GreenTown Los Altos

American Meadows: Beauty and The Flower Feast


Nov 2016


There’s a new look in landscaping and it’s called the American Meadow.

At a recent GreenTown Los Altos sponsored talk at the library, American Meadow expert John Greenlee showed a packed house example after example of backyards filled with abundant beauty. With colorful displays that rotated by season, wildflowers in spring, flowering perennials in summer and beautiful grasses all year long, the audience was impressed.

The crowd is captivated listening to John Greenlee discuss American Meadow design.

What qualifies as a meadow planting? According to Greenlee, it’s the type of flowers that are planted. He loves bulbs and see the grasses as a framework for fields of iris, cornflowers and more.

And it’s about more than just colorful beauty. Each meadow is unique beyond just the beautiful striking colors.

Your meadow will be visited by hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators. Imagine no chemicals, watering once or twice a month, mowing once a year in the late winter and the sound of songbirds surrounding you. It can be done, and Greenlee made it look easy. Kill the lawn, plant inexpensive plugs of native grass, some bulbs, broadcast flower seeds, add a few trees and you are on your way. It’s a bit more than that, but not difficult. Greenlee has also published a beautiful book, “The American Meadow Garden”. Check his website for more information which is loaded with stunning photos and great information.

John Greenlee signing books, with GreenTown’s Kit Gordon. See grass planting ideas here.

Greenlee had a few parting thoughts for the audience

The ideal meadow grasses are 12-36 inches high. Anything higher is too wild, anything lower looks like an old shag rug.

Lawns do offer a place for the eye to rest. Lawns are calming. Greenlee gets that, but native grasses can provide that benefit as well.

Greenlee is not a fan of drip irrigation. The maintenance is too fussy. He prefers overhead spray watering using multi-pulse rotators.

In the three-county Los Angeles Basin, mowers, blowers, and edgers create 22 tons of air pollution a day.

Next time you visit Denver, go to the botanical garden. It is stunning and Greenlee asked – Why we don’t have anything like that here!
Fall is the time to plant a new meadow and the Santa Clara Valley Water District offers a rebate for replacing lawns with suitable plants, here.

A big thank you to GreenTown volunteers Kit Gordon and Linda Ziff for organizing this event, along with Grassroots Ecology, Summer Winds Nursery, Purissima Hills Water District, California Water Service Company, Open Space Committee of Los Altos Hills and the Santa Clara Valley Water District.


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