Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra
What a tough time of year to be a garden blogger: so many things to write about, and so little time to write. It was tempting to wait one more week to post for Bloom Day and try to catch up on some weeding this evening. But I spent much of the morning out in my meadow, with my mower and then with my camera, and I really wanted to share some of my finds.
But first, a few comments on the mowing. A while back, I had posted over at Gardening Gone Wild about the amazing French garden Le Plume, which had been featured with some gorgeous photos in Gardens Illustrated. That led me to the garden’s web site, where there were even more images. The whole garden is beautiful, but what really struck me was the stunning simplicity of their meadow, which had been mowed in squares with straight paths. I immediately decided to skip my meadering paths this year and try mowing part of my own meadow that way. The photo at the top of this post shows the pattern after the first mowing in mid-May; below is a different view from the same evening.
I liked the effect so much that I decided to extend the meadow even further, into what was The Shrubbery. It looks rather scruffy now, but it’ll be great after this year, and not having to trim around all those trees and shrubs saves loads of time.
So now I have an additional 1/2 acre-plus of meadow, and I can get away with just 1 hour of mowing every 7 to 10 days. (That includes mowing one of the pastures, plus all of the meadow paths.) Below are a few shots taken after today’s mowing. It’s not all that exciting now, but I think it’ll look awesome by this fall.
While I was out with the camera, I braved the heat and ticks to take a closer look at the meadow plants. Most are native, but a few I’ve added, including some echinaceas:
And eastern gama grass (Tripsacum dactyloides):
At its base was a lovely little native, ragged fringed orchid (Platanthera lacera):
Further along the path is a nice clump of mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, I think):
The dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) is beginning to bloom:
And sure enough, there was a beautiful dogbane beetle nearby:
Then, the milkweeds (Asclepias syriaca)! This patch was in full bloom today, and abuzz with all kinds of critters:
I learned at a lecture by Dr. Doug Tallamy that when you see milkweed leaves “flagging” like this, it usually means that monarch larvae are (or have been) feeding there. (The larvae chew through the midrib to stop the flow of milky sap to the leaf tips, where they like to feed.)
And sure enough, here was a plump larva:
Behind the uppermost pasture, there was another clump of common milkweed that was easily 6 feet tall:
It smelled just as good as the previous patch and was an even prettier color, I think. Here’s a closeup from the first patch:
…and one from the second patch:
Here’s a really cool native grass, deer-tongue grass (formerly Panicum clandestinum, currently Dichanthelium clandestinum):
White bedstraw (Galium mollugo, I think):
And a pink Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota):
Then I wandered into my parents’ meadow across the street. After wading through waist-high switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), I came to a thinner spot and immediately spotted a beautiful blue skullcap (Scutellaria integrifolia, I think):
When I stood up and looked around, I realized that there were dozens of them, all around me. I picked my way through them, and through several more patches of ragged fringed orchids, and found some yellow star grass (Hypoxis hirsuta):
And then, as I was heading back home, a nice patch of Canada lily (Lilium canadense):
And last, I wanted to celebrate my new Audubon Bird Habitat certification. It took just two days for a little bird (a sparrow, or maybe a wren) to take up residence in the new house I added in its honor. But she (or he) always disappears when the camera comes out!