Stopping by the meadow one day in late October, it was a pleasant surprise to see a few lavender asters popping out against the dried grasses and brown flower stems. Large clumps of Mountain Mint were still holding their own and there were thousands of dried flower seed heads waiting for hungry birds to come along for a meal. Lots of milkweed is going to seed (yeah!) and it’s fluffy white “parachutes” stand out amidst all the brown. It’s easy to see why the gardener in us wants to cut this all down and tidy it up, but meadow afficionados and environmentalists know that would defeat the purpose. It’s time to honor our wild side and let the meadow do its thing!
The plants have gotten so dense that it’s difficult to wade in there during the summer to remove invasive vines or giant poke weed plants, but this time of year it’s possible to see through the dried foliage and fantasize about projects we can undertake early next year. Maybe we can relocate some asters and daisies from the perennial garden to the meadow. They desperately need thinning and the meadow could use the color.
Fairfax County recently mowed the steepest part of the retention pond by the sidewalk, probably to ensure adequate drainage during the winter and to allow access for maintenance. This exposes the two ugly drains and a bit of the cement culvert, all of which is nicely hidden by flowers and grasses the rest of the year, but there’s not much we can do about that.
While picking up wind-blown trash around the edges of the meadow and all along Georgetown Pike (a monthly routine), it was easy to see where a large animal, probably a deer or maybe two, had taken shelter. It was also easy to see the ground hog holes. Evidently the children who visit the library named the ground hog, who they think is cute, but it would be nice if it moved somewhere else. Those holes are huge!
When you drive by the library from now until March, pay attention to the changes in the meadow. All the seed heads will eventually be plucked clean by the birds, the dried brown stems will fall and get soggy under the weight of winter snow and ice, making an insulating blanket for the plants that will explode like magic from the soil next year, and the millions of pollinator eggs laid in the stems will be getting ready for an early spring hatching. There’s a lot going on in there.