Friday, December 7, 2007

Landscape - Meadow Plantings for the Landscape

We have a significant number of homes being built on large lots. Instead of installing turf on all the area not in landscape beds, consider creating a meadow on a portion of the site. The following is information on meadow plantings.

When homes are built on former farmland (a situation occurring throughout the country), there are often large acreages planted in cool season turf. Lawns play an important role in the home landscape, providing play areas, pathways and a uniform ground layer for landscape beds. However, large lawns do not provide biodiversity and can result in hours of weekly maintenance. Maintain lawn areas where they serve a purpose but remember that sunny expanses in your backyard, sideyard or even frontyard are ideal for meadows.

A healthy meadow in a sunny location is usually dominated by grasses. Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) or a number of different broomsedges (Andropogon sp.) can be seeded to create a meadow. Purpletop grass (Tridens flavus) blooms profusely in mid summer. Little bluestem is at the height of its beauty in the fall and winter when it turns a rich apricot color.

With warm season grasses as a starting point, you can add flowering perennials such as butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), blazing star (Liatris spicata) and Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium dubium or E. fistulosum), to name just a few. Perennials can be added from seed (if the seed can reach the soil to make good contact) or by planting plugs, which allows you to add perennials in patterns. One strategy is to add perennials to the outer edge of the meadow where they will be most visible. Also, look at bloom times and select perennials that will bloom throughout the growing season to keep the meadow interesting.

Meadows do require some yearly maintenance. Keep woody plants from taking over the meadow by mowing at least once a year to a height of 4-6 inches in the early to mid-spring. You may choose to leave some woody plants, like Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) to provide an interesting accent. To keep a meadow from becoming too tall and rangy, mow again in early summer (Father’s day is an easy time to remember for the second mowing). Spot spray for undesirable weeds in your meadow, such as invasive thistles or crown vetch.

To make a meadow more pleasing and visibly managed, mow a neat edge on a regular basis. Mowed paths give an appearance of order and allow you to stroll through the meadow to appreciate its subtle beauty.

Copied from "Liveable Plants for the Home Landscape", Authors: Susan Barton, University of Delaware, Sarah Deacle, Delaware Center for Horticulture, Gary Schwetz, Delaware Center for Horticulture, and Doug Tallamy, University of Delaware. For the full publication with photos go to

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