It was just a year ago that I met Vivian. She was the proud new owner of a home in a housing development of Troy, Ohio. I’ve always found “housing development” to be somewhat of an oxymoron–as though taking natural, beautiful land, plunking down rows of practically identical homes with identical yards, landscaped with endless lawn, is somehow an improvement?
That’s why I was on a mission to meet Vivian. Her yard was wildly different, alive with colorful native flowers and grasses, an oasis for birds and butterflies. Vivian had inherited a meadow garden, a meadow I had designed and planted for the former owner of her house.
Vivian is a traditional gardener. She won the coveted Green Thumb award for planting red peonies and blue irises against a white fence. As we stood looking out over her freshly cut back meadow garden, she turned with a skeptical look and said “ I don’t know about that meadow…..” My heart sank. How could I convince her not to erase this wildlife sanctuary and turn it into bland lawn like her neighbors? She had yet to witness all the finches, hummingbirds, monarchs, swallowtail butterflies and buzzing bees that inhabit the meadow when it springs to life in May.
I pulled out my book, Urban & Suburban Meadows, Bringing Meadowscaping to Big and Small Spaces, and flipped to a picture of her meadow. I offered to send the plant list with all the bloom times and features of the various flowers and grasses. I explained that our insects need these native plants and that the birds need those insects. I could see a little light in her eye. She promised to keep the meadow for one year.
I checked in with Vivian early in June. She was ecstatic. The Penstemon digitalis (Beardtongue) and Baptisia australis (Blue false indigo) were blooming. She had never seen those plants before! She had read my book cover to cover and was expanding her meadow.
I visited in July and Vivian proudly showed me all the native plants she had added. She also confessed that she had intended to get rid of the meadow the very day I had visited in April. The next time we talked Vivian told me her meadow has changed the way she gardens. She confided that:
“The first thing I do in the morning is to check out what is going on in the meadow and it’s the last thing I do at night”.
Viva Vivian! Viva native plants!
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