HOw-to books are a useful tool to help the landscape hobbyist improve his lawn and garden. One such book I picked up recently was Sally Roth’s Natural Landscaping: Gardening With Nature To Create a Backyard Paradise. This is a helpful book that deals with the subject of lawn care and landscaping. Here is an excerpt from that book, to give you an idea of the valuable tips inside:
Section: A partnership with nature
Meadow gardening makes you a careful observer” says Mark Trela, owner of Fragrant Farms in New Harmony, Indiana. “You become a student of nature” he says. “You can see the interplay of different insects birds rabbits moles voles—everything working together.”
One thing Mark likes about being a partner with nature instead of an adversary: “your role is to be much less invasive than you’d be in a traditional more structured garden. Its more of a partnership.”
Today’s gardens look too much alike, says Mark. “You see the same types of plants, even the same cultivars, in garden after garden.” But a meadow garden is different. Its always a work in progress and always includes an incredible diversity of plants, some invited, other happy accidents.
Mark’s meadow gardens, which include several areas, none bigger than a quarter acre, begin with a combination of seeds and plants. He prefers not to go into an area with major equipment and rip it up. Instead, he digs by hand and often plants his wildflowers through existing grasses. he mulches thickly around his new plants to smother the grass. After the first year, he says, “I just stand back and watch as things reseed and spread.”
Grasses are crucial to a successful meadow garden, says Mark. They’re the backbone of the garden, keeping it interesting in fall and winter. He’s also fond of stalwart perennials like ironweed, monarda, and small white late-blooming heath aster. Self-sowing balsam and larkspur and stands of hollyhocks give his gardens an old-fashioned “grandma’s garden” air. A beautiful soft apricot-colored hollyhock bloomed one summer after years of mixed colors growing together . Mark liked it so much he saved the seed and grows it every year to perpetuate the strain.
Making a meadow garden requires a shift in perspective, says Mark. “In a typical, normal” landscape, we’re not thinking in wholes anymore—its something for the front and something for the back or the side. A meadow garden is a whole unit. As soon as you add coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and milkweeds to the grasses, you’ll have butterflies and insects. And after them will come the birds. “Just by virtue of being there, a meadow garden becomes an ecosystem. It’s an ecology of the whole, not just a few plants stuck in a traditional garden to attract butterflies who will only stick around long enough to eat.”
Mark likes to use a lot of native plants in his meadow gardens . He not only finds the plants beautiful but also points out that they offer sustenance to many insects and birds. “Swamp milkweed is one of my favorites,” he notes. “It has that beautiful, pale pink-purple color and the butterflies just love it. Cardinal flower is wonderful, too. Black-eyed Susans bloom all summer, and asters are really glorious in the fall. I love to watch the birds in the meadow. They’re mostly small songbirds–a lot of sparrows, indigo buntings–coming for the bugs on the plants or the seeds later in the season. They make it alive.”
Mark has a hard time naming the single favorite season for his meadow garden, because he finds beauty in it all year long. “”In springtime, things are greening up, and there’s that surge of growth. Flowers hit their peak in late June through midJuly, and the peak of flowers means the peak of insects. Then fall brings the rich, , mellow colors of the grasses