A publisher is promoting a new book about meadows in an email newletter. An effusive statement by the reviewer grabbed my attention:
"...presents an alternative to the American lawn that is better in every way — better looking, less expensive, drought resistant, friendlier to wildlife, and yes, even good for walking barefoot. Did I mention you never have to mow a meadow?" [Italics mine. There are the words of a reviewer, not the author of the book.]
Never have to mow? That has not been my experience. If we don't mow on occasion, scrub trees and undesirable briers begin to take over along with the wildflowers. If not mow, then prescribed burn is the practice here. In a postage stamp sized former lawn kept hand weeded, barefoot walking is possible on certain groundcovers. Without hardscape, mown paths are necessary for walking in our meadows.
One man went to mow,
Went to mow a meadow,
One man and his dog,
Went to mow a meadow.
I've dabbled in meadow plantings and in allowing former cow pastures to return to a somewhat natural state. I can only speak of the climate and soil with which I am familiar. Two of our concerns for walking and the area around the house are rattlesnakes and fire ants.
I looked at a number of University Sites in different locations around the country. The underlying principals of meadow establishment all point to the same premises.
Mild success with scattering seeds on a prepared site: Spring bloomers like poppies and silene successfully bloomed without added chemicals or water.
Cattle egrets enjoyed following the mower when the spring meadow, overtaken by weeds and grass, was mowed.
Some misconceptions about meadows:
1. Easy Color from Spring through Fall is a myth; proper, careful selection is a must. Mid-summer here is not a good time for blossoms.
Fall asters must compete with wild Black Cherries in this meadow. The woody plants are controlled by mowing or burning, sometimes by digging.
2. Debunk the myth of No maintenance; meadows are Low maintenance. There may be much work in future years to keep out woody invaders.
Wild Blackberries, at right in the pic, compete with goldenrod and native grasses in this meadow area.
3. Myth: You can create a meadow by just scattering seeds. Nature simply scatters seeds by the millions, and many of them are weeds. We have to prepare soil and get rid of weed competition before we scatter our meager desirable seeds.
Seeds scattered by Nature.
Tara Dillard showed her photos of the meadows at Great Dixter on her blog this week: Tara's Photos of Christopher Lloyd's Gardens
My favorite of the University sites referencing establishing a meadow is Dr. Leonard Perry's Perennial Pages at the University of Vermont.
The LA Times reviewed the book from a different slant: The Crusade Against the American Lawn. This article links to the Lawn Reform Coalition site.