With attention paid to the plight of diminishing wildlife, especially populations of pollinators such as native bees and butterflies, people have responded with an interest in ways they can help keep what pollinators are left and even help increase populations. This has resulted in a heavy interest in native plants as alternative choices in landscapes, and has changed much of the approaches we take when designing landscapes, as to make benefitting wildlife a priority in design. Ultimately, creating gardens and landscapes that resemble a healthy, established native ecosystem is the Holy Grail, but doing so takes a lot of space, money, and time. So what’s the typical eco-conscious gardener living in the urban jungle to do?
We’ve fallen in love with the ideas of mini-meadows. While it’s not acres of native restored prairie, it’s still a beautiful way to enjoy wonderful, healthy plants in the landscape while helping out the bees and butterflies (and birds and a plethora of other native wildlife).
Native prairie plants have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in tough climate conditions. They can handle a wide range of weather- from heavy rain, to drought conditions, to heavy wind and high humidity. They do well covered in feet of snow, or in dry cold with no protective snow at all in the winter. In a varied prairie plant community, plants are blooming and going to seed throughout the entire year, so something interesting is always happening. And, animals that depend on the food and cover these plant communities provide can rely on a season-long home, which makes them extremely important.
In this garden design by Julie Farris, you can see how beautiful pairing formal lines and modern materials with the informal plantings of native prairie plants can look beautiful together. Mixing flowering plants (often referred to as “forbs” when talking about prairie and meadow settings) and grasses makes for a very beautiful and natural backbone for your perennial choices. Best of all, once established, these plants are all absolutely care free if you start with good soil and mulch each fall with natural mulch materials that feed the soil. Every 3-4 years, some division of perennials might be necessary, but sharing divisions with friends is a fun thing to do! Consider adding some native shrubs too, such as prairie roses and small trees like native dogwoods if you have the space.
A specific plant list of plants ideal for the mini-meadow or small prairie garden include:
- Cheyenne Sky Panicum Grass
- Prairie Dropseed Grass
- Little Bunny Pennisetum Grass
- Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’
- Blue False Indigo
And many, many more! Also check out our seed mixes for an easy meadow fast, from economical seed! Combine seed with sand or peat moss and rake out into bare areas ready for plants now, and they will germinate and grow well in the spring.
For further learning check out this article on perennial plants for wildflower meadows, as there are plenty more ideas for wonderful plants that would do beautifully in a mini meadow.