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Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Meadow

New this year (2006) was the sunny wildflower garden.

What I really wanted was a sunny wildflower 'meadow', but space constraints dictated something more like a wildflower 'patch' - so that is what I've been calling it. Still, I think of it as 'the meadow'. Even though it is small, I think I'll go back to calling it "the meadow" or "wildflower meadow". That makes me happier.

The rest of that open slope has been torn up all summer as terracing is under construction. The one bright, redeeming, enjoyable spot has been the "meadow" of wildflowers, resulting in more humming birds and more butterflies than we have ever had.

Lately, every time I walk down the path, goldfinches scatter everywhere in all directions. Flocks of them are relishing the seeds of the purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea). The coneflowers did very well down there after being moved from their backyard spot where the most important tree used to stand, and where today the Japanese tomato-ring grows.

Goldfinches remind me of my grandmother back home on the farm where I grew up, she called them "wild canaries", but (whisper) I knew better. Canaries were like the one in her kitchen in a cage; whose beautiful song spread over the yard from the open kitchen door. I knew better, but I played the game, and didn't dare correct her. (I knew better.)

I'm sure there was a nest of hummingbirds somewhere in the dell this summer for I keep seeing unusually small ones. Two appeared to be in a neck-to-neck race up the path as a helper and I were walking down. Zoommmm!!! Two tiny dots, smaller than my thumb, shot past our heads, too close for comfort! We ducked! What fun they seemed to be having. For weeks now every time I look out the back kitchen window, I see what appears to be dots zipping about in the air…. was that bees or birds?!

Couldn't always be sure. But, I am sure that it is all due to the wildflowers in the meadow down in the dell.

We first rented a sod cutter and removed the sod, then laid out the paths. It was late winter, and I knew mud would be around for awhile. I decided on a fabric-type path-cover that is supposed to last a few years at least. That way we could walk on the obvious paths and hoped everyone else would, also.

We wanted to stay off the growing areas. Yet, we needed to get to the brush pile beyond at the bottom of the bank. That dictated a path route that made a loop around the meadow and through it at the far end.

This photo was a shot taken from the terrace which is about halfway down the slope and it shows the paths laid out before plants were growing. The brown area in the distant right, was later planted with 48 small starts of Siberian iris. Farther to the right is a green area small enough to "mow" with a mechanical string trimmer. Then there is the picnic table at the edge of the woodland garden. Next photo is a close up of the path-cover fabric.

We did not till the meadow, for I was afraid it would turn up too many weed seeds. So once the sod was removed, we scattered seeds, and having no roller to press them into contact with the soil, we did funny foot-work to press them in - all the time hoping no neighbor was looking for it looked like a very strange dance - and very tiring once we covered the total area.
As the weeks passed the flowers grew, bloomed, and have gone to seed. The seedy stage is important for next years crop. Eventually, they will be mowed and left as a mulch. I hope there are enough in contact with Mother Earth to grow and be pretty next year, but right now it's looking very unkempt. I'm hoping the neighbors don't report me to the city for having tall "weeds" where vermin might dwell.

"Portrait by a Neighbour"

BEFORE she has her floor swept
Or her dishes done,
Any day you'll find her
A-sunning in the sun!
It's long after midnight,
Her key's in the lock,
And you'll never see her chimney smoke
Till past ten o'clock!
She digs in her garden
With a shovel and a spoon,
She weeds her lazy lettuce
By the light of the moon,
She walks up the walk
like a woman in a dream,
She forgets she borrowed butter
And pays you back cream!
Her lawn looks like a meadow,
And if she mows the place
She leaves the clover standing
And the Queen Anne's Lace!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay)



Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

I love that poem.

Nancy J. Bond said...

Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote my favorite poem (Journey) and it's not hard to understand why -- this poem is delightful and one I hadn't read before! Your meadow is absolutely beautiful and will only become more so as the seasons go by, I'm sure. Thank you for the lovely stroll. :)

Benjamin Vogt said...

Poetry and meadows, not a bad way to blog. Someday I hope to have a mini meadow like you, too! They are absolutely gorgeous, and as you've observed, so full of life.

Sheila said...

Beautiful photos and I love your wildflower garden!

Anonymous said...

I love Queen Anne's lace, too, Barbee'! Took her a while to make her way to Hawk's Haven--I'm still waiting for my other love, oxeye daisies--but well worth the wait. Am I reading correctly that these are photos from 2006? If so, knowing how quickly meadow gardens evolve, please tell us what's blooming/growing in it now!

Mother Nature said...

Hi, Barbee,
We have a borrowed meadow behind us...not as beautiful as yours. It is a pasture mowed only once a year and the grade is steep so animals seldom come to it. This year it was not mowed in June as per usual. So it fills with wild flowers. I especially like the iron weed that flowers later in the year.

garden girl said...

Isn't it amazing that even a small plot like that can pay such huge dividends for the benefit of the wildlife! So cool to bring more of them in closer for more intimate observation.

I sure can relate to that poem! (Tonight I'm up late tending some chicken breasts in the smoker instead of gardening by the light of the moon :)

Queen Anne's Lace is a beautiful flower.

Eve said...

Beautiful pictures of your meadow, and a lovely poem.
I have two slightly overweight red birds that play in the trees behind my house. I want to take thier pics but I can't seem to get my camera ready in time before they fly off.

I know why they are fat...They ate my strawberries and my Mulberries and left me little purple coins everywhere in payment. LOL

Ross said...

I once planted a meadow, but it wasn't too successful - yours looks beautiful.
I always love your photos, but especially the last one. Chief Photographer is quite talented...

Philip Bewley said...

Meadows are my favorite types of gardens. Bees love them,too. It is fun to collect seeds and plant for next year. Can you grow the CA lupines there? they take a few years to bloom from seed we collected, but they are much more perennial than I thought, blooming for years here. You have created the "flowery mead" !

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Barbee, I have a little meadow patch too. Very small, but I love this area and will resow it this fall. This time, though, I'm using an Oklahoma seed mix. Loved the poem. Your photos are very nice.~~Dee

Meadowview Thymes said...

Your meadow is beautiful! I love wildflowers. You are lucky to have a place for them. I plant wildflower seeds in the little corner bed in my backyard--it really is the wildflower "patch!" But I love it anyway.
Love all the birds and butterflies in your garden!

Meadowview Thymes said...

You've been tagged! : )
Please visit my blog!
Happy Gardening!


Barbee' said...

Hi Debbi: I do, too! Sounds just like me :)

Thank you, Nancy: This poem is one of my favorites, because I identify with it so much.

Benjamin: I especially enjoy looking at the stones you laid out through your garden. There is something about them that is very calming and relaxing to me. A mini-meadow can be very small. I read one suggestion of scattering wildflower seeds on top of the tulip bed when they are fading, so that when they are dormant the wildflowers will take over. I've never done that... yet.

Hi Sheila: Thank you! And, thank you, again.

OFB: Glad to hear that Queen Anne finally found your place. Some of those plants in the photos are QA's lace (biennial, Daucus carota, wild carrot), and some of them are a look alike, an annual called Ammi (Ammi majus) And, another link with a warning about the seeds' effects on animals. I will try to do some follow-ups eventually. My energy level has about bottomed out this year. I'm struggling, but I keep trying.

Mother Nature: How nice that you have that vista without the responsibility of caring for it. I know iron weed. We have it here in the garden. It spreads by seeds, and roots. Beautiful color, though. Especially with goldenrod. I am trying to get both of those out of the beds and moved down into the meadow, but every little bit of root left makes a new plant (both kinds do that, Iron Weed and Goldenrod).

garden girl: Yes, it is amazing. Mmmm, chicken... I think it is lunch time.
See my reply to OurFriendBen.

Eve: Chuckle!! We have some of those, too. Ours are plumped up on sun flower seeds. Soon the elderberries will be ripe and there will be purple everywhere.

Ross: I think the title 'Wildflower' meadow causes people to think they are easy to do, but that isn't the truth. They need a good bit of attention and help. Mine hasn't gotten that this year. I think it will be an on-going project. As I mentioned above, I hope to move golden rod and iron weed into the meadow. Sometime, we might add excess spring bulbs into it. Chief Photographer said, "Blush!"

Philip: Me, too. I guess I will always be a country girl. Regarding the Lupine, over the years I have tried them a few times. This time, I had one lupine to grow and flower from the mixed seeds. I don't expect it to come back. As I understand it, they need pH that is lower than our alkaline soil. Wish I could have success with them. I do love them very much. Just can't have everything in one place, I suppose. Dandelions do very well here :) I am still working on that flowery mead effect.

Hi dee: I think even a small corner area is a good spot for a small wildflower area and can be quite pretty. That will be interesting to have a different mix this time. Thank you for the positive feedback. I am glad you enjoyed the post.

meadowview thymes: I bet your little corner wildflower patch is a delight. I remember a cousin of my mother's had a small patch that had nothing but blue bachelor buttons (corn flowers to some people). Every time we went to visit I checked on the bachelor buttons and loved and appreciated them. When I think of that old house and that yard to this day, what I remember most, is that little patch of blue bachelor buttons.

I love the birds and butterflies, too. They seem happy here... until the hawk comes shopping for dinner. But, that doesn't happen very often.

Tagged again!, ha, Ok. This is my third time to be tagged in three weeks... fun, fun, fun! Maybe I will just add some more random things to that one and run it again. After all, it is summer re-runs time.

easygardener said...

Those flowers are beautiful and as a bonus they encourage wildlife - I do envy you the humming birds.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful meadow! and I imagine the wildflower dance must have gone on for some time. I garden in LA, but am housesitting for a friend in Mpls. She has started a wildflower patch, but so far it's just dirt and some enterprising maple seedlings. How long did yours take to grow in?

Barbee' said...

easygardener: Thank you; yes, the wildlife is as good or better than the flowers. And, the combination is... heavenly.

rootsinthecity: Well, we planted it in late winter; I think it was February or March. Then it started blooming in June. Not everything bloomed at once. Different plants have different timing. Some came on then faded as others came into bloom. Being the first year it was annuals. The biennials and perennials don't bloom the first year, of course. I just keep thinking how the major investment in a garden is: time.

Kylee said...

Barbee, I LOVE your meadow! That's what my husband wants on part of our property, but I don't think it would look right here.

"Wild canaries" - that's what we used to call them, too. I don't know why. Probably because our parents did.

Cinj said...

What a lovely meadow! I love those bird pictures, how do you do it?

That reminds me, I haven't posted about my meadow yet and I keep meaning to. With the dogs coming I'm not sure if I'll be able to get around to it though. I love wildflower meadows!