leading the effort is master’s student in landscape architecture, Caleb Melchior. He selected plants to grow from the existing Meadow palette as part of his master’s thesis work. Caleb collaborated with Troy Britt, an undergraduate student in the department of art and an employee of the Beach Museum of Art, to create a series of designs for adding the new species with visual impact.
Zak Ratajczak, Biology PhD candidate and graduate teaching assistant, Melchior, his major professor, Katie Kingery-Page, and Dr. Janke received funding for the second wave of planting through K-State’s Green Action Fund. Also part of the plug growing team is Richard Dean Prudenti, an employee of the Beach Museum of Art and a first year student in the post-baccalaureate program for landscape architecture.
Thank you, Green Action Fund, Dr. Janke and Valerie Wright, for making the plug growing possible!
The Meadow is a work in progress – it will take 3-5 years to reach the point where the Meadow holds a dynamic equilibrium of native grasses and wildflowers, cut back each year, but allowed to grow tall in vibrant beauty each season. Until then, we have periodic cutting and weeding days to control weeds as the native plants become established.
What that means is, the weeds growing in the Meadow are expected and make sense when one considers the long history of the site as a cultural landscape. For more than 100 years, the ground cover of the site has been composed of various exotic (non-native) turf grasses and exotic weeds.
Take, for instance, crabgrass, which was one of the turfgrasses of the site prior to Meadow seeding. It’s a notoriously difficult weed to eradicate (it’s a plant even though we consider it a weed, the latter being a “plant out of place”). In one sense, it’s attractive, but it’s undesirable (therefore we call it a weed) because it fights for control of territory. Therefore we fight against it with consistent and deliberate weed whipping (cutting the vegetation, including the desirable plants) to six inches. We have chosen not to use chemical herbicides, due to their environmental persistence and potential effects upon soil and water health. The Beach Museum as a partner has been very supportive, leading the call for a chemical free landscape in the Meadow.
So what about the native plants that we want to see thrive? In most areas, they’re winning the fight already, but not just in the light of day. The fight is underground. Whereas weedy plants spread quickly across the surface of the earth, below ground the “good plants” are taking root and preparing for the major battle – the battle for soil moisture and nutrients.
Some people may be disappointed, thinking we are not keeping up with the weeds. But the truth is, using limited resources, we are making good progress toward realizing the Meadow. We understand wishing the Meadow to be already “complete.” So much development happens over days rather than years, and turf sod is an instant pleaser to the eye – it happens over hours, not even days. We are accustomed to instant landscapes. Take heart as many desirable plants are thriving in Meadow. In fact, “Grooming the Meadow” (our way of describing the process of weeding) showed us that our seeding efforts from this summer were a success.
Interest in the Meadow is growing as staff reporter, Shelton Burch, of the Collegian recently wrote an article updating the campus community about this inter-departmental project. http://www.kstatecollegian.com/2013/10/04/meadow-connects-science-math-engineering-and-art/
If you walk by the Meadow this month, you’ll see that the K-State Grounds Maintenance team has just performed a scheduled fall cutting of the growth. We anticipate more germination of seed in the spring, so we’re removing as much plant thatch as possible now, while the plants are still fairly upright and easy to cut. A huge thank you to the K-State Grounds Maintenance personnel and our Meadow Grooming volunteers:
Post written by Richard Dean Prudenti and Katie Kingery-Page.
We’re finally feeling some hot days in the Kansas Flint Hills. In the Meadow, we have already cut back growth three times, in an effort to keep weeds in check as the native species grow in. I describe this to passerbys as allowing the growth above ground to catch up to the growth underground. Many studies have shown the effective growth pattern of perennial native prairie species, which tend to first put down deep roots to ensure survival, rather than showy growth above ground in the first season.
Thanks to the heat wave, I had a chance to reconnect with the Meadow while watering Saturday morning. Watering time allows me to closely observe species growth, to reflect on Meadow maintenance, and to observe visitors to campus using the newly installed Meadow Benches. In the morning, several people came through and paused on the benches; traces left by other visitors were evident. I had taken this photo the evening before:
Over the past week, I noted three new species in flower: pitcher sage, butterfly milkweed, and wild petunia.
Beyond watering (which has been occasional since August–just in response to the sustained, dry heat) and cutting back, some other maintenance is needed. We will put out a call for volunteers, soon, asking for those who may be willing to gingerly hand weed from the edges of paths. Hand weeding is an excellent chance to learn plant identification. For the upcoming volunteer day, we will have at least two K-Staters on hand to help identify native plants. Stay tuned for date and time.
In closing, please join me in making this week a grassroots “grounds crew appreciation week.” The Meadow benefits greatly from the continued guidance of Joe Myers, KSU Physical Plant Supervisor, Facilities Grounds Maintenance. He and his colleagues have helped the project in numerous ways through their generosity of knowledge, time, and skill. These are some of the people who make our campus beautiful.
More soon on the volunteer day!