Making a Meadow

Widow Skimmer Dragonfly

We have been in our home for over four years now, and one area that has seriously been neglected is our yard.  I have planted the beds next to the house in the front and back, but have done little more than mow the rest.  We have an acre and a third, and so there is quite a bit of lawn to mow.  One of the first decisions we made was to not mow the entire yard.

Backyard view 2008

Backyard view 2008

This is what the backyard looked like when we first moved in.  We used the existing broom grass (I think?) as a guide to where we weren’t going to mow.  A large portion of the backyard is a drainfield, so we know that the best thing they say to do is to grow grass, and keep it short.  But frankly, I am not interested in a large mowed lawn.  I think they are akin to a desert.  I did not want to spend the time, the money, and the frustration on keeping a lawn.  I am way more interested in creating a diverse habitat for birds, small creatures, and bugs to find food and shelter.  Plus, I was hoping to have some color and texture out there to keep things interesting.

Start of a Meadow

Start of a Meadow

So four years later, and we do not have much to show for it.  This year, I decided I wanted to being adding plants and flowers.  Eventually, I hope it will all fill in with wildflowers, perennials, and grasses.

To start, I began taking out the trees that had started to grow.  There were some fairly large ones (scrub pines grow really fast).  But a few mornings out in long pants, my large brim hat, and a machete took care of most of the trees and wild blackberry bushes.  Although I do like blackberry bushes, around here they are considered a pest because they take over really quickly, are very prickly, and very difficult to get rid of.  I just chopped them down, but you need to dig up the root systems if you don’t want them to keep coming back.  I expect to go out there every once in a while and cut them back, and I don’t mind having some that bloom and produce berries (see food for the wildlife).

Meadows Edge

Meadows Edge

Some friends of ours were very generous and let me have some of their daylillies that were encroaching in their vegetable garden.  We dug up several clumps, and Mr. Lucky and I spaced them out along the edge of the meadow.

Blooming DayLily

Blooming DayLily

Many of them bloomed this year, although rarely at the same time.  I think they endured a bit of shock being transplanted from a slightly more shady, and more soil rich spot to my clay filled back yard.  I’m hoping that next year they will come back stronger.

My boss very generously gave me a bunch of very fancy daylillies from the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden sale.  Even though they all seemed to survive, and some of them had buds, but I didn’t see any of them bloom.  (It is possible they bloomed while I was in CA, but no one saw it).

Mr. Lucky and I also bought a few plants to add to the mix, including a purple bee balm (I love our red version, Mondara), and some “Jethro Tull” Tickseed.

Jethro Tull Tickseed

Jethro Tull Tickseed

As soon as I planted the tickseed, a butterfly landed on it.  :)  Exactly what I wanted to see!  You can see in this shot it looks as though an animal has trodden on part of the plant.  The blooms lasted for about a week or two, and I deadheaded the plant quite a bit.  It continued to have a few blooms for several weeks, but nothing really showy.  I’m really hoping this will take off and spread out.

Purple Bee Balm

Purple Bee Balm

Something had either dug up or trampled on part of the bee balm too, but most of the plant survived.  It was more compact than I was expecting, and maybe eventually I’ll move it around.  I loved the color of the blooms though, and I really wish I just had massive mounds of this stuff.

Salvia

Salvia

We also bought a salvia plant.  There are so many varieties, and I love most of them.  They are supposed to be easy to propogate as well- which I will try next spring.  We have a very large salvia in the front, which I am also going to try to bring some of it to the back next year.  I love how tall this plant gets- and the bees love it.

Salvia in front

Salvia in front

Just this year I’ve also noticed a lot more of these dragonflies around- the Widow Skimmer.  I think they’re beautiful and they are natural bug control!

Widow Skimmer Dragonfly

Widow Skimmer Dragonfly

In this shot, you can see some of the daylillies blooming along the edge of the meadow.  You can also see a few trees I still need to take down.  I hate taking down trees because I love them, and the shade they produce.  I would be very happy to have a mostly wooded lot.  With these crazy storms we’ve been having however, we had a number of trees come down in the front yard.  They were mostly scrub pines that don’t really have root systems.  I don’t care for them as much, and would love to have a large variety.  Just this year I noticed we have several Willow Oak popping up in the front, and a Tree of Heaven.

Meadow in training

Meadow in training

There are also some weeds that I think are pretty growing in the meadow- these kinds of wildflowers I encourage.

Pretty Weed

Pretty Weed

As the summer gets hotter, I have a feeling that there won’t be much blooming.  I’ll feel lucky if things don’t die off completely.  I tried to plant some propogated roses and salvia- but I have a feeling it was way too late in the season and I didn’t water them enough.

For Christmas last year I did get some seed bombs, in the hopes that I would have some wildflowers pop up- but I don’t think I’ve seen anything from that either.  Every year I will just keep adding more and more until it becomes the riot of color I want.  :)

Another aspect to growing a meadow that really appeals to me, is that it is an ecosystem in flux.  Things will come and go, groups will spread, and some plants will naturally settle in.  Things are always evolving in a meadow, and I think that makes it interesting.  I love all sorts of gardens, from the most structured and formal to the completely wild.  I look forward to helping my meadow evolve.

To be continued…