Landscape Challenges – Letting go of a wet lawn!

Landscape Challenges – Letting go of a wet lawn!

The lower area of our yard borders a wetland, it has been a difficult space to work with. The previous owners established and maintained lawn there for years, although I’m not sure it was worth their effort. Americans are funny about our yards and the amount of mown lawn area we think we need, and this area is a prime example. For the first eight or ten years, we made a valiant attempt to keep this area looking “respectable”. But as my thought process changed about the suburban landscape, and the direction my landscape design company would take, I began to see other opportunities for spaces like our wet lawn. Five or six years ago, after so many years of not being able to mow until late June or July when the soil dried out, an idea surfaced; Wet Meadow!

Our Meadow!

This section of lawn receives a good amount of sunshine, and borders a wooded wetland area. We decided to let Mother Nature have her way, and with a limited budget to work with, we simply identified a line on the uphill side of the area that remained dry enough to maintain, and stopped mowing below it. The border line follows the contour of the land, and is defined as a long pleasing natural curve.

Pollinators love visiting the Goldenrod!

We have done little else in the subsequent years to maintain the area, except to mow it once a year in the fall when the soil is dry enough to allow, and I am happy to report that Mother nature did not disappoint us with her plant selection. Aside from the turf grasses that were seeded there (now measuring in feet rather than inches), a wonderful collection of native species is present, and come the end of each July, August and September the meadow is ablaze with Goldenrod (Solidago sp).

Paths mown through the meadow allow visitors a closer experience

New York Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) is also present, as is Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). The last two years have seen the arrival of American Elder (Sambucus canadensis), and the stands of Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) that once were cut back on the woodland edge are now thriving in greater masses that explode each fall with bright red berries.


Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) is growing throughout and adds a wonderful texture to the grasses. Unfortunately, as with many natural areas these days, several invasives have made their way into our meadow. Each spring gloves are donned and stands of Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) are pulled and disposed of, as is occasional appearances of Common Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus).

Boomer certainly enjoys romping through the meadow!

So far with regular yearly effort these invaders have been easy to keep up with, but constant yearly vigil will be held. Our meadow is quite vibrant in late summer and autumn, but it is little more than green during the early parts of the year. This is soon to change however, as we will be planting a host of wet meadow natives in the coming years to extend the beauty of this area, and draw in many more species of wildlife.

New York Ironweed

The wonder of our meadow I fear, is lost on our family, friends and neighbors, and yet anyone of them that dared venture within when the meadow is blooming, upon hearing the buzz of thousands of pollinators, and watching hundreds of dragonflies and the many bird species that frequent the area now, would surely be won over.

Bluebirds have made the meadow their home this year!

Our suburban mentality and lack of understanding of the natural areas that surround us prevent us from experiencing the simple natural joys in life. Activities that excited us as children are long forgotten as we go about our hectic lives, but every once in a while, nature presents an opportunity to create spaces that remind us of her infinite beauty, if only we would let go.

Well after the season has passed, there is beauty in the meadow!

Do you have a problem area in your yard? Have you come up with a creative solution to dealing with it? We would love to hear about it! Please leave a comment, or head over to the Blue Heron Facebook fan page and tell us about it.

May you find simply joy in your garden!


12 thoughts on “Landscape Challenges – Letting go of a wet lawn!

  1. Great job, Scott! Love the meadow & the natives-in-planning. I bet you enjoy less mowing, watering & fertilizing too. Looks like your own personal nature preserve.

  2. Excellent post, as usual! Our property is almost an acre and over the last few years we have been incorporating native plant species where lawn once reigned supreme. It’s time to re-frame our thinking on what the spaces around our homes should really be. I love that you always have photos to augment your thoughts. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for the kind words Liz! It sounds as if you too have a beautiful property. I wish more of us would “re-frame our thinking” as you mentioned. Well said!

  3. Scott, love that you created the meadow and what a wonderful collection of plants you have already. I’ve left a section along the border with a neighbor, separated by a chain link fence, go. It is under some large trees with many roots that made it impossible to mow and it has filled in nicely with jewelweed, raspberries and some wild lettuce. I don’t know what the neighbors think but I like the look. Thanks for the post!

    1. Thanks for the comments Linda! Someday we’ll both have to venture over to our neighbors and ask their thoughts, although we may not want to know.

  4. Scott,

    I enjoyed reading your post and hearing about your meadow’s evolution, as well as your own. We have two areas on our property that are currently mown grass but do not need to be. One is on the north side of our house and is quite narrow and virtually unused except to get from the front to the back yard. I am slowly transforming it into a haven for shade-loving native shrubs and perennials with a narrow path (and no grass!). The other spot is along the road and is about 200 ‘ x 10’. Again, it is mown grass but doesn’t have to be. I am toying with several ideas for getting rid of the grass while keeping the aesethics of the neighborhood in mind. I don’t want it to be an unsightly & unappreciated ‘mess’ and become known as that wacky landscape designer who lives down the road!

    1. Hi Debbie,

      It’s fine line we walk as designers when we allow ourselves to “stretch our boundaries” so to speak. It is nice that you are considering your neighbors before transforming your yard. But you know what? I like “wacky landscape designers”, especially when they live down the street! I hope you post pics of your natural areas!

  5. Scott,
    The yard is beautiful, but my comment is about Boomer. We knew you were a very special man the day you walked onto our property for the back yard makeover. As a family of Labrador Retriever lovers, and past owners of two, let me just say – sweetest dog in the world! I’ll send some updated pictures of our yard soon, which is yet another beautiful job for your portfolio!

    1. Linda, you are too kind! I wholeheartedly agree with you about Labs. Boomer is a great buddy and is fun to watch when he gets into the meadow or the woods or simply locates a mole in the yard. I look forward to pictures, and finding a time to come by and visit! All the best, Scott.

  6. Your photos show you made a good choice. Now rather than mow longer you can enjoy the sites longer. We have a shady area along the edge of our front lawn that we are letting the moss claim. We transplanted native ferns to an adjacent area that had been trampled and crushed under construction equipment and piles of rock during our house construction. We let worms and soil churners prepare the soil for us under cloak of inches of fallen leaves. Both reclaimed areas serve as a natural transition from lawn to woods, require minimal maintenance, and look wonderful. It’s such a treat to observe changes that occur when Mother Nature is the designer.

    1. Joene, your new area sounds great. Letting the worms and soil churners do the work is genius! That natural transition helps the garden meld to it’s site. Thanks for the comments!

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