Waving fields of grass-free



As Susan continues to struggle with a groundcover anti-lawn, I am once again contemplating the meadow concept with some help from The New York Times. As Jane Garver reports there, a 40-acre meadow in Connecticut is finally matured, nine years after it was started. It has waves of liatris, solidago, milkweed, foxtail, heliopsis, asters, and many other biennials and perennials. Its designer Larry Weaner has also completed 24 meadows along the New York State thruway. The pictures of his Connecticut meadow look lovely.

It’s absolute nonsense for me to be thinking of a meadow for my property; it’s too small and there’s too much shade. I was one of those (as the article recalls) who bought a can of wildflower seeds back in 1999, and sprinkled them hopefully, only to wind up, nine years later, with some very nice Canadian anenome (above). I am now trying to introduce more tall meadow-type plants (eupatorium, heliopsis, others named above) into a sunny bed for sort of a little mini-meadow. But roses, lilies, and a changing roster of annuals are also in the mix, so it will never have much of a meadow feel.

Where I’d love to see meadows installed is in public areas throughout Western New York. With weed control the main job once they’re established, they would surely save government parks departments a lot of mowing, watering, and other maintenance, and make our parks and roadsides much more interesting and beautiful places.

Public landscapers around here should learn from our nature conservancies, which have been maintaining specific areas of native plants for years. Or just take a drive along the throughway—though I suspect Weaner’s thruway meadows must be further downstate.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. Interesting re the public uses – our roadside verges in the UK are often rich wildflower reserves of the type that used to be found in old meadows and it seems to work well. Only problems we seem to have are a) the periodic mowing of rare orchids just before they flower by incompetent/disinterested maintenance teams and b) one or two species of bird suffer from traffic as the verges make such tempting habitat.

  2. In Illinois, the state made a “stab” at restoring prairie along roadsides, but made 2 terrible errors:

    1. including seed of non-native plants…

    2. Not doing minimal maintenance…

    They chose to include aggressive, showy, non-natives, which in many beds took over completely.

    The lack of maintenance (particularly mowing once or twice a year at the right time) permitted weeds like sweet clover and teasel to totally take over some areas that had been doing quite well.

    Some areas have been beautiful stands of conflowers, butterflyweed, liatris, etc., and are now disappearing under sweet clover and teasel.

    I like the idea, but I wish there was more continuity of effort. Environmental organizations do MUCH better…

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