Urban and Suburban Meadows


 It is the mind which creates the world around us, and even though we stand side by side in the same meadow, my eyes will never see what is beheld by yours, my heart will never stir to the emotions with which yours is touched. ~George Gissing

I know I have posted many times about my meadow.  But if you have ever spent time walking amongst wildflowers, watching them sway in the breeze, listening to bees buzzing around and butterflies drifting along as they sample nectar then you know the lure of a meadow.  And for me it  evokes memories of childhood when I picked and braided wildflowers or brought home nosegays to put in vases.

I have been spending a lot of time in the meadow this year.  We planted the meadow about 5 years ago with no idea of what we were doing.  I chose to use seeds to make it grow in faster or so I thought.  And after all this time, the meadow continues to grow and delight.   As the soil was disturbed from building the house, we have also been battling many invasive weeds (non-native plants) in the meadow.  This year it is the teasel, thistle and Queen Anne’s lace.  I am more concerned about the teasel as it creates a monoculture forcing out the lovely natives.  We will work on controlling the others while adding more native plants you would see in a meadow.

I wish I had a good resource when I started the meadow, and about a year ago I found just the resource in the book I am reviewing below, Urban and Suburban Meadows.   I am linking in with Holley@Roses and Other Gardening Joys and her monthly Garden Book Review meme that takes place on the 20th of every month, and Gail@ Clay and Limestone for Wildflower Wednesday.


Urban & Suburban Meadows:  Bringing Meadowscaping to Big and Small Spaces


by Catherine Zimmerman

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Matrix Media Press (June 1, 2010)
List Price:  $ 29.95
Amazon Price: $19.77 (Paperback)





In A Few Words

The book is broken into easily understood sections or step-by-step instructions to help you learn the basics of making a meadow:

  • Introduction
  • Site Preparation
  • Meadow Design
  • Establishing A Meadow
  • Maintaining A Meadow
  • Meadow Plant List
  • Regional Resources
  • General Resources

The author has extensive expertise and is a certified horticulturist and landscape designer as well as being accredited in organic land care.  She worked with four other experts to lend their extensive knowledge base to the book in the areas of site preparation, design, native plants, planting and maintenance.  In addition to the how to’s of making a meadow, this book also has comprehensive plant lists, local resources and nine US regional resource sections.

Throughout the book the author reminds us that meadows can be beneficial to the habitat and wildlife no matter the size.  She also expresses her desire to see gardeners replace more of their lawns and plant a more natural habitat for native plants and wildlife.


What I Liked

I really enjoyed the introduction sections as we are introduced to Catherine and how she became interested in meadows.  She also gives compelling arguments about why we should consider meadows instead of lawns.  But even if you ignore these sections you cannot ignore the amazing pictures that drawn you in and make you want to have the beauty of a meadow for your own.

Meadows can seem easy to grow but as you will discover there is a lot to consider although it is not overwhelming.  The design section alone is a must read if you want to plant a natural looking native plant garden whether it is a meadow or not.  It goes into enough depth about site analysis, what plants are right for your site and how it will change over time.  There is also a section about design aesthetics:  size of plants to consider, color, where you are planting and adding paths.

The section on planting seeds or plants is important as they go into the details of how long each takes to establish and the pros and cons for each.  But I think the most important section is the maintenance as most people think you just plant it and leave it alone.  There is some maintenance that must be done as in any garden, and it will save you so much time and aggravation later on.

If these sections don’t hook you, the extensive plant section is well worth the price of the book.  There are not many pictures of the flowers that are listed, but based on the sun and soil conditions you have, you can compile a list and look the plants up yourself.



Not So Much

The book does a nice job trying to cover plants and regions found throughout the US,  although there is more of a focus on the eastern half of the US.  And the sections on all the regions and plants certainly gives tons of information with the emphasis on finding local resources as “providing plants native to your area is a key element in the successful outcome of your meadow or prairie planting.”



Final Thoughts

From personal experience, I can tell you that the design, planting and maintenance elements need to be carefully considered before you start the process of constructing a meadow so that it is successful, less work and less expensive in the long run.  And this will be my manual as I assess my meadow and work on some redesigning especially the large empty areas left by the invasive teasel.  As I have learned from this book, what to plant is only part of the plan.

I met the author, Catherine Zimmerman, virtually as she is part of the team blogging at Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens.  Catherine told me that she created the book to, “Make it easy for people to have success by giving clear instructions. They will be less likely to give up and go back to lawns” this way.  I think Catherine has accomplished this creating an easy to follow manual chock full of information and specific instructions to help anyone create a beautiful meadow or natural planting in a large or small area.  I believe ‘meadowscaping’ may just be the wave of the future, and I for one look forward to seeing more of these natural native plantings throughout the country once again.

How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold? Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root, and in that freedom bold. ~William Wordsworth


Don’t forget that September 1st marks the next installment of Seasonal Celebrations/Garden Lessons Learned.  Click the link to learn more.  Beth@PlantPostings will be wrapping up this past season with lessons we have learned in our gardens, and I will be setting the stage for next season’s celebrations (fall up N and spring down S of the equator).  What do you love to do in the this upcoming season?  What holidays or rituals make it a wonderful season for you?  How does your garden grow and what favorite plants will be blooming?  I hope you will be joining us.  Just create a post and link in with both or one of us between September 1st and the 20th, and around the 21st we will reveal those lessons and celebrations.



Next up on the blog:  Work has been extremely busy and will be for a while so I had to shift a few posts.  My Simply The Best post will now be next Monday. And the Seasonal Celebrations will still be September 1st.

I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

I hope you will join me for my posts, every other Tuesday, at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

79 Replies to “Urban and Suburban Meadows”

  1. Don’t misunderstand me, I love meadows and for sure I think lawns should be a thing of the past; however meadows are not the easy option and if you have a small garden they will have a relatively short period of interest. For larger spaces they are perfect and cutting paths through a meadow makes it accessible and adds to its beauty. But a meadow is not low maintenance. I remember speaking to the head gardener at Hatfield House, home of Lady Salisbury and he said that the meadow was the highest maintenance area of the whole garden! Your is lovely and I’m so glad you’re enjoying it this year. Christina

    1. You are absolutely correct Christina which is why before you go about doing one this is one of the books you need to read. I must say if I had read the book I would have saved myself time and money. And the whole idea of paths is wonderful (and in the book) and one I had missed the first time around. I have done many natural settings in my garden using ideas from the book that have year round interest, but again it takes planting in succession and knowing what to use as far as native plants for your area. I of course have enough land to do these things but small garden areas would be more challenging.

    1. How true Lucy as meadows are just such incredible places to see in pictures and in person. It seems folks would like to see more of my meadow and other meadows so I will keep that in mind for future posts!

  2. I don’t think meadows are easy to grow – i think they are incredibly hard to grow. The book sounds helpful and inspiring but I don’t know how useful it would be for gardeners outside the US? Donna, I don’t mind how many time you blog about your meadow, I would never tire of it. It’s divine. btw, I don’t think I have told you, how much i enjoy your quotes. cheers, catmint

    1. You are too kind…so glad you enjoy the meadow and quotes…you are so right that they are hard to grow and maintain as other commentators have said…so this book is very useful for anyone contemplating a meadow. I think it would be a good book just for the design, site prep and maintenance parts…of course the resources and plant list would be foreign.

  3. Meadows are such a magical place. I wish I had room for one. Sounds like you got a great book. It’s so wonderful to be able to talk with the author if only virtual. I bet you’ll get to meet her someday.

    1. You are right Tina. There is something very magical about them…how nature created these places is a wonder…I hope I am able to meet Catherine someday.

  4. Designing and installing meadows takes a lot of specialized know how like your other commenters mentioned. Our company does this often on large commercial jobs, and the site is carefully prepared. It takes three years generally to see any measurable headway of perennial flowering, so they add fast blooming annuals to the mixes. I have to agree with Christina, on the short period of interest too when working small scale. The commercial meadows have their weedy-look times and they are as large as any naturally occurring field meadow. Many of the commercial meadows revert over time too, where you end up predominantly with all the wild flowers you are trying to eliminate. The beauty of these small ‘meadows’ like you have is the wildlife that they attract. The wildflowers are beautiful, but fleeting. I have replaced grass with many of the flowers you have shown, but as a small urban garden, can never say it is a meadow. Your space is much larger I am assuming, and that is key. It is very pretty at this time of year. You should show it more often.

    1. All good points Donna which is why I am recommending the book. Before someone starts building a meadow garden, they really need to have a good how to so they can avoid the pitfalls and know what they are getting into. This book is jammed packed with many of the things you talk about. Meadows are by nature a bit wild looking so they are really for those looking for a natural setting…and if you don’t seed or plant for succession of wildflowers it will not continue to bloom and definitely not look as appealing. I do love the look and beauty of my meadow as I see it but it does take lots of maintenance another thing people forget and is well laid out in the book. I did plant annuals as well for a couple of years and once the meadow popped with wildflowers it was incredible.

      I think the beauty of the meadow is in its appearance even when a bit weedy but definitely too in the wildlife which is why so many people plant them I think. I appreciate your comment to remind people that meadows take work and planning. I try to show it off monthly but will consider doing so more often now that I can get back there. 🙂

  5. A meadow would be lovely, and we would have the space… but since dogs and ticks (of which we have plenty here!) do not mix well we will just take pleasure in the wild ones down near the river! The whole area down there is a nature reserve, so mowing is not allowed until mid-June after most species have already gone to seed and the pollinators have moved on… the meadows then recover and start flowering again by late July or early August.

    1. So Cathy they mow the meadow in June and it begins flowering with different plants? My meadow changes as well in June as the plants blooming early go to seed and are dwarfed by later blooms until late fall when it all goes to seed. I never mow it but leave it for the birds and insects until early spring when I clean up a bit but not much. It composts itself and with the weight of the snow it is knocked down naturally in winter. How lucky to have such a beautiful place nearby.

      1. hello Donna just reading down through comments and thought I’d just say here that over here in the UK most wildflowers flower better on less fertile soil so the cut plants are never left to compost down on the meadow but cleared, it might be different for your kind of meadow but then again this might be part of the reason for some of your agressive plants being so agressive, just a thought, Frances

        1. Interesting Frances…we do let them compost but the invasives come mostly because the land was cleared and disturbed…I just didn’t know it or I would have watched for them before they took hold…

  6. I wanted a meadow….maybe we can make our front lawn into one…wouldn’t that cause a stir in this my grass is greener then yours neighbourhood.

    We already stick out in the country suburb by not watering our lawn during the hottest time of the day.


    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  7. Great post..I have the book and the video and I too learned that what I thought would be easy is not and you know my challenges also..But I am willing to plug along with your meadow as my inspiration..Michelle

  8. I can imagine the joy your meadow gives you. It’s beautiful. I have a spot for a meadow, but have put it off because of all I don’t know. For instance, when I think of planting a meadow, I’ve often wondered how to get started, and I’ve imagined maintenance being a nightmare. I am glad to know about this book. I am going to put this on my list to get. Finally, my dreams of having a meadow between my house and the big pond can be realized! Thanks so much for this review, and for joining in.

    1. Glad I could help and I look forward to seeing your meadow and how you go about constructing it. At least you know a bit and have been forewarned. Enjoy!

  9. I love this posting, Donna. I spent my childhood in natural English meadows and yours brings back happy memories. I would not attempt to create one, although I have the room, because I know they are more work than I am prepared to give. More postings, please, so I can enjoy yours vicariously! P. x

    1. Oh Pam I will have to think of some fun ways to keep the meadow posts coming. I wonder how different or the same our meadows were as children. Thanks for your kind comment!

  10. Wow, Donna!
    What a wonderful garden book review! My dream is to have an acre or two of meadows someday. What a wonderful book for inspiration.
    Perhaps someday.

    1. David how nice of you to visit the meadow and so glad you enjoyed the post….I hope to see that meadow planted someday!

  11. Hello Donna, It may have been hard work creating your meadow but so worthwhile is the results. I always liked the look of Teasel but found it wouldn’t grow in our garden, perhaps just as well. I get so tempted to remove the lawn creating more space for plants. Christina, is lawns a thing of the past? I just cant make up my mind.

    1. I think lawns are getting tiresome for folks as they cost time and money and give us so little…now flowers and gardens…ahh such beauty. I am so glad you think the meadow lovely Alistair.

  12. I love the beautiful photos of your meadow Donna especially the first with the daisies and blue lupin, your wild lupin look so much more airy than my solid lump ones, Frances

    1. Oh thank you so much Frances…how funny I adore your lovely yellow lupines and you lik mine…I think they would look so lovely together.

      1. Donna I sowed seed of the wilder blue lupin last autumn but not one grew, they need the cold before heat to germinate and I think the climate here is too even a temperture we don’t have the extreme tempertures you have, I’m hoping to take root cuttings next spring to mix mine up more, the yellow with the blue and purple I have should work well, like you I think your blue and my yellow would look good together, Frances

        1. Frances my wild purple ones took a couple years to grow so perhaps they will eventually…I hope you have success so I can gaze on them from your wonderful pictures.

  13. I love meadows and your photos are always so inspiring! I have this book and you have done the review justice! I do like Queen Anne’s Lace and think it does look pretty in a meadow setting. I have mixed feelings about some of the natives/non-natives as they are host plants for butterflies which is what I strive for in my garden.

    1. I don’t mind some non-natives as long as they are not invasive and causing a monoculture which is what teasel does…Queen Anne and thistle can be controlled and hard to eliminate totally besides they are pretty. Glad you enjoyed the review and book Karin.

  14. I love a meadow full of blooms. I wish I had been more informed about wildflowers when we lived in Germany, there was a big meadow full of blooms. Trying to put a meadow across the street in our septic field. This year was not very successful.

    1. Janet the info in the book may help a bit…meadows do take a few years to grow in and adding some annual seeds helps too…

  15. Your meadow is utterly delightful Donna, I am so glad you persisted with it. I am contemplating turning half our new back garden into a sort-of meadow, sort-of because I will add in non native bulbs for longer interest. A book like this but for the wildflowers of the British Isles would be a perfect resource.

    1. I think the book would be a great resource for you Janet. I also added non-native bulbs for early spring interest…clumps of daffs look great. I would love to see a meadow in your new garden!

  16. Donna, I am in love with your meadow! I have very little sun but, there’s one small hill that is begging, pleading for a meadow! Okay, it’s me that’s begging and pleading for a meadow! I am going to check out Catherine’s book~You did a great review, btw. Happy WW! gail

  17. I love your meadow!
    and I think that learning as it lives on and on is another one of the gifts nature returns to you 🙂

  18. I love your meadow! I’ve always wanted to plant an area here in all natives, but the project always seemed rather overwhelming. Thanks for this excellent review; this book sounds like a great way to get started and avoid some pitfalls. Meadows look so effortless, but I always wondered how they could be weed-free. I’m not surprised they’re not as low-maintenance as one would think.

    1. I can attest to the fact they are work but not as much if you get a good start Rose. The book would be perfect if you are contemplating a meadow. I hope to see a meadow in your garden 🙂

  19. Hi Donna, with your so busy schedules i appreciate that you can still always come and comment on my posts. I also love it that the next gardens will be “meadowscaping”. You are fortunate to have your own wide area for a meadow. In my case, i just go to the real meadows which are just full of weeds, untended and just grazed sometimes by few cattle. It is very different than the meadowscapes you refer to, and when i see occasional wildflowers, the happiness is very real. The small critters and biodiversity growing there are beautiful finds too! Maybe i should post some tropical meadows for you too!

    1. I would love to see your tropical meadows….I am so glad you enjoy my meadow. I love visiting your blogs. And how true about the biodiversity of the meadow…it is so special to see those wildflowers!

  20. Your meadow is dazzling. I’ve considered one for a little extra space that I have, but realize that it is probably more work than I’m willing to expend. I have a friend who has studied permaculture and trying to establish a meadow didn’t come readily to him. This book sounds like it would make a great winter read when I’m dreaming about gardening.

    1. I think you would love it and it s a great resource for plants you may decide to plant even if you don’t plant a meadow.

  21. It would be nice to have an own meadow. I know it demands a lot of work to keep it as meadow. It’s also demanding to keep it natural, so that plants which don’t belong to nature, don’t overrun.

    1. A perfect summary of a meadow…how lovely to have you visit the garden and I hope you enjoyed your visit and the meadow.

  22. Like Pam I grew up surrounded by some lovely English meadows., and wide swathes of wildflowers by the roadside too. I have often wondered if I could do something with the banal lawn over the septic field. I’m more than a bit worried about the roots doing some awful to the system.

    1. I bet Susan if you planted natives that were shallow rooted as many are it would actually be fine. The book may help some as would the author…

      1. I am going to get the book. We need to have the septic inspected so I will ask then about roots etc, however I’m thinking it is doable.

  23. I’ve never had the joy of wandering through a wildflower-filled meadow. That’s not something that’s a common sight here in the tropics. I certainly loved having a peek at your beautiful creation though. It’s just wonderful.

    1. And it is Holley’s meme time for reading Garden Books…I have found since I started joining I have been reading many wonderful garden books…I love posting about one a month and it certainly does keep us going through that long winter of ours…brrr 🙂

  24. I have a meadow design book too but I can’t recall the title. I wish I had more room to devote to one but I have to enjoy the natural areas around my home instead. The idea of walking through one, watching the busy bees and seeing the flowers dance in the breeze sounds so wonderful. Great post!

    1. If you get a chance Grace take your camera to a meadow and walk slowly through it stopping frequently…you will never be the same….

    1. My favorite pink/purple wildflowers pictured above are the asters…I hope they bloom this fall even with the heat and drought. So glad you enjoyed the pictures.

  25. Your meadow is looking beautiful Donna, and this book looks like a great resource for any of us who want beautiful meadows of our own.

    1. Thanks Jean. The meadow has been one of the gardens I am always busy fixing and learning about…there is something so wonderful that just draws you in…when I am there it takes my breath away..

    1. Greggo how special to have you visit the meadow. I do find it one of the most spiritual places. Thank you for your lovely comment.

  26. I love this post about the meadows and book review. I am now dreaming about the beautiful meadow plants on my bald patches of lawn. Over here, a meadow in the garden will be viewed as an unkempt garden.

    1. Thank you….Over here the meadow in your garden spaces would also be seen as unkept too by some of my neighbors…but I love the natural beauty and hope they have grown accustomed to it and think it is beautiful too.

  27. a meadow is not an option for me – but I loved your opening quote. You and I look at the meadow and see something different. From reading English novels – I have a ‘memory’ of scarlet poppies, deep blue cornflowers, and tall white daisies, with ears of wheat or rye waving above. A thing of great beauty, and you have the been there, done that, benefit of the wildlife too.

    1. Thank you Diana. The meadow is lovely even with its foreign invaders. I hope to add more native lovelies as it changes yet again!

    2. Ah yes, the mention of meadows reminds me of endless grass (and lawn?) on hilly terrain. Then I think of Heidi’s Story – of her and grandpa and the beautiful Swiss Alps… and also a picture of Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music comes to mind…, of lovely wildflowers and sheeps grazing, … I must thank both of you, Diana and Donna for bringing back those visuals in my mind. Now, I’ll look for meadows in my countryside, but mostly it will be cows grazing and buffaloes lazing.

  28. How I love meadows! I have a hillside planted with wildflowers, mostly. It isn’t a meadow, but originally I had the naive view that it would take care of itself once I got it going and would have the feeling of a meadow, although on a hillside. I should have read the book first! It is in full bloom now and is lovely from a distance. Up close the weeds are evident, and on the steep hill it is difficult to manage. At times I want to get rid of the whole mess and start over with something more civilized. And then I see all the butterflies and bees…

    1. I had the same naive view until the invasive weeds spread and spread…I say find another spot and start a meadow after reading the book….I find it worth the time and effort if you have the energy…I am like you Deb and when I see the bees and butterflies I just swoon and know this labor of love is worthwhile.

  29. Recent years have seen a burgeoning interest in the cultivation of wildflower meadows. Wildflower meadows are viewed along the highways, featured in gardening magazines and sold as “meadow mixes” in many garden centers and horticultural catalogs. A popular misconception is that wildflower seeds can just be sprinkled on an area, and they will grow with little care or maintenance. To create a successful wildflower meadow, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of plant succession – the process by which one community is replaced by another until a self-sustaining or climax community is achieved. In many parts of Connecticut, an oak, hickory and hemlock forest represents the climax community. A disturbed area with exposed soil is first colonized by annual plants followed by perennials, shrubs and then finally tree species. Unless the annual/perennial stage is maintained, the meadow will soon be inhabited by tree and shrub species.

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