Our Prairie People – June 29th
Each Wednesday in June we have been sharing a feature about one of our many a marvelous members, in celebration of “Our Prairie People.” This is our final one for the month. Hope you’ve enjoyed them!
Landscape Architecture Designer
LJA Planning and Landscape Architecture
NPAT Member since 2022
By Jane Satterlee
I grew up in a beautiful, wooded neighborhood about an hour north of New Orleans. The homes were gathered on a ridge within the southern pine forest that ever so gradually sloped down to the cypress swamp-lined river that runs through our town. Growing up I spent most of my time outside in nature, but I didn’t develop my love for and fascination with plants until I was in high school.
A horticulturist in my neighborhood, Linda Trahan, asked me to water her plants for a summer job while she went on vacation. I thought, “great, easy money!” Then I stepped into the jungle in her backyard, full of hundreds of potted plants of all kinds of amazing species. As I watered them for 1.5 hours each day, I learned their names and enjoyed caring for them! My interest in gardening sprang up from there.
A few years later, I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from LSU. I began to learn about the aesthetic shifts in landscape design (primarily in the Northeast) away from highly manicured to “wild” landscapes, which include wildflower meadows and ecological plantings. Garden designers and landscape architects like Piet Oudolf and Michael Van Valkenburgh create culturally significant parks, greenways, and trail systems in the middle of cities which recreate ecological systems and mimic natural landscapes. This is a design ideology that I began to value for many reasons!
While visiting home over a winter break, I went hiking around my neighborhood in an area that had been disturbed a few months before and was now colonized by new vegetation. There was a huge array of native prairie species, which came from the seeds in the disturbed soil! I loved the colors and textures of the plants even in their winter state. It reminded me of pictures of the highly acclaimed landscape architecture project in New York City, the “High Line.” The browns, purple, and golden colors of wildflower stalks, seed heads, and grasses were amazing! This was the beginning of my love for prairies.
After graduating from LSU, I became an active member of the Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society based in Eunice, Louisiana. This is where I visited a few prairie remnants for the first time and began to learn more about prairies with other chapter members. During the first meeting I attended with CPHPS, a student named Eric Vanbergen shared about a project he created at his high school. He led an initiative with his photography teacher and classmates to create a prairie restoration and pollinator garden on his high school campus. I thought, “if a high school student can do this, I can too!”
That year, after collecting prairie seed all summer and fall and with the City of New Orleans’ approval, I organized a group of community volunteers to create a pocket prairie at a neighborhood library and community center. We included seeds from around 35 species. The project is around 2.5 years old and there were still new species showing up in the prairie this summer when I visit. I always hope to be able to engage the local community with the beauty and benefits of prairies.
As a landscape architect now working in Dallas, I have joined NPAT to continue learning and growing in my understanding of prairies! I would like to learn more about how prairie restoration can be incorporated into my landscape design projects. A large portion of my projects currently includes residential community development. My colleagues and I are beginning to ask how we can preserve or restore prairie landscapes within our project sites. Whether we have land used for a power line easement and walking trail or a more central community gathering space, I know a prairie would make a huge impact and bring joy to the people who experience it.
In the last few months, I have had the privilege of going on tours of Clymer Meadow near Celeste, Texas a few times to see the beautiful changes through the season. I am so thankful to have a new community of prairie people here in Texas and can’t wait to continue to enjoy the prairie here!
Thank you, Jane, for bringing your talents and enthusiasm for native prairies to Texas! We are grateful to you and all of our members. If you are not yet an NPAT member, learn more about it HERE.
The Clymer Meadow photos for this post are courtesy of Justin Parker of JP Nature Photography.