New Bloomfield is home to a hidden gem: the Prairie Garden Trust. Also known as PGT, is located at 8945 County Road 431.
PGT is a 540-acre nature garden full of native plants, ponds, streams, birds and butterflies where individuals are able to come and enjoy the serenity and beauty that nature has to offer. There’s several different habitats within the property such as Beaver Lake, Lotus Pond, Indigo Prairie, Hillers Creek, The Point, The Savanna and the Visitor Center’s gardens.
“The cool thing is,” garden President Lorna Domke said, “south of the visitor’s center is prairie but over on Hillers Creek we have overlooks, viewing platforms and benches to look out over about an 80-foot elevation difference between the bluff and creek. So when you’re over there its like being in the Ozarks but when you’re over here (by the visitor’s center) it’s like being in northern Missouri with the rolling hills.”
The garden started in 1971 with Vice President Henry Domke’s parents, Herb and Joan, when they moved to the land that is now known as PGT. They bought an old, run down midwestern farm and got the idea to re-establish some of the prairie there. Since then, Henry and his wife, Lorna, have dedicated their time and energy to continue on with what his parents started.
Pulling up to the Prairie Garden, there is a visitor’s building with a map of all the paved and mowed walking trails around the property. There’s a half mile of paved trails and 10 miles of mowed, with each trail clearly marked to ensure no one gets lost. Though most of the trails are mowed grass, they paved trails are handicap accessible.
Their mission was and still continues to be to inspire people by letting them experience the beauty of nature found in a variety of enhanced native habitats on the property.
“We’re here so people can just stroll around, and explore, and just enjoy being in nature,” Lorna Domke said.
Not only is the garden full of flowers and cliffs, but also it’s full of history. There’s a coral reef developed 360 million years ago, native Americans hunted on the land 2,000 years ago and where settlers created pottery almost 200 years ago.
Along with the Domkes, are groundskeeper Matt Barnes and horticulturist Neal Hansum that help keep PGT looking its best. They plant thousands a different plants a year and really try to focus on native plants and do their best to keep invasive plants out.
“We want to have people enjoy the beauty of nature and to be in nature and not be surrounded by a mob, and just listen and smell and feel the breeze, that’s our purpose,” Henry Domke said. “That’s why we ask people to let us know when they want to come.”
Admission to the garden is free, but donations are always accepted as well as volunteering and memberships. It’s open April to October and is by reservation only. Visitors are allowed to have picnics at the pavilion, they’re just asked to clean up after themselves. No pets are allowed on the property to ensure the safety of the wildlife and cleanliness of the garden.
“A common thing I hear is ‘I never knew about you guys; I’ve lived here all my life, and I never knew you existed,’” Henry Domke said.
For more information about Prairie Garden Trust or to schedule a visit, go to prairiegardentrust.org//.