A few years ago I wrote a blog post about a new book by Linden Hawthorne: "Gardening with Shape, Line and Texture: A Plant Design Sourcebook." Hawthorne considers gardens an art form where you "paint with plants." As a result of my comments about the book and designing gardens in general, a local garden group — the Madison Chapter of the Wild Ones — asked me to speak to them about how to make prairies and native plants work as gardens — especially in front yards or urban environments.
I suggested that one of the things that instantly distinguishes a garden from a woods or a weedpatch is intent. A garden is an environment that was intentionally created by the gardener even when it looks natural. One of the easiest ways to indicate that a natural or wild-looking space is a garden is to provide somewhere for the gardener and friends to sit.
A fence and a gate are other signs that this is a garden, a planned landscape.
This view from a second floor bedroom window shows that this prairie is a deliberate design, not something that just happened.
Though this prairie is in Door County and not in front of an urban house, the concept of defining it and enjoying it as a man-made garden is the same.