What Lawn and Meadow Look Like – EmbryonicallySpeaking

grass seed IMAG0585At the moment this is my lawn.  It’s 450 lbs of grass seed and it will be sowed this week.

The specific combination of varieties is called ‘No Mow’ and I’m using it almost everywhere in various ways.  Unlike most grass seeds this is a combination of six varieties of Fescue that grow to only about 8” tall and then arch over quite beautifully.


no mow unmown I will keep it as a permanent unmowed, low-growing meadow for the underplanting of the Orchard Garden.

I’ll gradually be adding to it with low growing scattered flowers and bulbs.

In other places  – the Woodland and the Winter Garden – it will serve as a temporary groundcover.    While we wait to plant the eventual groundcovers between the shrubs and trees, this will make a nice, more finished look than just bare earth..


No Mow as lawn.Mown, it also makes an attractive manicured lawn, and one which grows slowly enough that I won’t have the burden of weekly mowing.  It also needs little fertilizer and less water than other lawn grasses.


It’s all still mostly in my mind – but it is coming along.

Sometimes Failure is an Option

There are two plants – two ornamental grasses actually  — that are so mouthwateringly gorgeous that I am willing to try them just on the slight chance  that they will succeed here.

Mexican Feather Grass

Mexican Feather Grass

One is Mexican Feather Grass, Stipa tenuissima.  There is no grass so beautiful.  It dances in graceful, golden elegance in the slightest breeze.  And a whole meadow filled with it, and combined with a scattering of Flanders Poppies – well it is definitely worth trying.  I have seen it described as only hardy to Zone 7.   I am in Zone 6 now, but it is growing successfully at the nearby Overland Park Botanical Garden.   The bigger problem may be the soil.  This grass needs dry sandy soil, and ours is rather clay.   I have been obsessing about this for months now and I finally decided to try a small area of it in the meadow.  If it succeeds and comes back for a couple of years I will expand it until it fills the meadow.  (Be still my heart!)


Pink Muhly Grass

Pink Muhly Grass

The other grass I am trying is pink Muhly Grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris.  I have seen it described as hardy to Zone 5, or Zone 6, or Zone 7.  This picture shows why I want it.  It blooms like this in late August to October, and where I want to put it, at the back of the Red Border, it should serve as a backlit red glow all through autumn.

I guess this is the place to quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam:27, 1850:

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.


I’m working now on a design issue which is a new kind of puzzle for me — how to mark the transitions from one area of the garden to the next.  It’s one of the most important ways to help visitors experience the gardens.

In England the best-known method is by creating garden rooms, each separated by a wall, or hedge or structure of some kind.

But I want to avoid the ‘rooms’ experience.  I want the garden to be experienced as a whole, an entity as you walk through it, and yet – the different areas are different.  It’s like joints on a body.  The body is a whole, and yet you know where the calf ends and the foot begins – the transition is the ankle.

So far I’ve worked out a few transitions.  The path under the pergola that leads from the house continues to the perennial border.  The transition is a pair of evergreens, probably Serbian Spruce that one walks between.  Yes, you can see the perennial border before you begin to walk through it, but the pair of trees act as an ‘ankle’ to mark the transition.

A seating area does the job of marking transitions between the woodland, the meadow and  the perennial border — as well as offering a peaceful place to stop and rest for a while.

The light of a meadow seen from the shade of a woodland

The light of a meadow seen from the shade of a woodland

I think I’m making another kind of transition by using and controlling light.  The woodland will be dark, cool, shaded (eventually – gardens are not instant).  And as you walk along the path you’ll see a distant glow of the open Meadow, like a burst of light seen from the shade of the woodland walk.

There will be a lot more to come on this important design issue.