How to Elevate Your Garden Design With Meadows

Find beauty in letting Mother Nature run free.
meadow field

Photography by Doug Young

HC&G: Why plant a meadow?

EMILIA DEMAURO, co-founder, deMauro + deMauro Landscape Design & Gardens: Meadows introduce both sustainability and aesthetics to a garden plan. Whether in the form of a large-scale landscape or a strip planted out with wildflowers, a meadow brings the natural world to your property and will quickly become a sanctuary for birds and pollinators. Meadows are harmonious with most garden schemes, from free-form to formal.

What’s the best way to start?

ANNA DEMAURO, co-founder, deMauro + deMauro Landscape Design & Gardens: There are so many different styles of meadows. A natural meadow can be pretty effortless, although that depends on your tolerance for weeds and unruliness. Often, we like to experiment, so we let the lawn go and see what comes up. Don’t forget, weeds can be beautiful, but if you want something more refined, you can lay down black plastic for a year to prevent weed seeds from germinating, and then plant a mix of seeds, plugs, and container plants.

EdM: The possibilities are endless. You can also take a suburban-looking lawn, let the grass grow, and plant it with shrubbery and trees, keeping space for thickets along the edges with Eastern red cedars, Baccharis, meadowsweet, Rosa virginiana, and raspberries for some structure.

What are some great meadow plants?

EdM: Pollinators like Monarda fistulosa—you can’t kill it, and the deer don’t eat it—and more romantic flowers like Asclepias, Solidago, asters, Baptisia, ox-eye daisies, Echinacea, and rambling roses.

AdM: And grasses, of course, such as little and big bluestem, Bouteloua gracilis, Muhlenbergia— it has a “purple haze” bloom—and fescues, which are shorter in stature. And don’t forget Queen Anne’s lace, plus annuals like poppies, cosmos, bachelor’s buttons, and Coreopsis.

What type of maintenance schedule does a meadow require?

AdM: It depends. If you want something low maintenance, let the grasses come up and view the weeds as beautiful, then mow it all down in the fall. Or even leave it for winter interest and mow it in the spring.

EdM: If its flowers are self-seeders, as many meadow plants are, you want to leave them up as long as possible so that they disperse their seeds—assuming the birds haven’t gotten to them already. Meadows are either very little work or a ton of work, but Mother Nature generally knows what to do. There’s beauty in the chaos.

The print version of this article appears with the headline: Mind over Meadows.
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