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)