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making and maintaining meadow gardens, with owen wormser

THE TIME IS approaching for my annual pass with the tractor through my little meadow on the hill above my house—the one time each year I really intervene in it, by mowing (above). Meadow-making is an exercise in patience and restraint and in accepting that it has a life of its own, it seems to me. And I wanted to talk about all that with someone who makes meadows as his profession.

Owen Wormser’s popular 2020 book “Lawns into Meadows: Growing a Regenerative Landscape” (affiliate link) is just out in a new second edition. Owen is a landscape designer at Abound Design, his firm based in Western Massachusetts, and we talked about the life of a meadow and its maintenance. Meadows are not an overnight project, nor are they something that remains static and unchanging, I am reminded.

Plus: Enter to win a copy of the second edition of his book by commenting in the box near the bottom of the page.

Read along as you listen to the April 17, 2023 edition of my public-radio show and podcast using the player below. You can subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).

making, and maintaining, meadows, with owen wormser

 

 

Margaret: We talked when the book first came out, and you’ve won prizes with it and it’s gotten great acclaim, which is wonderful. We talked then about sort of how to choose plants to make a meadow, how to pick the right grasses that are such foundational plants for a meadow and the steps for soil preparation and so forth.

But today I just wanted to talk a little bit more about then what [laughter]? Because there is a long life cycle of then what and in the book toward the end you say, “Part of establishing a meadow is also a lesson in letting go. Basic maintenance aside, once you’ve designed and planted your meadow, your primary job is to give it the space and time it needs to reveal its own character.”

So let’s talk about that. Tell us, is that something you explain to potential clients before the fact?

Owen: I spend a lot of time educating people about this, whether they’re clients or in workshops. Really every opportunity that I have, I try to mention this, because it’s a linchpin to this whole process. And it’s one that people tend to overlook because really building a meadow and a lot of ecological gardening is a collaboration with nature. And so you have to let these species and the environment unfold and sort of unfurl in the way that they will. And plants aren’t entirely predictable. They’re not mechanical.

Margaret: That’s to say the least [laughter].

Owen: And so, exactly. But people often not, to be fair, people aren’t exposed to this perspective or this information. And we come from a culture where people are essentially ecologically illiterate. No one shows them this stuff. So people have to really learn to be able to observe and watch what’s happening. Really, the key piece here is to engage in ways that really are founded on observation.

Margaret: Yes. Now I’m in a rural place and I say that as a preface because to what I’m going to say, because as you and I have probably talked about before: In a place that wasn’t turfgrass, sown as turfgrass, a place that was an old field or something, you can kind of make a meadow by “unmowing” I think, sometimes or a lot of times you can just see what kind of comes up, more than you can in a bluegrass lawn or a fescue lawn or whatever, which who knows what’s going to come up there [laughter].

So I have this sort of unmown meadow above my house, and in the 35 years or so, maybe 30 years that I’ve been not mowing it and watching, I mean it’s totally changed. Initially it was a lot of leftover pasture grasses, but also a lot of little bluestem. And then the goldenrod started coming in, and then there was one species and now there’s six species of goldenrod [laughter].

Owen: Wow.

Margaret: It’s like, whoa, where are you all coming from? And that’s the thing is I just have to be okay with, it’s not what it was five years ago, 15 years ago, 25. Do you know what I mean? It’s got its own design like thing going. It’s designing itself.

Owen: It’s fluid. And that’s a really good example, because these things aren’t static. And as caretakers, we have the ability to steer this to some degree, but the idea is to also let the plants and the site and nature steer it as well. It’s a collaboration. So the idea that we’re imposing exactly what we want into a space is something that we kind of have to leave at the door, because that’s not what this is about. This is a collaboration, and that’s what you’ve been doing and you see what comes and goes. But you also, I’m sure do a little bit of editing here and there and do try to steer it to the degree that makes sense to you.

Margaret: Yes. And I want to talk more about the editing in a minute. But I think as gardeners though, and so down below that’s on the hill above the house and sort of down below in the areas right around the house, I’m more of a gardener. Right? And so I design a pot for the container design for the season, or I have a bed right near the walkway and I want the plants to be the plants where I want them, what I want, how many I want. You know what I mean? And I want to edit it as I want and deadheads it and this and that and the other thing. And it’s just the opposite. That is such gardening… Horticulture is such an act of control and-

Owen: Yeah. Absolutely. And with, I think permaculture has a good breakdown of this concept and they have different zones related to proximity to a residence. And so the zone that’s really close to a house, it does make sense a lot of times to have it be more curated and more fixed. And then as you move away from the residence, it makes a lot more sense to have it be more wild and more natural. And so there’s no hard-and-fast rule in that regard. But what you’re describing is the approach that I use as well, because I do create very curated fixed gardens quite a bit. That’s really actually my bread-and-butter, doing residential design. But with meadows, they’re relatively wild and it’s a very different approach.

Margaret: So a meadow also takes a long time. When someone says, “Oh, we want a meadow. We want to change our part of our law into this.” Why do you give them? And I suppose the timeline that you have to prepare them for also depends on the method of planting that seed, plugs, a combination, what you’re doing for prep, but what do you sort of give as the timeline of expectation?

Owen: When I’m planting with perennial native meadow seeds, I usually tell people it’s going to be at least two or three years before they really start to see those plants be a presence. And it often can be four or five years before a lot of those species are really present in a landscape.

So setting expectations is really, really important. And I try to do that as much as possible starting at the beginning of the design process, because people tend, in our culture, we tend to expect fast results. And perennial meadows take a while to establish.

And a couple of things that I do to kind of mitigate that is I’ve started putting annual seeds in with my nurse crops. So in the first year, there can be color, and often I’ll actually put down another round of annual seeds the second year to create color while the perennial plants are waiting to establish. And I also use plugs in prominent locations, even in conjunction with putting down seed.

Margaret: To sort of speed the process up a little bit?

Owen: Exactly. Plugs really will establish, if you put them in the spring, they tend to really establish and fill out as soon as the first year. So during that first summer, the color and the fullness of some of these plants starts to show up.

Margaret: So can you define “nurse crops” and also tell me some of the annuals that you are using in that first and maybe second year to help sort of visually make it look a little juicier earlier?

Owen: Yeah. So I use annual rye quite a bit as my nurse crop. That’s sort of my… And that’s a really common plant. And the nurse crop really just protects the little seedlings, the perennial seedlings as they establish. They keep the soil from eroding or getting sun, and they also provide much needed green cover. So that doesn’t look like a barren lot while we’re waiting for everything to establish.

That’s what the nurse crop does, but adding some annuals that flower really can provide color in that first year. And I’m new to this, it’s only been really three years or so since I started doing this because I was coming from a place where perennials and annuals and meadows sort of didn’t mix, which I think is kind of the mindset has been.

So my first go-around, I actually used non-natives. I used Cosmos and Gaillardia, and Helianthus, dwarf sunflower, some poppies, annual Rudbeckia, some zinnia’s. And it worked really well. But what I came to realize shortly thereafter is that there’s a lot of native annual seeds that are starting to become available. So that’s something that I’m turning my attention to. And so all of my subsequent plantings with annuals mixed into the nurse crop will be focused on native annuals.

Margaret: O.K. Any particular ones that you’ve discovered so far that you’re going to give a try?

Owen: I’ve been researching this and there’s a whole list that I’ve come up with and I’m trying to focus on things in my region. Something that really stands out are a type of Bidens [cernua], nodding bur marigold, and Indian paintbrush [Castilleja coccinea]; partridge pea [Chamaecrista fasciculata is an excellent one [above, photo by Alan Branhagen].

Margaret: Yes. Yes.

Owen: Corydalis sempervirens, rock harlequin is a really good one. And let’s see, so Lobelia inflata, which is Indian tobacco, Monarda citriodora, lemon beebalm, they’re all really excellent ones. There’s some really good salvias as well that seem to do the job.

Margaret: Interesting. So that’s one way to sort of ease people into it and get a little more visual interest. And then there’s this annual rye nurse crop, so we don’t just have bare soil while we’re waiting for everybody else, there’s some green. So that’s good. And it’s also, as you said, it shades the desired seedlings, and does other work. It probably prevents a lot of weeds from happening, too. It probably crowds out some weeds, I would think, but-

Owen: Absolutely. It offers competition for weeds for sure.

Margaret: So on the other end, kind of where I’m at with mine is that, after a few years, it became clear that there was—and you mentioned it at the beginning—the sort of editing thing. And the editing is really no matter how you started your meadow or what’s in it, any area that isn’t controlled, like the garden near the house that we were talking about [laughter] with constant weeding and so forth and cutbacks and deadheading, there’s going to be editing needed.

And I find that is kind of hard to figure out some of it, because there’s the chance for soil disturbance, especially if when you get woody invaders. And obviously I’m not telling you anything because you’ve been through it [laughter]. I mean, the worst for me is the, I guess they’re blackberries or something of the Rubus, that have underground runners and stuff like that. And it’s like, well, where do I disturb and not disturb? And do I just cut off the tops or do I rip it all up? Do you know what I mean Owen?

Owen: I do.

Margaret: And how much do I intervene when I’m doing more harm than good, or what is the greater good? Can you give me any advice on that? Because I think other people probably have this experience, too, with sort of wilder areas of their garden. [Above, a front-yard planting of meadow species by Owen.]

Owen: Absolutely. And a really good question, because everything related to this sort of care, this sort of editing, is predicated on the site and what’s happening. So there’s no hard-and-fast rule with any of this. And so for instance, if you have blackberries showing up or some sort of cane plant like that, and they’re going to spread, it does make sense to dig them out.

When a meadow’s establishing, if it’s really fragile, and you’re going to create a lot of disturbance (fragile in the sense that the perennial meadow plants haven’t established yet, because they’re still just sprouting from seed) it can make a lot of sense to just clip some of those blackberries back and keep an eye on them, maybe tag them and then come back in a year or two once those meadow plants start to establish and then dig them out when you’re not creating as much disturbance.

And that’s hypothetical, but that’s just an example of how you really want to steer things in a direction that is going to basically balance out all the factors. So you have to be able to understand what these plants are doing, how they behave. For instance, annual weeds often show up in the first year or two when meadows are establishing from seed. And they tend in general not to be a problem, but there’s also certain species that maybe you don’t want growing there just because they’re not attractive.

But in general, perennials will push out annual weeds once perennials establish. So really it’s a matter of kind of weighing these things against each other, and putting together your best guess. And I think this is something you’re well aware of, but I think it’s important to remind your listeners, that a lot of this is experimentation and really just seeing what happens. So if you’re skeptical about something like pulling blackberries, maybe just pull one and see what happens in a month or two.

Margaret: I think that’s a really good idea. And it’s almost like that should be our guiding principle for all our horticultural experiments [laughter] and land management experiments. Because if you’re not sure, if it’s the first time you’re doing something and you sort of do it 50 times over or 100 times on a large scale, and it’s not the right tactic: Oops. Yeah. So we ought to do a few more trials. Huh?

Owen: Yeah. And a lot of this is experimentation. We were talking about annual seeds, and I am learning how to use native annuals as in my nurse crops. It’s something I’m not able to find a lot of information about, because people haven’t been doing this. It’s been very limited if they have. And so there’s people like myself and a lot of other people who are essentially figuring this out. And that can include all of you, all of your listeners, because that’s how we kind of regain this knowledge is by playing around and experimenting.

Margaret: Right. And then sharing the insights that we have, what worked and what didn’t really.

Owen: Exactly. And there’s that whole adage that you don’t know a plant until you kill it [laughter]. And there’s a lot of truth to it because you really know what works and what doesn’t work when you fail. And so a lot of times people are really scared of that. But if you’re doing that on a really small scale, then that’s a really good approach, because you’re going to learn a lot.

Margaret: So then what about the sort of—aside from editing and making the decisions on how to intervene when it’s needed with invaders and so forth, and how aggressively—what about the sort of annual regimen of care? You have clients who have these meadows now that are in various stages of establishment. And so like mine, I tend to mow it once a year, not too early in favor of to try to protect all the creatures who are in there overwintering, as we’ve all been hearing about in recent years.

But also, I started doing that a long time ago, not doing it too early, because I wanted the unwanted—that’s a crazy way to structure a sentence, “I wanted the unwanted” [laughter]—I wanted the less-desirable plants to be up and growing, the cool-season growers, like a lot of those old pasture grasses and weedy things that got jumped up early before my desired crops, like my little bluestem, that was one of my foundational crops that I really wanted to favor, which is a warm-season grower. Right. It starts a little later. So I wanted the other guys, the bad guys, to get up a few inches before I mowed, or even a little more before I mowed just as the bluestem was coming through.

I know it’s a long way to describe it, but that was my strategy. And it turns out to be good for the wildlife probably, too, because it means I’m mowing a little later. So that was my thing. But is that what you do? Do you figure out a timeline based for everybody in terms of their sort of spring cleanup, if there is one, or when there’s a cleanup or? Because I think, I can’t imagine mowing in the fall, people mowing in fall, not just for ecology, but just because I love looking at the meadow frosted and under the snow in the winter and fall. [Above, bluestem and goldenrod in an unmown mini-meadow at Margaret’s.]

Owen: Yeah. Meadows are beautiful in the winter, and that’s one of their main attributes is that they have all of that color and texture in the winter.

In regard to maintenance and sort of how to go about that, when to mow, it’s really site-specific. So in the first couple years of a meadow establishing there’s probably going to be more editing and more involvement than there is once it’s established. And a mature meadow is something that tends to not need a lot of care. So when a meadow’s establishing it can be really helpful to do some spot weeding, weed-whacking, use a scythe, whatever it is. And keep things down that you don’t want to encourage, because really plants can outcompete each other.

And that’s especially the case with a little bit of help. So that’s really kind of how I see my role from a maintenance perspective. You’re really just encouraging the plants that you want to see and discouraging the plants that you don’t want to see. And once a meadow is established, it tends to be a relatively minimal amount of that, but it’s still very important to just observe and keep an eye on it. Because if something does come in that you don’t want, whether it’s blackberries or mugwort or whatever it might be, if you catch it early, then they’re relatively easy to get out. So a lot of the diligence is really observation and just being ready to do that editing if something shows up that you feel is pernicious or unhelpful.

Margaret: Mugwort, ugh, that’s one that’s no fun [laughter]. That’s one that is definitely no fun. Yeah, I have it in one spot, not in the meadow, but elsewhere. And it’s like, “Oh, you again, you’re up again. Can you just go away please, mugwort?” But it’s a toughie.

So I’ve been starting some sort of new experiments the last couple of years since we last spoke, kind of unmowing some other areas. And they’re not so far from the original older kind of meadow that’s established. But it’s really fascinating to me, these sort of test trips that I’ve been doing where I just haven’t been mowing them, creating sort of these islands, different things come up even a 100 feet away, or a quarter-acre away, let alone a quarter-acre away. I

t’s really, there’s so much potential diversity. And again, I’m in a rural area, so it’s not the same as if I was in a lawn that started a sod or seed or whatever. But it’s interesting to sort of also do some forensics sort of, to like see who comes up, and watch. And even in a conventional lawn, I think some of the lawn weeds are pretty great. Some of them are good pollinator plants and so forth.

Owen: Like violets.

Margaret: Yeah. I mean, violets are so important.

Owen: Yeah, they’re really important early season pollinator plant. And what you’re pointing to really is what I try to impart to people as much as possible, which is that nature wants to be diverse and abundant. And our perspective is coming from a place in our culture where we’ve essentially diminished that presence and to such a significant degree that we don’t even know that that’s the case because we don’t generally experience it or we don’t have first-hand contact with that kind of thing. And ultimately, plants just show up. I don’t think anyone even fully understands how this works. We have a vague idea.

Margaret: Yeah, I don’t.

Owen: But it’s pretty mysterious in some cases. And really what our role is when we’re creating meadows or doing any sort of ecological gardening, is collaborating with nature and trusting that it wants to be abundant. And that sounds maybe a little sort of vague to a lot of folks, but it’s literally true. So if we give it a chance and we watch what shows up, we’ll see that in action.

Margaret: It’s pretty great because again, even a place that I’ve known for so many decades, the same piece of land, when I’ve changed my methods or timing of interventions—there’s this one really steep spot, for instance, where it’s really hard for me as I’ve gotten older to take the push mower (it’s too steep for the tractor) which is 70 pounds or 80 pounds, and be on this really big tilt. And I’m like there with this giant thing, trying to out muscle the machine. So sometimes that area doesn’t get mowed very often.

And it’s the one place on the property that I have annual fleabane [above]. I get the Erigeron and it’s like I get this wonderful outburst of these tiny little white daisies every year because I’m doing something different. I don’t understand exactly why, but I’m just putting two and two together and making a conclusion .

Owen: Yeah. I mean, and ultimately the proof is in the pudding in terms of getting results like that. And so that’s why variation and experimentation is so helpful, but also letting things grow, letting things unfold, and observing that. We tend to think that we know what we’re doing as gardeners, but once you start getting into the ecological realm, the connectivity between things and the levels of interface is so complicated that we’ll probably never understand it. And so that’s O.K.

Because it’s happening anyways. We don’t need to be able to break every little detail down to its respective part. So what you’re describing is a good example of how these things work. And if something works—and I tell people this with meadow-making—if you can get results, then you did it right. There’s no one way to approach this.

Margaret: Yeah. It’s not exactly like baking, where either the dough rises or it doesn’t rise.

Owen: Absolutely.

Margaret: Exactly like that, right? There’s lots of different, well, I mean you can still eat it even if it didn’t rise, but it does have a mind and a spirit of its own for sure.

Owen: It’s very different than most things we do except for raising other living things.

Margaret: Yes.

Owen: Whether they’re pets or children.

Margaret: Yes.

Owen: But with plants and ecology as well, because we’re talking about soil and all these other factors, it’s all alive.

Margaret: Yes. Well, I’m always so glad to speak to you, and again, congratulations on the second edition of “Lawns into Meadows,” which is just out, Owen Wormser.

more about meadow-making

My earlier conversation with Owen Wormser
With Benjamin Vogt, about natural garden design, including meadows
Native annuals with Native Plant Trust’s Uli Lorimer
Native annuals with Alan Branhagen

enter to win a copy of the meadow book

I’LL BUY A COPY of the new edition of “Lawns Into Meadows” by Owen Wormser for one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter is answer this question in the comments box below:

Have you experimented with meadow-style plantings or any other looser, wilder areas in your garden? Tell us where you are located, too.

No answer, or feeling shy? Just say something like “count me in” and I will, but a reply is even better. I’ll select a random winner after entries close Tuesday April 25, 2023 at midnight. Good luck to all.

(Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

prefer the podcast version of the show?

MY WEEKLY public-radio show, rated a “top-5 garden podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper in the UK, began its 14th year in March 2023. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station in the nation. Listen locally in the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Eastern, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play the April 17, 2023 show using the player near the top of this transcript. You can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).

  1. Kay Ann George says:

    I have not experimented with looser areas in my yard in Claysville, PA but I am in the process of planning a meadow area on the far side of my garage. Always looking for more information and I’m excited to listen to this podcast, as well as checking out this book.

  2. Michelle says:

    I live in a suburb in East TN. We have not experimented with making a meadow. We just mowed our lawn for the first time this year, however; it was quite loose and wild!

  3. Eileen says:

    I’m looking for a replacement for a sizable area of pachysandra that has succumbed to last summer’s heat and drought (as well as a loss of shade over the last years). Perhaps a meadow would be a sound alternative.

  4. Jeff N Hill says:

    I have converted an area of back yard lawn that was weak and hard to cut.
    It is under an Oak tree, so we chose mainly liriope as the main ground cover plants,
    and are working other plants yearly as we can.

  5. Jessica says:

    I’m in southeastern New Hampshire. I made some attempts at a meadow-ish wildflower garden, but am now looking at the steep hill in front of our house as a spot for a meadow. It’s too steep to mow regularly, so it’s a mix of shrubs and a LOT of very expensive, backbreaking mulch. It seems like there’s a better solution…

  6. Linda Grubb says:

    I have a pasture that had horses, was cut and now an uncut meadow. I am trying to see what happens! I love the way it looks and we have wildlife living there. So great!!

  7. elayne says:

    I have begun a meadow 3 summers ago. I am cool with it going slow and now getting assistance from a Native gardener who is working w me
    I have Owens first book and use it as a guide. esp which helped when I went shopping and wanted to stay w Natives

  8. KP says:

    Does anyone happy to know why we don’t have wildflower turn in the US? It seems to be something that’s fairly common in Europe.

  9. Shawn says:

    I have, but not with success. I was unaware that it’s necessary to get the ground completely cleared off before planting the new seeds. In south Louisiana, zone 9b.

  10. Susie Talbot says:

    We left a quarter of our lawn unmowed for a season or two. The kids and dogs loved it. It was pretty!
    Unfortunately, it also was a haven for ticks, so we gave up and mowed.
    I have clients who would love a meadow. Preparing the site and planting it are not easy.. There is a lot of conflicting information about maintenance. I think it’s a tough project to get right.

  11. Diane says:

    Help!!!
    My goat and chicken pasture with soil that has never been truly nourished, except for a random spot here and there, needs direction.
    We’ve taken a crescent shaped area, keep a couple of paths mowed and randomly planted a couple of milkweeds and asters and goldenrod. This is the third year and I’m not sure how and what to do to make this meadow thrive.
    Mr Wormsters book sounds perfect for rescuing my meadow project.
    If I’m not the lucky winner of his book, I will certainly have to get a copy,
    I thank you for the chance and this entrance to the give away
    Diane

  12. Megan Terry says:

    I have experimented and have had a crash learning experience. Usually involving a battle with weeds (looking at you, japanese stiltgrass), light, and moisture. I haven’t given up and have only planned larger and more seasonally active projects to attempt. We are in ridgefield ct

  13. Becky Kirts says:

    Yes ..I am trying very hard to establish meadows. We moved to land that has been in my family for 60 years. I have over 160 acres of pretty much untouched land. I am trying hard to let nature dictate to me the course I should follow. It is a big change for me…. I want the native meadows and wildflowers to shine …not the invasive plants. We are in Brown County Indiana..Gnaw Bone Indiana

  14. Noel Jost-Coq says:

    We have two small areas that I’d love to turn to meadow- now we mow too often- but my family are worried about ticks! Trying to convince them to let the grass grow and just mow paths.

  15. Leah says:

    I have only been gardening for a few years and as a renter, I don’t always have a place to garden. Generally, I am very interested in gardening for the good of the Eco-system and try to include natives as much as possible. I also greatly enjoy meadow-like gardens. Count me in!

  16. Nancy says:

    Our Central Virginia county Extension Office has several extensive demo gardens open to the public. One of our earlier attempts was a meadow garden that, unfortunately has been temporarily closed to the public due to an area that developed a soil borne disease. Our hope is to be able to work in this area again next year, but until then, we all can watch from the sidelines as the many natives continue to thrive, seed and multiply. The public is learning how to diagnose and deal w/ unexpected setbacks, and still be able to have a beautiful, native habitat. My own gardens at home are all loose, ever evolving areas of native plantings, that bring joy in all seasons. I would love to win “Lawns Into Meadows” to share with my fellow Master Gardeners as we never stop learning. Thank you Mr Wormser for a wonderful interview.

  17. Martha says:

    Love your podcast! Listen to it on my morning walks and you always inspire me! Was so happy to hear one featuring meadows! I installed a meadow (Southeastern Maine on coast, zone 5B) above a leach field three years ago. It was a battle royale dealing with the standard insane grass that it had been seeded with! I thought what a perfect spot for a meadow instead of yet more lawn to mow! It’s been successful but learned the hard way that you can’t just let it be- it has to be maintained! Duh! (And it’s right within sight of the house and road which I hope will inspire people! ) So I did my first- belated- cutting swipe last month. Also the “soil” that was put down originally was so poor I’ve laid compost over and over again. Additionally, leach fields are hot so one must choose plants wisely. We’ve used a mix of seeds (American Meadows, Shelburne, VT) and plugs repeatedly. It’s been fun to see what happens every year! It literally hums and thrums and vibrates with insects! It’s like an ever-evolving painting! Thanks for what you do!!!

  18. Kathleen says:

    I have an out of control ‘natural meadow’. This book would be so helpful in bringing a design into my wild patch!

  19. Heather a peck says:

    Hi Margaret!

    A native plant “consultant” told me this year: “if you’re trying to demonstrate something to your neighbors you are failing.”

    I live in the middle of McLean, VA,. I stopped mowing the bulk of my 3/4 acre lawn 10 years ago. Many good things are just “happening”: NY ironweed, fleabane, broomsedge, tufted hairgrass (! new this year), oaks, pussytoes, goldenrod (oops — the Canada variety), spring beauties, tobacco plant, etc. Oh, and poverty oat grass! I’ve also planted native trees and shrubs, with mixed results.

    But also: sweet vernal grass, so much creeping charley, awful honeysuckle, etc. Horrifying.

    I’m working with a neighborhood group of tree enthusiasts and need encouragement and talking points. At this point I don’t know if I’m foolish or in the vanguard.

    This book will help.

    Heather Peck
    PS I have been following you since your days at Martha S’s magazine!

  20. Sarah Cline says:

    I’ve let a large area of my yard go and it’s been so fun to see what’s coming up!! I really enjoyed hearing his recommendations and would like to get his book!

  21. Ryan says:

    I live in College Station, TX and I have been experimenting with rewilding areas of my 1 acre plot of land. I am leaving some areas un-mowed and have begun to let an area of trees grow more wild. Within 2 years of intentionally doing this, we have seen our wildlife populations really grow! So many more birds and critters are enjoying this space now!

  22. Leah says:

    We have a small patch of woods with some even smaller areas of meadow as it transitions into more formal yard space. Interested in learning more about how to improve and possibly expand that space, thanks for the information!

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