Thursday, August 15, 2013 15 comments

Creating meadow magic

Every other year, local volunteers organize the Joy Garden Tour to benefit the Village Green, a 12-acre park in the heart of Cashiers, North Carolina.

In 2011, I waited too long and the event was sold out. This year I bought my ticket right away and joined 1200 other enthusiasts who traveled from at least a dozen states to view several private gardens in the area.

Of course, the homes were quite spectacular and there were many attractive gardens displaying a combination of native plantings and seasonal ornamentals. However, it was the meadow at the Morse home that was highlight of the tour for me.

You enter the front door and walk straight through the house to a flagstone terrace where you are treated to a spectacular view of Whiteside Mountain. 

The cliffs there are the highest in eastern North America, rising to an elevation of 4,930 feet. That view is amazing enough, but there is also a carpet of wildflowers at your feet that seems to go on for miles.

The meadow and other gardens on the property were designed by Jeremy Smearman of Planters Landscape. He and his associates have been working on just the right combination of plants for the meadow and this year everything has come together to create a most memorable vista.

As you can see from the photos, Echinacea purpurea is the dominant plant in the landscape right now, along with Liatris and Bishop's Flower.  This scenario can change depending on the time of year, so the folks at Planters were kind enough to share  the rest of their wildflower list with us:

Bishop’s Flower
Black-eyed Susan
Cornflower/Bachelor’s Button
Dense Blazing Star
Ox-eyed Daisy
Red Corn Poppy/Flanders Poppy
Tickseed/Lance-leaved Coreopsis
According to Planters Regional Manager Bo Gambrell, it takes three seasons to establish a healthy wildflower meadow. “The main reason being that you will only get 60-70% germination each time you seed and each meadow has its own needs. The first thing you should do is get a soil sample and find out what your soil is lacking in nutrients. Then, order three times as much seed as you need and store the leftover seed to broadcast each spring. Most of the time you will want to mix some sand with your seed when using a spreader to help spread the different sized seeds evenly. If you have raw soil, you should also mix in a little bit of creeping red fescue grass seed on the first application.”

After that, further seeding should be unnecessary as long as the meadow is doing well, although you might have to replenish some areas if flowers are thinning. Aside from that, as long as the meadow gets enough water each year, you need only mow it and cut down volunteer tree saplings.

I have a small slope I’d like to dress up with some wildflowers. Now after seeing the work done at Morse Meadow, I have some beautiful ideas growing in my head.