Friday, October 12, 2012

Out with the lawn, in with the meadow

In last week's blog post I reported that the Pound Ridge Land Conservancy recently oversaw the mowing of their five-acre meadow on the Clark Preserve as a way of preserving it as an open habitat and supporting the animals that call it home.  This week, the meadow conversation continues with a focus on all the cool ways that people are bringing meadows and meadow plants into their landscaping.  Really big meadows like the ones at Ward-Pound Ridge Reservation are impressive, but not feasible for the average landowner to own or maintain.  The alternative?  Small meadow gardens.        

Out with the lawn, in with the meadow!
Native meadows have become a fashionable, beautiful and ecologically intelligent type of landscaping over the past decade. Their benefits abound: they require far less water and mowing than a manicured lawn, they require ZERO fertilizers, their appearance changes with the seasons, they support populations of native plants and they attract a variety of wildlife. My friends in Pound Ridge - James and Ellen Best - have beautiful meadows incorporated into their landscaping; their backyard feels less like a generic landscape and more like real nature.  Here is what James and Ellen Best have to say about their meadow gardens:

What we like best about meadows is that they dramatically change with the seasons, unlike grass, which hardly changes at all. Cycles of purple, pink and yellow flowers, wispy grasses, buzzing bees and incredible spider webs appear in the meadows; it’s an ongoing show that nature puts on for free. We see fox, hawks, woodchucks, rabbits and more in the natural, protective habitat that the meadows create. After a dry, brownish winter, when the meadow begins to come alive again in the spring, it’s so exciting! Yes, patches of grass offer good foot-feel and space for activities, like a carpet. But how much carpet do you need? Less work, too!

A mowed path through a dense patch of wildflowers at the Best's property in Pound Ridge, NY

A patch of black eyed susan next to the Best's home in Pound Ridge, NY.

The Bests go on to say:
The combination of having both meadow and lawn areas seems like the best option. We have winding paths running through the meadows, making it an adventure to walk from one area to another. And it doesn’t have to be in a big area to give us that experience. Meadows provide borders and edges, as well as natural transitions from wooded areas to lawn areas – so much more alive than just a mowed lawn!

A tree swallow.  This bird can be seen flying over meadows picking off flying insects.  You are likely to attract these birds, especially if your meadow is near a pond. 

A lone cardinal flower grows in a patch of colorful flowers on the property of James and Ellen Best, Pound Ridge, NY. 

It seems as if meadow landscapes and native landscapes are popping up all over the place. In just a 20 minute internet search, I found all of the following websites.

See this company, which specializes in 'organic' landscaping.  Another company can consult on your property, or insall a thriving meadow.
See an example of landscaping turned wild here from North Salem, NY
Native U, a program at Westchester Community College, is dedicated to teaching gardeners and landscapers how to incorporate native plants and native ecology into their work.
A word from NY State on practicing native landscaping here
This Blog documents work in the 'Urban Lawn Reduction Project'.

Interested in managing the meadow on your property?
Check out this pamphlet on meadow management put out by the Mianus River Gorge.

Meadow management at the Armstrong Preserve.
On the Pound Ridge Land Conservancy's Armstrong Preserve there is an old field, which is colonized by invasive stilt grass and japanese barberry.  I recently drafted a Meadow Management Plan for the Pound Ridge Land Conservancy which outlines a long-term plan to bring native meadow plants back to the field.  Over the next five years we can expect more native grasses and wildflowers, bees, butterflies and dragonflies!     

*All pictures by James Best


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