Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Suburban Meadow

   I confess, we're cheating a little bit. Our home isn't your typical suburban home in a typical suburban neighborhood. Granted our home sits on just a half of an acre, just outside the city, but it adjoins a hundred plus acre golf course, to which we owe much of our ability to attract birds and other wildlife. I know golf courses may look green but aren't "green", they use copious quantities of chemicals, I'll save that argument for another day. One of the many perks of living here are these areas of "meadow".  Last spring they stopped cutting and spraying large sections of the rough, creating these strips of tall grass, a look similar to what you might see at a links style golf course like at the British Open. This one in the photo runs along our property line and is over 100 yards long. We don't know why the groundskeepers created these drifts, but it's alright by us. They extend all around the entire course. We should ask them why, but we just haven't gotten around to it. My guess is it saves them money, less mowing, less gasoline, less chemicals. They wouldn't actually do something for the sake of being beneficial to the environment would they? It's gotta be money.

   We happen to love it, even though we know it doesn't consist of 100% native grasses and forbs. We had no idea how much biodiversity a strip of unmowed "grass and weeds" could contain. The night I took this photograph, it was just before sunset, from a distance it looked like nothing special. But upon closer inspection, I found it bursting with life.

   There were so many insects, dragonflys and damselflys balanced on the seed heads, moths like the one above waking up for the night, grasshoppers, and many more I couldn't identify. I've seen Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Kingbirds, Flickers, Phoebes, Bluebirds, and Tree Swallows all use these areas for hunting and foraging. They leave the grass standing through the winter and don't mow it until just before the growing season begins. I know it's not the textbook way to create a meadow, but it's better than another blank section of mowed grass like it used to be.

Monarch Update:   Still munching, still growing.....

   Elsewhere in the yard I've been pleased to see the return of the honeybees. They love my catmint! All summer long the catmint (Nepeta "Walker's Low" and "Six Hills Giant") blooms and blooms, and the bees buzz and buzz. If I could only have one plant it would be have to be catmint. It blooms from spring to fall (with a midseason cutback), tolerates drought, poor soil, heat, and humidity, and all the pollinators love it. I know of no other plant that gives so much and asks for so little in return.