Let's not exaggerate: It's not as if planting wildflowers is some kind of botanical redemption that would cause prairies to spring from parking lots and entice buffalo herds to the strip malls. But there's something irresistible about a bit of prairie (or, if you have some of those great big elms, woodland shade flora) in the backyard--especially once the birds and the bees arrive to make your urban homestead a little wildlife refuge. Problem is, where to start? It's not like you can head to the nursery down the street for your yellow coneflower, your big bluestem, your Indian tobacco, and the couple of hundred other species that belong in a healthy prairie around here. That is, unless you live up the street from the native-plant enthusiasts at Landscape Alternatives. On their acre-or-so lot half a block from the St. Paul city limits, these folks grow some 200 varieties of grasses and "forbs" (what we think of as flowers)--most, amazingly, from seed gathered right here in the metro. Visit their nursery to pick up, say, a few plugs of Indian reed grass ($6 for a pack of 12); or go whole hog with "prairie garden specials" that plant up to a thousand square feet ($345).


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