Meadows

This excerpt has been extracted from “Reimagining The California Lawn Water-Conserving Plants, Practices, and Designs” by “Carol Bornstein, David Fross, Bart O’Brien”. Meadows are an open habitat, or field, vegetated by grass, herbs and other non-woody plants. They may be sparsely covered with trees or shrubs. “Tree Removal Hayward CA” furnishes you with details on this topic.

Imagine a landscape ablaze with wildflowers, graced by swaying grasses, and filled with butterflies, birds, and beneficial insects.  Who wouldn’t want such a lively, colorful scene in their own garden?  No wonder such meadow gardens continue to grow in popularity.  They appeal to that streak of independence and wildness within us and remind us of the beauty of wide-open spaces.

Meadows
Meadows

Botanically speaking, the word “meadow” or “prairie,” and a meadow is in fact a kind of grassland.  Typically devoid of trees and shrubs, grasslands are characterized by an open expanse of grasses, sedges, annual and perennial wildflowers, and bulbs.  In California, many botanists restrict the term “meadow” to high-elevation plant communities that stay fairly moist throughout the summer growing season, but in this book, meadows are more broadly defined to encompass grasslands in general.

For the gardener, an important feature of a meadow garden-unlike a greensward-s that it includes herbaceous perennials, annuals, or bulbs along with the grasses and sedges.  Since many meadow plants will not tolerate regular foot traffic, a greensward is a better choice for spaces that will see more intensive activities, such as outdoor play.  But if you do not need a garden with the resilience of turf, a meadow offers one of the most alluring options for lawn replacement.

History and Examples

Similar to greens wards, the earliest meadow gardens were precursors to today’s lawns.  These flowery meads included grasses and other plants and were created by transplanting patches of sod from natural meadows into the private gardens of wealthy landowners.  Grazing sheep and manual scything were used to help keep the mead about six inches tall.  Over time, the loosely garden was replaced by the more manicured greens that we know today as lawns.

By the early 1900s some landscape designers began to rebel against the formal treatment of gardens.  Prominent among them was Jens Jensen, a Danish immigrant who became a respected landscape designer in the United States.  Jensen advocated a return to a naturalistic approach in landscape and became a vocal proponent of preserving and protecting Midwestern prairies.  His efforts, and those of other conservationists, awakened an interest in the use of grasses as ornamental s.  It was not until the 1960s, however, that grasses began to enjoy widespread appreciation for their ornamental value.  Nurserymen Karl Forester in Germany and Kurt Bluemel in the United States championed the use of grasses; their advocacy helped inspire the designs James van Sweden and Wolfgang Oehme, who pioneered the “New American Garden,” a visionary approach that embraced our vanishing grasslands.  This style brought undulating drifts of bunch grasses and herbaceous perennials into public spaces.  Finally, grasses were “in, at least pm the East Coast and in the Midwest.  It took several more years for this idea to catch on out West.  Today, grasses are now commonplace in California’s landscapes, but their use in naturalistic meadows or grasslands in public spaces is still relatively scarce compared to residential installations.

Meadows
Meadows

A few excellent public examples of native meadow gardens are well worth visiting.  Perhaps the most renowned is the meadow at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.  Today, its constantly evolving one-acre tableau features a rich tapestry of native grasses and wildflowers.  The award-winning native garden in the Strybing Arboretum at the San Francisco Botanic Garden is a lovely assemblage of both wet and dry meadows framed by a shrubby border.  In Berkeley, the Regional Parks Botanic Garden offers several displays that replicate native grasslands from around the state.

Native grasslands and meadows once covered huge swaths of the state but are now greatly diminished due to encroachment by agriculture, grazing, urbanization, and the invasion of exotic species.  However, gardeners seeking to create their own personal meadow can still find numerous examples on public lands from which to draw ideas and inspiration. The UC Davis Jepson Prairie Reserve in Solano Country offers spring wildflower displays and a large variety of native grasses.  For moist montane meadows, Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park is a much-loved site known for its array of sedges and delicate wildflowers.  Point Reyes National Seashore is home to coastal prairies that include plants such as tufted hair grass and Douglas iris.  Extensive serpentine grasslands at the Blue Ridge Lake Berryessa Natural Area in the North Coast ranges provide intriguing examples of grasses and wildflowers that thrive in harsh, dry situations

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