Do You Meadow?


Do you have an urban meadow? 

Conventional design has had a long separation from plant to plant, with bare earth between. New naturalism changes that dynamic with plants filling entire properties in various ways, but creating meadows being quite popular.


Urban meadows can’t really replicate the density of natural plant habitats, yet this full, loose garden effect does make many people smile and get the impression of a flower filled meadow. Others might cringe in imagining the work involved. Some might get OCD at the perceived unruliness.

Front garden

Front garden

Meadows are a desired garden type, especially for those with anti-lawn sentiments and a great concern for diminishing pollinators. The other day I had a friend over and she could not get over all the bees in my garden. I told her my garden is bee heaven. And why?

Self-sowing is a crucial part of this new naturalism, but this style of gardening depends greatly on understanding plants, their habits and their pollinators. While I depend quite a bit on self-sowing plants, dealing with accidental weed seed in the mix can be quite a pain. This year has been the “year of the WEED”.

Coreopsis Coreopsis

The photos in this post are images throughout the growing season, so you will see my urban “meadow” in various stages. I have a few images of the garden at the beginning of the month, below.

You might know I don’t consider it really an urban meadow. I propose they are not something we can make in the real sense of the word, but we do it for pollinators just the same. So how do I create my “meadow”?

In my garden, I don’t step the plants by height as you probably noticed. It is far more natural looking with interspersed plants of varying height, where the sunlight filters through the taller plants. Habitat and conditional compatibility is paramount choosing plants that suit the area, yet work well in a community. Many of the perennials chosen for my garden are based on their loose, natural feel. Some like the lilies, daylilies and Delphinium are pretty much plants that carry color through the summer, but most others are chosen for the benefit of pollinators.


Rhythm is important to this type of gardening, but not strict repetition. I repeat plants but not in even increments. The rhythm comes in movement of the plants and how the plants relate to one another. As beautiful and free as nature – to making a garden sympathetic to natural schemes, there is always a negative to every positive.

Front garden

Front garden

Unfortunately what started as a way to bring wildlife to the garden, can slowly shift into low gear if it becomes too much garden!! If there is such a thing for diehard gardeners.

Garden maintenance and when making additional gardens, one has to seriously think about long-term care. What can you handle? Health issues may surface preventing tending so many, heavily planted gardens. My health has limited some time spent in the garden.

June 5, 2011

June 5, 2011

Keeping the “meadow” contained and cared for has a lot to do with the shrubs. For a city garden it is important to keep the neighbors happy by keeping the flowers tidy, especially those native flowers which can get rather unruly and untidy rather quickly. It does not take long for a plant like goldenrod, carex, myosotis or evening primrose to get out of hand for example.

I am surprised to see home gardeners digging up more and more property and wonder if they do consider the work that lies ahead in dividing, separating and cutting back?


Most gardeners actually enjoy tasks like pruning, deadheading, hand-watering, weeding, and inspecting the plants daily, but as gardeners age, these activities start feeling a lot more like work. The more and more new garden beds only compounds the work.

It is a great consideration when packing in the plants with limited square footage.

Have you felt like some days you just have too much garden?

I am lucky because my garden square footage is small, yet at times the number of plants has become overwhelming.

I am planning on attending a talk in a few days on biennials and self-sowers since I depend on them in my garden and talk about them frequently on this blog. As you know, these two plant types can get very garden frisky, so I am hoping for a few new pointers on control. When I get back in a week, I will have a post shortly after from this seminar. Stay tuned. But in the meantime while I am away, I have a post on the legacy prairie of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens at the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture. You will see a lot more brown and less flowers at this time of year (June 10) in the 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:
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34 Responses to Do You Meadow?

  1. johnvic8 says:

    I don’t have a meadow but have often dreamed about having one. I hope they have one in heaven.

  2. swo8 says:

    I sometimes feel like I have too much garden but I always want more. Just picked some Strawberries and Rhubarb. Looking forward to breakfast.

    • Be careful what you wish for! Just kidding. But it really can get overwhelming when you face the garden each spring if you have a tightly packed garden. While the garden itself can help keep weeds out by full plantings, when you get a year like we had, the weed seed finds a way in. I had Norway maple trees under every perennial.

  3. bittster says:

    I always enjoy your posts on the meadow gardens and natural look… but honestly I enjoy nearly all your posts (macro shots of flies being the only exception!). This time of year the garden does seem a lot of work, and I do consider that ‘too many beds’ thought, but then the next season of bloom comes along and I pop a few Tylenol and keep chugging along!

    • Thank you, Frank. You are too funny. Tylenol does not help me anymore, prescription meds for me. Well worn joints. As much as I like the native plants, they are the ones becoming the garden thugs. My next post has a list of most of the plants in my front and side beds, and a few I tried to cull. They just plain won’t leave!!!

  4. I love meadows, Donna, and wish our property was surrounded by them as was my home in England. Our fields are planted with crops that keep the multiflora rose and Russian olive at bay — I’m afraid a meadow wouldn’t do that. In a couple of weeks I’m attending a seminar at Longwood Gardens on the creation of the meadow there. BTW – it would be lovely if you could swing by my gardens while you are in PA. P. x

    • Thank you so much for the invite Pam. I am on a whirlwind of only a few short days total with drive time this time or I would take up your offer. I would love to see your beautiful farm and gardens, plus Dude! I am attending a talk at Chanticleer, then a few days visit to Mt. Cuba, Delaware, then home. I hope to be back in late August again for a more leisurely trip. We could meet up then. I would love to hear the talk on Longwood’s meadow, that is today correct? I likely will not be able to fit in Longwood this visit sadly, too little time.

  5. Those meadows look lovely. I’m planning to keep the land around the new house we’re building soon low maintenance, because you’re so right about creating work. Gardening should be a joy, not a chore. Luckily, the natural state of the land is grass, tussocks and moss (moss in winter). The wildlife is very efficient at mowing it, those wallabies and forester kangaroos have a healthy appetite! It will be a natural, very short meadow, haha!

    • Gardening should be a joy, wise words spoken. I very much like the natural state of the land. I have some posts coming up from my travels that will show gardens all created with native plants, even formal gardens, and what looks like a natural meadow or woodland assisted gardens.

  6. arlene says:

    I love all these beautiful flowers….

  7. Annette says:

    I do, Donna, and it’s full of wildflowers and about 10 different species of orchid. These days I spend a lot of time in amongst them to shoot butterflies etc. It’s pure magic, you’d love it 🙂

    • I know you have wonderful gardens all looking so well designed and in a natural way. I would love to experience your gardens. As small as my garden is in size, it works big for wildlife. You have large gardens and that increases the wildlife benefit many times over.

      • Annette says:

        The meadow is where the mules graze (restricted though until orchids have seeded). Of course, you can create a haven for wildlife on a small scale too as you’ve proven so well.

  8. I absolutely love your garden. Beautiful! I do mix in annuals also but I don’t use self-sowers or biennials much. I must admit this is the first year I’ve felt overwhelmed by the garden at times. I have a vague idea about gradually introducing more grasses and dwarf shrubs as a way of reducing maintenance needs.

    • Thank you Jason, so very kind of you to say. I like how you have a prairie garden on a small scale. My next post has one here in Niagara Falls. Hard to believe the Hort school created a prairie, but they did. I photographed it June 10 and you can see the plants that will welcome summer and fall just starting to fill out. I do question what differentiates this garden from a meadow, but it is heavy in grasses like a prairie. Your garden will benefit from additional grasses. What your selections because they are really hard to divide when they get large. Deep roots and it takes a lot of digging. The gas company pulled out my zebra grass and they were amazed at how long it took. The other thing about this prairie, is it has changes in elevation, rolling hills. It is very pretty, but come late summer, I will show it again.

  9. rogerbrook says:

    Is the orange poppy Meconopsis cambrica?
    I grow the yellow one and the orange one too. It self seeds very freely and for me becomes a lovely weed!
    Unfortunately my ‘wild’ form of gardening disturbs our domestic bliss. Brenda likes tidy!

    • It is Papaver Summer Breeze Series. It looks very much like the ones you grow. Mine has not spread, but ever year pops up in the same place. It likes the rocks at the front of my front bed. I would like to add more because it lasts a long time in flower.

  10. Bill Thompson says:

    I discovered your blog a couple of months ago and have been blessed by it ever since. I, too, am a photographer and your images are superb! At 73, gardening is still a joy and restorative, but at the end of the day, the aspirin does help! I wish you improving health to continue your wonderful blog site and the weeds be damned! Garden on!
    Bill T.

    • Thank you Bill. I appreciate your nice comment. I have been photographing for 30+ years and have to admit, my garden photos are never much more than snapshots. I don’t put in the effort unfortunately. I should, but garden photos is my least interesting photographs to take. I do love travel, big landscape scenes (mountains, oceans, forests, rivers, rural pastures, etc.) and wildlife (insects included) the most. Garden flowers? Far too common without an insect.

  11. Your gardens always look natural and carefree. Mine tend to look messy– and weedy. It does take a lot of work to maintain that carefree look.

  12. Alesia WEISS says:

    Lovely post and photos

  13. Karen says:

    I have had many people ask me why we didn’t plant the Back Eight to meadow, but I assumed they were kidding. (Or didn’t have a clue that meadows are also work.) My garden is too big, but every year we work at whittling it down a little bit more. Wonderful post, as always!

    • You have such a large garden and are very lucky your family helps keep it looking so well maintained and designed. I agree, a true meadow is difficult to keep desired blooming plants year after year without a lot of manpower or woman power in your case. Too many invaders have a way of replacing plants we adore. I remember you taking out some of your garden, but you had a way of putting in something else so much more magnificent too (the stonework). Thanks for visiting, Karen.

  14. debsgarden says:

    I have the perfect place for a meadow, but it remains a field of weeds, which my hubby keeps under control with a weed eater. The reason is that at my age (and with my severe arthritis which has already given me one artificial hip!) I know I should be cutting back, or at least not expanding my garden, which is already quite large. I think it would also be quite expensive and a lot of work to successfully create my idea of a meadow. Still, I dream about how lovely it would be! Your garden is very beautiful, a feast for human eyes as well as for the pollinators!

    • Thank you, Deb. I am so glad my garden is little as I have arthritis and bursitis too. Too many years of intricate drawing, and I am also glad now for drawing and painting on computers. It is a lot easier with arthritic digits.

      Meadows are work to keep them from becoming a field of undesirable weeds. The initial planting is wonderful but in a few years it just reverts. Your garden is so beautiful as is, and I would bet it still requires time from you, even though you have many trees and shrubs.

  15. Brian Comeau says:

    That is a pretty amazing garden! Hope you are feeling better these days.

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