Longwood Gardens in October, Part II: The Meadow Garden

After experiencing the Flower Garden Walk we found ourselves at the entrance to the Meadow Garden. This included a bridge that traversed the narrow point in Hourglass Lake.

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We stopped to admire the reflections of the trees in the still water.

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The Meadow Garden encompasses 86 acres and was created out of a former cow pasture. It is not a restored prairie, nor does it include exclusively native plants. However, many native grasses, wildflowers, and woody plants have been added over the years.

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The muted colors of the herbaceous plants set off the blazing foliage of the trees at the forest edge.

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The Webb Farmhouse and Galleries sits in the northeast corner of the Meadow Garden. The building dates back to 1730, and houses displays of photographs and background information on the garden.

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Let me confess that I am not one of those people who think that the structure and shape of plants are just as satisfying as colorful flowers. I want color and lots of it!

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However. I will admit that seedheads can be beautiful. For example, the fluffiness of Asters and Goldenrods, as well as the black dots in the blue sky made by wild Sunflowers.

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Especially when contrasted against autumn foliage.

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Broom Sedge

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Broom Sedge (Andropogon virginicus) were very much in evidence among the grasses. Though I also saw a few patches of invasive Miscanthus (which was grown as an ornamental in the Flower Garden Walk).

While in the Meadow Garden we ran into a young gardener driving a tractor. He was hauling a water tank to an area where plugs of Little Bluestem were newly planted. We talked for a while, and he told us that they used drones to spot invasive plants.

This intrigued me deeply. If drones can be used to spot weeds, why not to chase squirrels and rabbits? Could they be equipped with BB guns?

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There were still a few flowers blooming, like this New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). In fact, I was surprised to see a few butterflies still out and about. We saw at least two species, but couldn’t get any pictures. One looked like a Clouded Sulphur, but I’m not sure.

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By design, the Meadow Garden attracts a rich quantity and variety of bird and insect life. No pesticides are used. Every year, at least 170 bluebirds fledge there, and 206 speicies of birds have been identified.

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In order to create more of a transition zone between forest and meadow, gardeners have planted hundreds of small native trees and shrubs. Here the seedheads of Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum) stand out against the Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis).

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The naturalistic Meadow Garden feels like a different world from the formality of much of the rest of Longwood. On our way back we passed through a small woods that includes a marvelous tree house.

I would have gladly spent another hour or two in the Meadow Garden (or at least spent some time in the tree house), but there was so much more to see elsewhere, so on we moved.

53 Comments on “Longwood Gardens in October, Part II: The Meadow Garden

  1. Are you trying to get a rise out of folks with that BB gun comment? LOL. Careful cowboy! (Not that I dont’ agree.) I’ve never had time to walk the meadow, but I was on site when the nearby treehouse was just being finished. Oh, how I would love to have one of those in my woodland garden.

  2. Really interesting to see these photos, Jason. I’m thinking about turning our big lawn into a wild meadow, so seeing how the people at Longwood have done it is inspirational. Year One (2016) will be the year of the long grass — I want to see what happens when we simply leave it alone. I do plan some mown paths to make the mess look intentional! Not sure how this experiment will turn out but I do think it is worth a go.

    • When you say the big lawn, do you mean the one closer to the lake, with the big linden tree? Or the upper field? I think waiting to see what develops if the grass grows long is a good idea for a first step.

      • The lawn closer to the lake, with the big linden tree. We doing this as an ecologically friendly way to discourage the Canada geese. They seem to dislike long grass so we thought we’d give it a try. The trick will be to find a good balance between long grass, mown paths and ornamental grasses or wild-type flowers that we add to the mix. Getting it right will be a long experiment, I think.

  3. Thanks for a tour of Longwood gardens, oh the joys of internet and blogging that I can have such a detailed tour from my little study in Australia. I really love the colours, and the sheer expanse of Meadow gardens. The tree house is great too…..enjoying it all..

  4. The meadow garden is lovely. I bet it would be great to visit in September, too! I’m not surprised you found asters still in bloom; they are tough plants! I have some still in bloom at my house, and we’ve had overnight lows down into the teens a couple of nights.

  5. An 86 acre meadow seems huge. I would love to see it when it blooms. I am with you about those rascally rodents and rabbits around. Buzz them with what ever makes them move on.

    • It did seem huge to me, I actually thought it looked even bigger than that. Glad we are of a like mind on rabbits – it’s time they stopped hiding behind their alleged “cuteness”.

  6. I was underwhelmed by the meadow when I was there this summer. We have too many of these open places in Wisconsin for me to feel that they are special or designed by humans to be just as cool as naturally occurring ones. Maybe that makes me lucky, I’m just unsure.

    • Maybe our disparate upbringings have conditioned different responses. I grew up in the suburban sprawl outside NYC and yearned for open space as a kid.

  7. You’ve covered Part 11 quite beautifully too. I always thought the meadow garden was a wonderful addition to Longwood. I know all the seasons are beautiful there, but Fall in my opinion has to be the one that outshines it all.

  8. I’m not a gun nut, but even I could get behind a drone that shoots BBs at destructive critters, like the raccoons that have been the bane of my existence this year. Some day, maybe, I’ll make it to Longwood.

  9. The first photo is fabulous. The meadows must be incredible when blooming. The contrast between the brown meadow and the colorful trees in the background is fabulous.

  10. I can understand you wanting to spend more time there, as it really is a beautiful spot. The tree house looks exciting and I would have been up there in a shot – reminds me of an adventure park we went to when I was very very young!

  11. I love those wide open spaces… but in late fall the dried plants and shutting down does nothing for me. I still love the waving grasses but dead goldenrod has me itching to get the mower out (and then the guilt of mowing all the overwintering insects stops me).
    I do love it the rest of the year though, from the first snow through to the blooming of the asters!

    • I understand your viewpoint. Personally, I definitely prefer live, blooming flowers to dead ones. But I still thought this field had its own sort of beauty.

  12. Hello Jason, I really like the first picture of the trees reflected in the lake and the picture of the grass path through the meadow winding up to the house in the distance, it’s very inviting. The colours in the pictures are all warm and soft reds, oranges and browns with a wonderful quality to the light that you only get at this time of year.

  13. I’m with you Jason, dead foliage, seed-heads and grasses do not appeal other than the odd architectural plant but if you have the space, and lots of it, to pull it off, it can be impressive.

  14. I’ve been there many times but never in late fall – this was a very different view of a garden I know fairly well. Perhaps a destination for me next fall 🙂

  15. Ooooo, love that treehouse! I definitely want to visit Longwood someday. I agree with your thoughts about the seedheads as they’re framed by the autumn foliage. But the older I get, the more I’m appreciating the beauty of the seedheads, themselves–particularly when the light hits them just right. But, yes, flowers with lots of color are the best!

  16. How interesting to hear that they use drones to detect invasive species! The meadow is magnificent. Think I said I was at Longwood in Oct. 2015 in your Part 1; and should have said 2014!

  17. How beautiful that lake is, so calm and serene, lovely reflections too! Gosh, that meadow is huge, what a sight it must be in summer. The wild sunflower heads do look great against the blue sky, I can see why so much wildlife is attracted here. Oh….that treehouse is to die for!xxx

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