Lawn To Meadow-Moving Right Along

There is but the least little bitty bit of lawn here, and even that is heavier with clover and other non-grass plants than the mix of tall fescue and Kentucky blue grass seed that was broadcast over composted manure that was spread over a former gravel driveway. It is referred to as the lawn/meadow, since the transition from the former to the latter was first begun.

August 18, 2009 024 (2)
The decision to go this route, with minimal mowing was made in August of 2009, explained in
this post. It is coming along nicely, getting better each year as additions are made to help pretty it up. The four sections are now two, with the side center diagonal pathways allowed to grow up and onward with bulbs and flowers added in.

Even this itty bitty bit is only cut with the electric mower once a year, in late fall/early winter, except for the paths through the middle and around the circumference that are kept short. The philosophy about lawns here in the Fairegarden on the steeply sloping property is, who needs them? Read a post written in 2010 about the no lawn plantings here to find out more details.

The pathways of the lawn are kept cut low and the long lawn grasses are enhanced with more and more bulbs each season. Tulips, like Tulipa batalinii ‘Apricot Jewel’ shown in the first image, daffodils and puschkinia in the spring lead off the color splash amidst the greens, followed by lilies and alliums. (Need more.) The mainstay of summer into fall is Verbena bonariensis which has proven up to the task of growing through the dense roots of the grasses. The weedy fleabane was recognized as a good candidate to add white, click here to read about it. The chosen lily, seen above, is Lilium ‘Royal Sunset’, a longifolium-asiatic hybrid that blooms in June, needs no staking and is sweetly fragrant. After bloom, the lilies are deadheaded and the upright foliage adds texture and interest.

Early this spring, crimson clover seed was scattered thickly in the unmown sections and is growing nicely. One plant, seen above in a shot from 2011, was dug from a roadside in South Carolina and planted in the lawn here to see how it would fare. Obviously, one plant was inadequate but the brilliant hue was perfect. If we get swaths of dark red blossoms dotting the lawn this year, rest assured there will be a photo of it posted.

In the late fall/early winter the longer parts of the meadow are cut to four inches, with the pathways cut shorter to keep the design intact. New sculptures were made last year to offer interest, read about that here.

This year, 2012 holds great promise as the constant tweaking is beginning to show results. There are now many more lilies, more alliums, the tulips and daffodils will be spread more, wildflowers that are strong enough to live in this densely planted environment, like mountain mint have been added to up the flavor quotient. Fronted on the street side by the Fairelurie, seen above with Camassias now in flower and the long row of pink muhly grass which blooms in the fall, the lawn/meadow is becoming an important player in the overall garden scheme. Watching its evolution is fun and rewarding. New ideas are incorporated as they enter my consciousness. It is a challenge, but that is a good thing. Keeping the paths cut low makes the whole thing look neat enough to even please my lawn loving husband, The Financier.


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19 Responses to Lawn To Meadow-Moving Right Along

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I think your Lawn/Meadow is fabulous. It is great that you can get so much color going. I love those sculptures. I see that you have used chicken wire for the leaves on these beauties. I will send you some more inspiration. Have a great weekend.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. Oh goody, I love inspiration! The leaves are hardware cloth, but could have been made from chickenwire, too. I was using all the extra chickenwire to keep the squirrels out of the container plantings. You too have a wonderful Easter weekend!

  2. pbmgarden says:

    There is so much to admire and to learn from in your lawn to meadow project. I went back to your earlier post to read the background and look forward to seeing how this progresses. It is really quite gorgeous. When reading I kept thinking cleome would be pretty among your other plants. Its stem is a bit woody but I leave mine up through the winter and they’re easy to tip over and pull out. Probably could mow right through as well. They self-seed easily and come in pink or white.

    Hi PBM, thanks. The lawn/meadow is progressing with stops and starts. Having to contend with the pre-existing grasses is a problem for many plants I have tried. Cleome is an excellent suggestion, tall and vigorous enough to compete. I might give it a try this year, and it can reseed. I am sure it could be mowed.

  3. This is really beautiful and inspiring me to re-think my lawn. Love it and thanks for all the inspiration!

    Hi Christine, thanks. As I told my husband, who was quite skeptical when this project began, we can always mow it down if we don’t like it. Well, that’s what I told him, anyway. HA

  4. Layanee says:

    I do love that camassia. Mine are still in the green. Very creative path mowing you have there.

    Hi Layanee, thanks. The Camassias are moving way up to the top of my spring bulb list. They always come back faithfully with no bother at all.

  5. How great and liberating to have such an area ! I can imagine how tweaking it keeps your mind busy and stimulated throughout the year. Have you considered letting some purple ruffled basil join your meadow party? It seems to reseed readily (even prolifically) although, come to think of it, it could be too generous with successive generations of volunteers showing up everywhere and anywhere on your property.

    Hi Michaele, thanks. You are so right about the constant tweaking being a challenge. I like a good challenge! I have tried various red leafs in there without much success. They just can’t tolerate so much competition from the grass. Maybe I’ll give it another try. I do have purple perilla that has a similar look and reseeds everywhere. It might already be in there for all I know. I could throw seeds there in the fall. Thanks for the idea!

  6. This meadow look is lovely and a great idea….I have been reducing lawn more and will again this year.

    Hi Donna, thanks. The Fairelurie did dig into the lawn somewhat. We wanted to keep it sort of a lawn, or my husband did. This works for us and is fun for me to play with the plantings.

  7. What fun! I love it! Larry and I need to figure out what to mulch the front yard with. I want something natural looking, and that seedlings can come through. We’ll probably get a wood mulch of some kind. I just read your last sentence to Larry. He smiled, then said we could also plant flowers in the paths, and grass in the garden. LOL

    Last night, we were sitting on the porch, and he said he hopes the plants soon grow big enough to cover up all that dirt. I asked if he was sorry he let me do this instead of keeping it in grass. He said, “Yes and no. This is more work.” I told him it is not work to me, and i am the one who takes care of it. The only work he’s done was helping me get city mulch to put in it last year.

    Have a great weekend!

    Hi Sue, thanks so much for sharing your lawn adventure! I know exactly what you mean with the early stages of lawn to garden beds, it is what we did at the Asheville house. It still looks quite bare, but we used hardwood mulch and newspapers at the base, then planted shrubs and perennials. It still doesn’t look like much, but like you, I don’t consider gardening to be work! You too have a great Easter weekend!

  8. Rose says:

    Your front lawn looks like a mini-prairie, Frances–I love it! Have a very Happy Easter!

    Hi Rose, thanks. A mini-prairie would be wonderful. I keep throwing stuff in there to see what will grow. My original list of plantings has definitely been altered by reality.
    You too have a wonderful Easter weekend!

  9. Dee says:

    Funny to read this. I’m writing a piece about meadows now and how they take time. 🙂

    Hi Dee, thanks for taking time to visit here. About the taking time, if only I knew when I started what I have learned from experience, the lawn/meadow would look much better now!

  10. sandy lawrence says:

    Ah, so much to learn here, Frances. I have no lawn but wild grass and flower meadows, too, so we are like-minded, but I kept thinking I needed to shell out big bucks for large flagstones for paths and I was definitely dragging my feet on that because of the cost. Duh, what was I thinking? I will mow paths as you have shown! Hoo-ray! Problem solved at no cost. Love it, love it, love it. I hope that you and your family have a lovely Easter weekend.

    Hi Sandy, thanks. I am so glad you are able to save those big bucks to spend on plants instead of paths! It takes me less than ten minutes to mow, that includes getting out the lawnmower, plugging it in and washing it off afterwards before putting it away! May you have a wonderful Easter weekend, too.

  11. indygardener says:

    It looks great, Season by season, that’s how a garden grows.

    Hi Carol, thanks. So true, season by season. No reason to expect otherwise.

  12. Gail says:

    Frances, It’s charming and inspiring. In fact, I have a few V bonariensis that I can add to my lawnette. They’ll be a nice bit of purple to compliment the other purples there! Did I say inspiring? I meant to say, you rock at inspiring. xoxogail

    Hi Gail, thanks so much. The Verbena will be wonderful in your lawnette, the pollinators will flock to it. Purple is becoming in your lovely garden.

  13. Just beautiful Frances! We had lots of crimson clover scattered among the wildflowers in our orchard last year, and the bees arrived in droves, they just love it. This year though I didn’t let it come back as our wretched voles love the stuff too. Hopefully in a few years when the fruit trees are mature enough to fend off the voles we can plant it again. I love the mowed areas through your meadow area. It takes something seemingly wild, and gives it purpose, and intent. Love it!

    Hi CV, thanks for adding in here. I was a little worried that the clover was not going to bloom, maybe I planted it too late? There is a vole problem on the steeper back gardens than in the lawn, perhaps because under it is a gravel driveway that might be hard for the little devils to dig in. Your orchard sounds wonderful and the thought of drifts of crimson clover would be a dream. The mowing really neatens it up.

  14. Oh what a delightful project! The sculptures, especially, really add a unique touch. I will have to check back on your previous posts about reducing lawn and creating sculptures. Congrats on your success with the design, planting, and implementation!

    Hi Plant Postings, thanks so much. The sculptures did turn out better than expected and maybe there will be enough wild grapevine this fall to make a few more. I appreciate your reading the older posts, I sometimes feel sorry for them!

  15. Love the idea and it looks great. I’m sure the wildlife will enjoy this part of your yard. I love it with its natural look.

    Hi Sandy, thanks. There is lots of wildlife here that seem to enjoy it.

  16. This is really a pretty design. I love how you added the art.

    Hi Donna, thanks. The shape and slope dictated the design. The four sections were a bit busy, it seems better with just the two. The Cattails were fun to make, I am hoping for a good wild grapevine harvest this year to make more.

  17. I love red clover! We have a circle of white clover filled lawn because we have four playful dogs and a hammock. Your planting combos are beautiful!

    Hi Casa, thanks for joining in here. I love all clover and we have plenty of several kinds here, too. One just has to watch out when barefooted since the bees love the flowers so, but don’t love being stepped on! I learned long ago to wear shoes, even though grass feels so good on tooties.

  18. Linda says:

    I wish I can do to my “meadow”, here in Kentucky, what I did to my “meadow”, in Wine Country, Ca. I broadcasted purple lupin seeds and California poppies over 2 1/2 acres. It was so beautiful I could nearly break into singing the Sound of Music! I’m dealing with such dense clay and the inclines, here, that I feel repeated failures…..and I’m so busy with work, I feel it will be a long time before I make sense of my gardens. Your blogs give me a sense of hope (there really is an answer to every challenge…..your home is living proof) Thanks for reminding me to keep pluggin’………. : )

    Hi Linda, thanks for adding in here, and HANG IN THERE! Gardens are not made overnight, no matter that those silly tv shows say. You are doing it right, studying the terrain and thinking. I suggest you write down your ideas for when you do have the time and resources to work on it more. It will wait for you. My yard is proof that awful clay and a steep slope can be made into a garden, never finished but that is as it should be.

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