In designing this sustainable urban meadow garden, my goal was to transform a desolate front yard lawn into a low-maintenance naturalistic space that conserves water, provides valuable habitat for beneficial pollinators, and offers captivating aesthetic appeal.
While meadow-style planting may appear spontaneous and haphazard, this meadow garden is organized with a series of carefully choreographed transitions and combinations of ornamental grasses and flowering perennials that create defined spaces within the garden. These spaces – each with their own distinct character and design intent- are both separated and unified by a serpentine drift of Carex pansa that meanders throughout the garden while producing negative space.
In developing the plant palette for this garden I considered several factors, including the site topography, location, background elements, and lighting. To account for the relatively small scale of the space and low maintenance requirements, I selected shrubs that generally don’t grow too large and can be layered well with grasses and groundcover. Aesthetically, I choose to make this simple, yet complex meadow more readable by limiting the foliage and flower color scheme to shades of purple, green, gray, and white. I also selected plants with seasonal interest that interact well with wind, light, and shadow.
In particular, the non-invasive Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tales’ cultivar provides stunning late afternoon interest in the spring and summer when the backlighting of the sun makes its abundant foxtails glow like candles. Likewise, Salvia ‘Mystic Spires Blue’ blooms nearly year-round in Southern California and produces vivid deep blue upright blooms that rhythmically undulate in the wind and shimmer in the late afternoon light, especially when massed and layered with complimentary plants sharing similar form, such as Lavandula ‘Goodwin Creek’.
To help attract native pollinators, particularly birds and butterflies, I integrated California native flowering perennials, such as Achillea millefolium and Verbena iliciana ‘De La Mina’, and seed-producing sedges, including Carex tumulicola and Carex pansa.