Urban Meadows, What a Biologist Thinks

I did not need help identifying the Ambush Bug on a plant found in meadows, yet in my front garden, Veronica. Is this not a homely looking couple above? The female bug is looking into the camera too, as it was only six inches in front of her face. Is she smiling?

I was not going to do a post today because my post Bee Bombing is doing so well, but I posed a question to an entomologist. I asked her to define a meadow and the actual habitat that it provides for whole communities of insects. I explained that my front garden has many plants that could be found in natural meadows in very limited number, but how it would never be an actual meadow just by the sheer scale of the area devoted to such plants. I feel that it is such a strong article that I want to share it with readers here.

Just in case you wanted a closer view. They are small bugs, so I was lucky to spot them.

I am always looking for professionals in related fields to weigh in on this subject. My post The Native Melting Pot of Plants, What Goes, has always been a popular post. In that post I discussed the current trend of urban meadows with a horticulturist. So this time I wanted to see what a naturalist might say. Rather than interview her, I asked that she do a post so I would in no way influence her in any manner. Being a scientist, that would be unlikely anyway, but I wanted her totally impartial. Also, I was prepared to have her totally disagree with my position in my post on Urban Meadows and Native Plants.

So if you want to see what a true biologist would say, please have a look at her post, Apples to Oranges: Urban Meadows. She did a very thoughtful post and her take on meadows may surprise you. Please leave her a comment too.

My meadow plant, Monarda.

My next post is a tour of the The Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. And I have a surprise, I am going to show you a schematic project I did of a children’s garden and art center. I rarely show my architectural work, so you will see a little about me. Then Sunday night, another Open Garden post. This one you have seen before, but it is one that is truly worth a second look.

Now off to Apples to Oranges, Urban Meadows.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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28 Responses to Urban Meadows, What a Biologist Thinks

  1. Thank you for the forum.

  2. The ambush bug is amazing, Donna. It’s new to me and now I have to look out for it. I have space for a meadow here but would not attempt to create one — too much work at my time of life, I think. But the subject fascinates me and I’m off to read the article. P. x

  3. Barbie says:

    Oh WOW!!! What interesting friends of the garden. The humming bird shot is amazing!! I MUST get Bee Balm in my meadow too!!

  4. Thanks for the shout out, Donna! I definitely have a lot of people stopping by. 🙂

    • Your welcome, but the thanks goes to you for the wonderful article. It adds to the discussion that started a long while ago on this subject. So many books have been written promoting Urban Meadows, that it seems a bit trendy. My original post was in response to a book review over a year ago and I thought the images in no way resembled any kind of meadow. One image really looked similar to my from yard.

  5. I look forward to seeing some of your architectural work.
    I had already been to standingoutinmyfield, great discussion. As for your photos of the loving couple, my my. 🙂

    • The project I am posting is a conceptual project, not one that ended up being built. Parts of the project did end up built. I never really post the completed buildings because I was part of a firm and many individuals become part of the project, not just myself.

  6. Deborah - d.mooncrab says:

    what a great catch on the bug couple. Wow!!

  7. Indie says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading her article – thanks for instigating this!
    And I love the photos of the homely little bugs!

  8. What a Capture with the Bug and love, love hummingbirds! Have a Great Day and Happy Exploring:)

  9. I know all too well how messy nature is when it comes to planting. When I first moved here I figured I’d die exhausted, and of a very old age, by the time I ‘tamed’ things here. Fortunately, I managed to adjust my eye, and learn to truly appreciate the haphazardness of the natural plantings here. I do augment some of them with a few other native species, but much of the garden is planted by nature herself. I do a little selective weeding too. The more difficult part was learning to stop apologizing for the gardens not being ‘neat and tidy’, but I’m happy to say, I’m over that now 😉 Whether any of it is truly meadow, is probably open to interpretation, but the pollinators don’t seem to mind either way.

    • I really think these wild spaces are the most interesting. As much as I like landscape design, it never compares to the diversity of life found in the wild areas. My garden gets quite a bit of wildlife, from snakes to rabbits to hawks, and all the little creatures, but I do plant for them to come, but it is still not like at the farm. Your farm gets an incredible amount of creatures. Bobcats, wild turkeys, fox…. etc.

  10. Andrea says:

    Hi Donna, i haven’t visited often as i’ve been sick for a week now, still absent from work. Today, i can do the net already, and I am glad i saw Donna’s @Garden Eye View before coming over and then to Apples to Oranges, Urban Meadows. I wonder why i can’t comment on wordpress, so my long comment in her site did not show up! I love her article on meadows, she reinforced my thoughts, which i am not sure if it is my own or the remnants of my Ecology class in graduate school. Thanks for asking her to write an article and for telling us, we learned again! For me, meadows are just a point in succession, as she said from bare land to forest. And it is fully influenced by climate, natural resource, biodiversity and conditions existing in the area. When influenced by human beings it can already be a ‘false meadow’ or a ‘forced meadow’. Maybe urban meadows can still be possible but they will already be ‘false meadows’, another type of landscape done by man, not by nature!

    • I wish your comment would have gotten through. She would have responded to you. I have been saying all along that there should be a different name for these urban spaces. I know I cannot characterize my garden as a meadow, yet I have many of the same plants, such as the monarda, asters and daisies.

  11. Great shot of the cute couple! They do look like they’re smiling. 😉 Did you happen upon the hummer, or do they hang around a lot in your garden. In my garden, they’re kind of shy. Thanks for all the great info, Donna.

    • The hummingbirds visit usually about four times a day, keeping a pretty regular schedule. Today I was outside when one came and it landed in my Lilac. Usually, I don’t see them perch. I did get photos too, even though it was inside the plant.

  12. Another great insect that I have not happened upon yet. My hummers are regular feeders on a schedule too around the garden and they do love to perch on small branches I leave untrimmed on the ash trees..but I get more visits if we are not in the garden so we watch them from inside…I will certainly go visit the site and article. I think a native or natural planting may be a better term than a meadow as we know it for urban settings.

    • Most of my photos are from inside, but I have been out there a few times and the hummingbirds come to the Monarda or Trumpet Vine. One time, too close for the long lens. I rarely get more than one at a time since they are so territorial, but when I was in Costa Rica, there would be 30 of them at the feeder. Fights were always breaking out. There, the birds would land on me or fly right up to my face. The birds in my garden are very accustomed to me being there, so will visit if I am in the garden, but are not as comfortable overall. I hope you get a chance to leave her a comment. She has a wonderful site, and you may enjoy it as she is a writer of children’s stories. I always wanted it illustrate kid’s books, but am not sure I could ever come up with a story.

      When you read her article, you will see that natives are not really the plants that predominantly comprise a meadow. They are mostly those that are by chance, so they can be any herbaceous plant, introduced, invasive or naive. That is a misconception that I had as well, I assumed that the meadows were native plants. Since a meadow is defined by change, it will not settle into a permanent planting, but will succeed into a few iterations over time. That is something I did know from all my work designing them into projects over the years. They are short-lived. Meadows are borne of disturbed land (like those our company creates), and if I would have thought about it, would have deducted that native plants would make a lesser percentage. At the farm, the meadows have many introduced plants and each year my photos are different as a result. Nature (mostly weather) make these changes. Her article made me see a very fundamental point, now I will be more observant at the farm. As for urban meadows, I still think they really are apples to oranges as she said.

  13. Definitely smiling… And a fascinating article. I think it helps to reinforce that whatever we do in our gardens, including planting lots of natives to encourage wildlife, is a complement to, not a replacement for, the wild spaces in all their glorious chaotic change.

    • That is my approach in my garden. I plant for the animals big and small, not to define any particular garden style. I have a variety in my small space, trees, shrubs, vines and herbaceous plants for shelter and food. I see many in our area doing the same, but I never hear them saying they are planting a meadow with the herbaceous beds. This term got into the design world a number of years ago, and now seems to be a trend in full force. But the majority of people that plant these spaces do not have the know how to keep them going in a way that does not turn them into successive weedy lots, and that is what is a true meadow as by definition.

  14. sharon says:

    no privacy for bugs…XXX……its amamzing what you can do with macro…I want one!

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