Tag Archives: wildflowers

The Big Meadow, 2017

September 25th, 2017 | 8 Comments »

Is it accurate to call The Big Lawn at Glen Villa The Big Meadow? If you use an American definition, the answer is yes.  If you consult an English dictionary, the answer is less clear.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a meadow as a tract of low or level land producing grass which is mown for hay,  and that definition fits precisely. Allowing the sweep of grass beside our house that was tended for decades to remain untouched produced six large bales of hay last year, the first year we didn’t mow regularly.  Those bales were so big and heavy that we left them in place all winter, using them as buffers to prevent grandchildren sliding down a snow-covered hill from sliding over the bank and into the lake.


Bales come in different sizes. These are 4.5 ft across.
Bales come in different sizes. These are 4.5 ft across.


Based on an English dictionary that adds the presence of wildflowers to the mix, our Big Meadow is falling short.

Regardless of definitions, I consider wildflowers an essential element of a successful meadow. There are a few that have appeared on what used to be our lawn but not as many as I want. Far from it.

Trying to remedy this, I seeded selected areas of the Big Meadow last fall. The results were not impressive. A few seeds produced flowers but there were few, if any, signs of the long-lived perennials I’d been hoping for.


These flowers are part of most wildflower seed mixes. They may bloom again next year but in year 3? I doubt it.
Flowers like these are part of most commercial wildflower seed mixes. They may bloom again next year but in year 3? I doubt it.


The impact of long-lived perennials continues year after year. And perhaps next year, the seeds I sowed will begin to show up. Perhaps, as well, the Agastache I planted will begin to spread. I hope so.

But in the meantime, slowly but surely, the patches of red dock, or sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) are spreading.


I measured the patch of red this year and will measure it again next year to see if it is actually getting larger, as I think it is.
The patch of red dock near the linden tree is larger this year than last — or so I think. This year I actually measured it so that next year I can make a genuine comparison.


Unfortunately, so is the ragweed. Some hours were spent this year, removing each clump to ensure it didn’t go to seed. Mowing once a year in late September or early October will prevent the regrowth of a forest, the natural condition of land in this part of the world, but it won’t stop the ragweed. It is all around us and will continue to show up. This is discouraging and I don’t know whether I’ll have to accept it or continue to fight what I think will be a losing battle.  (Advice, anyone?)

Last summer I chronicled the development of the lawn each month, delighted to see how the grass grew and changed colour, almost from week to week. This year, I’ve been less delighted, perhaps because I’ve been less surprised. But one thing has delighted me enormously  — we’ve seen almost no Canada geese.

Getting rid of the geese was the first and perhaps the most important reason for making the change from lawn to meadow, and letting the grass grow seems to be doing the trick. Occasionally this summer a few geese stopped by, but there weren’t many, and they didn’t come often. What we saw instead were deer — lots of them, and almost daily.


This photo from late April shows a herd of deer. Four or five deer have appeared throughout the summer, including three fawns. Seeing them play on the grass in the late afternoon was a treat.
In late April a whole herd of deer appeared, only some of whom are shown in this photo. Throughout the summer a smaller group including three fawns appeared regularly.  Seeing them play on the grass in the late afternoon was almost enough to make me like them.


The deer nibbled away at tender grass along the path and at anything (everything?) else that tickled their taste buds. I doubt it was the aesthetics that attracted them, but that was what appealed to me. The mown line, a curving strip of green, was a striking contrast throughout the summer months, whether seen from the house looking out…


I took this photo near the end of July. The mown path remained green all summer, thanks to the amount of rain we received.
I took this photo near the end of July. The mown path remained green all summer, thanks to the amount of rain we received.


or from the linden tree looking back.


The curve of green still delights me.
The house is almost hidden in the darkness at the end of the path.


Even now, as we near the end of September, the path is green and inviting.


Late afternoon light casts shadows across the Big Meadow.
Late afternoon light casts shadows across the Big Meadow.


This second year of the transformation of lawn to meadow has gone well. Longer grass has discouraged the geese and attracted the deer, and this is a trade-off I’m happy to live with. So whether more wildflowers appear or not, I’m pleased. For now, at least.


Garden Envy

June 20th, 2017 | 19 Comments »
The Upper Field at Glen Villa is a what dieticians argue against, butter spread thick on the ground.
Coming home from a tour of English gardens I felt a short, sharp shock. Everything in my garden looked inadequate, not up to the standard I had come to expect. I moped. I complained. Why can't I grow the hundreds of plants I saw and admired?  Some of them must surely suit my climate. So why don't the garden centres around Glen Villa stock them? Then I faced the facts. My garden will never match the perfection of an English estate that employs six or seven full time gardeners.  The garden centres will


A Change of (Ad)dress

May 23rd, 2016 | 14 Comments »
A froth of white dresses the fields and roadsides in Hertfordshire. What do you call this wildflower -- Queen's Anne's Lace, wild carrot or something else entirely?
  The weather at this time of year does strange things to the mind -- and to the wardrobe. One day is cold, the next is hot. Changing locations makes the uncertainties even worse. What do I pack? Summer dresses or winter woolies? I arrived in England a few days ago on a chilly morning that felt much like the mornings I'd left behind in Canada. But looking out at the countryside, it was obvious that summer was now dressing the fields.   [caption id="attachment_3982" align="aligncenter" width="3888"] A froth of white


Wild Names Flavoured with Wild Garlic

May 10th, 2016 | 6 Comments »
I don't often walk in this section of the woods in spring -- it is too wet. So it was a surprise to come across such a huge colony growing wild. That means it is a good spot for wild garlic.
  NOTE: Several readers have let me know that this blog post only had photos without any words so I'm posting it again.   A walk in the woods at this time of year is a journey of discovery. So many things are there in miniature, waiting to be spotted if you take the time to look closely. Trilliums, for example. Not many are yet in bloom but they are beginning to open up as the days grow warmer.   [caption id="attachment_3890" align="aligncenter" width="2317"] Red trilliums (Trillium erectum) go by many common


Following my tree, down a colourful garden path

September 7th, 2014 | 9 Comments »
It's that time of month again, time to write about the tree I started following in March this year. My corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana 'Red Majestic') is looking about as tired as the rest of the garden -- late August and early September are not prime times at Glen Villa.Something is eating the hazel leaves.Something likes the leaves of this corkscrew hazel.They are welcome to it.The leaves are looking decidedly weary. Not to mention spotty and full of holes.So instead of writing about this unattractive tree, I'm writing about some


Gardening on the Wild Side

June 15th, 2014 | 4 Comments »
When I look at the wildflowers blooming in the fields and woods at Glen Villa, I wonder why I plant a garden at all. How can I hope to compete with this?Buttercups turn the Upper Field to gold.The partially visible metal structure is a sculpture called Bridge Ascending,by Louise Doucet and Satoshi Saito. Simple buttercups now cover the field, splendidly cheerful en masse, and so yellow and shiny that they brighten the dullest day and lift the heaviest spirits.There are many varieties of buttercups. I haven't tried to determinewhich this one is.This past


Identifying spring wildflowers: why bother?

June 1st, 2014 | 6 Comments »
My last two posts have been about some of the Italian gardens I visited recently while leading a small group of women on a 9-day tour. I still have a lot to write about what I saw, and what I thought of it, but in the Eastern Townships in Quebec, where my garden Glen Villa is located, it is full, glorious spring. Finally.Crabapple trees bloom in the lower field, by the old split rail fence.The daffodils are like icing on the cake of spring.Or rather, it was spring. The season