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The Making of a Meadow - Part 10

5/5/2023 11:57 am


The McFarlane Meadow part 10


The Second Spring




The 11.5-acre McFarlane Nature Park is the site of a meadow – planted in 2021. A friend recently said that she knew I was disappointed by the result, and this is far from the truth. I am excited about what I am seeing this second spring.


In early February, I asked the caretaker to cut the meadow with the mower set to 5 inches. This was because I was not allowed to burn it (or feared I would destroy the surrounding homes). Then we waited. The meadow is all about waiting.  


But knowing this, I am still impatient. Today, with my husband’s help, I added seven plants. At the Chattahoochee Nature Center plant sale, I was able to purchase a well-rooted Baptisia australis, one Thermopsis villosa, and a Heliopsis helianthoides. We added three Asclepias tuberosa and a Vernonia ‘Summer’s Surrender’ that had overwintered at our house. We were supervised by a pair of bluebirds feeding babies in the adjacent, newly installed bluebird box. 


There were lessons for me in this, as there always are. Upon examining the newly resprouted meadow, I was thrilled to see that many of the seeds I had spread in October 2021 are now about 5-inch-tall plants. I had thrown seed of Baptisia and Thermopsis, so I had to learn to distinguish one three-leaved plant from the other. I discovered that the Thermopsis, Carolina lupine, has longer petioles than the Baptisia, which at first glance seem to have none. These all appear to be Baptisia.


The goldenrods have multiplied extensively into fine clumps that beat out the surrounding grasses. We had plugged two varieties of Solidago - S. odora and S. rugosa ‘Fireworks.  There’s no telling what others may have moved in from the surrounding pasture. 


It was originally hard to distinguish the planted grasses from those naturally occurring, but now, Andropogon ‘Blackhawks’, with purple flushed blades is evident but not dominant. There are a number of robust broadleaved plants that have emerged which may be the Heliopsis that we originally planted. 


And today there is a lovely, blue-flowered plant which is a total surprise, as the red poppy was last spring. This new plant has stems covered in tiny needle-shaped leaves, like a small rosemary, and simple flowers of sky-blue. I will take suggestions from anyone who recognizes this beauty. [Editors: We're going to venture a guess as to Blue Wild or Lewis Flax, Linum lewisii, a native wildflower from the Mississippi westward.)


Stay with me on this long journey. The meadow still has surprises in store.Or go to McFarlane Nature Park to visit the gardens and meadow. It is our 30th anniversary year at the Park. 280 Farm Road SE, Marietta, near Johnson Ferry and Paper Mill Roads. - Karin Guzy