In spite of the fact that I haven’t posted anything new about the meadow for months, a lot has been happening. Here’s a quick run down:
First, were you wondering why the dead plants were left standing all winter and into the spring? It turns out that Fairfax County didn’t have us on their late winter maintenance schedule so the meadow never got mowed. We kept thinking the lack of mowing was because the area was so wet, but no, we weren’t even on the radar. As a consequence, the old growth stuck around looking absolutely awful until this year’s growth eventually pushed through and covered everything with beautiful, new, green leaves. Unfortunately, the 5′ tall brown, brittle flower stems defied gravity and remained standing, resolutely poking out of the new growth – not a good look. We ended up paying a hardy soul to manually remove every single one of the brown stems before it became impossible to walk through there without doing too much damage. It took him 8 hours! Note to self: next year call the Fairfax County maintenance department in January and get on their March schedule.
On the bright side, Joanne Schumpert of Landscape Design Associates/Treefrog Nursery on Georgetown Pike helped us tremendously by giving us a huge discount on nearly 500 plugs of grass and invaluable advice on grass selection. After consulting with her, the Garden Club bought Panicum virgatum ‘Cloud Nine’ (switchgrass) that gets up to 6 feet tall and turns gold in the fall;Panicum virgatum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ (red switch grass) that gets up to 4 feet tall and turns bright red in the fall; and Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem) which gets up to 8 feet tall and turns bronze in the fall. Our hope is that the grasses will soon spread and help break up the large swaths of flowers, providing some movement in the breeze. We chose these particular grasses because they get tall, they can compete with the aggressive plants already in the meadow, their colors and tall plumes will look great in the fall, and they will provide visual interest and wildlife shelter over the winter. They all got planted in April, and we only had to water them once, thanks to the wet weather we’ve been having. Our fingers are crossed that most of them make it.
At Joanne’s suggestion, we also carved two narrow paths through the meadow – one running lengthwise and one from the library side towards Georgetown Pike. The intention was that the paths would encourage visitors to wander through the meadow where they could actually see more of the flowers than what is visible from around the edges. They also make it easier to get in the jungle to plant and weed. Well, it was a nice idea, but in reality, the flowers are so thick and tall, and the paths so narrow, no one in their right mind would wander in there! The resident groundhog, however, is quite happy. The library is having a naming contest for him/her, by the way.
Martin Lawn & Landscape is mowing the paths for us once a month, thank heavens, or the paths would totally disappear. Maybe next year we’ll make them wider. Or just give up on that idea. We’ll see. In the meantime, we plan to hold the entrance to each path open with stakes and twine so we can at least find them.
In June we planted six native hibiscus in the low part of the meadow near where the sidewalk meets Georgetown Pike. They should get tall and be quite stunning once their giant flowers appear. If you drive past Madeira School, you might have noticed the red ones they’ve planted in-between a couple of their horse pastures on a sunny slope. They look like children’s tissue paper flowers, they are so big. We’re hoping ours, which should be pink, get as large. Hibiscus are known for self-sowing if they are happy, so we’re hoping future years bring lots of offspring.
We also planted 50 Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset) and 50 Agastache foeniculum (blue giant hyssop) in June. As with the grass planting, we first mowed down the existing flowers to create a bed and give the new things a fighting chance. Thanks to the perfect growing weather and lots of rain, the existing flowers quickly bounced back, however, shading the new grass and flowers. Hopefully the new guys will make it anyway. I think if you stand next to the meadow for more than a few minutes, you too might get absorbed into the jungle.