Popular as meadow gardening is, even tiny ones in a city or suburb can be a lot of work. While city “meadows” function less like a natural meadow, they make gardeners feel good about providing for wildlife, but it is not maintenance free. I just had a discussion with a few other professionals about this very point.
Part of the problem with making an urban meadow is they can become unsightly some of the season, and become more work than many can undertake. You just might start appreciating the ornamental merits of weeds if you can’t keep up with maintaining your meadow.
Every meadow garden is work and every meadow garden has those “down times” eventually in the meadow’s lifetime. Look at the prairie garden from yesterday. As beautiful as it is, if that was your small city garden, the neighbors might question your choices.
Like I mentioned in the last post, as gardeners age, keeping a tidy urban meadow or heavily planted city garden can get overwhelming in maintenance. Also, planning comes to the forefront to keep the garden in color to span the seasons, keeping some semblance of a garden rather than a field.
Meadow making is actually the restoration of an entire ecosystem, but this is a garden, not a restoration, so color and bloom (grasses included) are important.
Small gardens that incorporate plants like goldenrod for instance might be in for having a thug in the garden. A beautiful plant for pollinators, goldenrod can be aggressive to say the least. I tried removing it, but it keeps popping up throughout the garden.
Rudbeckia, coneflowers, baptisia, phlox, goldenrod, coreopsis, aster, and milkweed, can be mixed with grasses for the meadow effect, but think how aggressively some of these plants perform. It is best to allow them room to roam. Of course, a tiny city garden is not a meadow, yet can still have meadow planting characteristics that are beneficial for the wildlife it attracts.
Plants in my city front/side gardens that might be considered (native or non-native) prairie or meadow-like plants are listed below.
What you might notice is the self-sowing plants and plants with runners. This is where all the work surfaces. Next post looks at how Chanicleer handles these very plants.
- Agastache (Will spread)
- Amsonia (Will spread)
- Aster (Both spreads and will die out over time)
- Butterfly weed (Seeds itself easily)
- Carex (removed 2012 – too aggressive)
- Coneflowers (May die out in my clay or get diseased)
- Coreopsis (Zageb stays containable, other varieties seed easily)
- Festuca glauca (Very well-behaved)
- Goldenrod (removed 2014 yet is persists in the garden – far too aggressive)
- Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’ (Spreads easily and not native)
- Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ (Forms large, hard to remove clumps)
- Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’ (Will spread aggressively, two of the shorter cultivars , ‘Marshall’s Delight’, ‘Pardon My Pink’ behave)
- Nepeta (Walker’s Low -attracts cats, even though tag says not)
- Pennisetum setaceum (annual)
- Penstemon (Needs constant culling, seeds all over)
- Phlox (Needs constant culling, runs)
- Rudbeckia (Hard to keep contained, spreads easily)
- Salvia (Will brown out, must be cut back for later season bloom)
- Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ (Will brown out, must be cut back for later season bloom)
- Sunflowers (Will seed everywhere if allowed)
- Tradescantia (removed 2013, yet it is still all over the garden, front and back – far too aggressive)
- Various Verbena (seeds)
- Yarrow (Looks rangy as the season goes on, but behaves to a point)
Plants I have to keep the color through the seasons:
- Allium (Multiplies, and that is a good thing for some)
- Caryopteris (Bees love this non-native)
- Daylilies (Needs dividing VERY often)
- Delphinium (Seeds itself, but well-behaved)
- Foxglove ( Self-seeds but not excessively)
- Hibiscus (Never overtook its boundaries)
- Hydrangea (Pee Gee- nice late-flowering plant)
- Iris (Gets a bit frisky in the garden but a very worthy plant)
- Iberis (Spreads)
- Lilies (Multiplies, but it is a good thing)
- Lupine (Does fine and seeds, but often finicky)
- Perovskia (Bees love this non-native)
- Poppies (Dies out over time, but will spread)
- Primrose (Very aggressive, spreads by runners-must be contained)
- Myosotis (Seeds itself all over, easy to remove though)
- Roses (Ground cover, but gets three-feet high)
- Various annuals, like Verbena bonariensis, (Most selected for wildlife)
- Tulips – (Species tulips for early show)
Hard to believe all that fits in my small garden plus the trees and shrubs, but there is even more that you might spot in the images – plus the back gardens where I did not even list the plants.
Even small city “meadows” are an enormous amount of work if you want to maintain some order. I can’t tell you how many people think it is a lazy gardener’s garden, yet it is anything but.
I am still in Pennsylvania now (this post was made and scheduled – provided I made it safely home). I hope you enjoy the naturalistic way to gardening. Even on a tiny plot, you can add a bit of nature.
I am sure to have some very neat images on meadows and native plantings when I get back. I am planning to visit Mt. Cuba in Delaware. While I did not get there in Spring as planned, I hope they have summer blooming wildflowers. I have never been to Mt. Cuba Education Center, but their tag line is “Gardening on a Higher Level.” Their mission is to “inspire an appreciation for the beauty and value of native plants and a commitment to protect the habitats that sustain them.” Readers here should enjoy my findings.