Visit a prairie — not a garden, but the real deal — and one gets the feeling that there really is an order to things

To get a sense of what the term “wildflower” really means, try creating a prairie garden.

About this time of year, the garden starts to get tall and unruly.

The tall plants that were established in the back a few years ago have bullied their way to the front, and the short plants have taken up residence near the fence.

They scoff at the gardener’s attempts to establish order out of wildness.

But visit a prairie — not a garden, but the real deal — and one gets the feeling that there really is an order to things.

Just not the order we imagine.

Shorter plants hold up the taller ones. Out here, the compass plants and prairie dock reach skyward and are not bending over to grab any passers-by like they do back home.

Flowers speckle the landscape in muted hues of yellow and lavender, combining like pastels in an artist’s picture.

And the tall grasses are set to take center stage as soon as the peak of the summer bloom passes.

It’s funny how prairies grew in value once they became scarce. Now we pay top dollar for plants that once were plowed under.

There’s milkweed, rosinweed and ironweed, for example. Their common names show our contempt.

Other weeds, like black-eyed Susans, have regained a place in our gardens after decades spent trying to get rid of them.

It really is up to the individual to decide if prairies are unkempt patches of weeds or works of art.

It is up to us to learn how to appreciate and make space for a little wildness from our prairie past.