The Meadows

Port Medway, September 7

Monarch in a sea of knapweed in the first meadow, July.


Philip, I know you’ve wanted me to write about the meadows and I’ve been procrastinating; no reason except perhaps I’d expected more of a “show” in the meadows (there are three of them, behind the cottage, past the apple orchard). Maybe that speaks to a misguided – if small – urge to control nature. There was an opinion piece in the newspaper the other day that said trying to control nature was just another form of colonialism, (the piece spoke specifically to lawns). But curating meadows?  I realize I’d been holding off on the entry hoping for a more vibrant display to write about. Last year we had one lupine, this year we have nine, but I was hoping for 99…

Lupine in the first meadow. My computer crashed erasing the last week of June photos of the meadows so this is it as far as Lupines go…

Apparently house cleaning is one of my methods of procrastination. In a deep clean of my living room including tearing out the books and dusting, I re-discovered Bill Terry’s “The Carefree Garden,” one of my favourite books (garden and otherwise: it is so beautifully written). I received this as a gift from you after a visit from Bill and his wife Rosemary a few years ago. I’m not sure if you remember, but Bill loved where the moss was overtaking the lawn and loved the ajuga aka bugleweed carpeting places, too. I can conjure up that afternoon, Bill’s gentle, measured tour of our gardens and I am instantly in what feels like an hypnotic state of calm. 

Meadow in May and flowers appearing in June: Buttercups and dandelions, Blue-eyed grass and creeping speedwell in the lupine foliage.

Bill’s love of native plants and his dislike for colonized invasive species was on my mind when, in full hip dysplasia from mowing those back fields where no ride-on would work, I devised a plan to naturalize the meadows. Of course, I knew it would be impossible to get rid of flowers like Queen Anne’s lace, and we’ve allowed hyper invaders along for the ride. We’ve included lupine which migrated to Nova Scotia from the west coast. Lupine is beautiful and has become an emblem of sorts in Nova Scotia. It’s in the pea family so a great nitrogen fixer meaning very good for the soil.

The orchard, in June, from the first meadow.

There are a number of native swamp milkweed plants now taking root and Joe Pye weed has seeded there, too. The first meadow is revealing what it wants to be and all we need is patience and the annual and customary removal of spruce trees and any encroaching alder. At present, the “damned yellow conglomerate” is on show (a term I’ve adopted from someone who described the too-many types of yellow flowers blanketing the hillsides off old Route 66 in Arizona). 

Our Damned Yellow Conglomerate (first meadow).

Hawkweed and Canada Goldenrod

Even this Yellow Garden Spider is well, yellow. Argiope aurantia, in the first meadow.

Goldenrod, hawkweed, St. John’s wort, Evening primrose. Figuring out what else grows there is an education and I am thumbing through wildflower books to identify what I can’t easily recognize. Even then it’s not an easy task. As for the second meadow, we’ve designated that as our rudbeckia field and I counted 29 clumps -some albeit small and scraggly-  growing this year. They seem to adapt and root more readily than the lupine. And they’re native!

Second meadow in August.


You mention Bill Terry. He died last year. Bill was a great gardener and plantsman, not to mention a hell of a nice guy. He said that gardening was the most optimistic of occupations.

Butterflies love the knapweed.

Ragged Fringed Orchid, grasses and knapweed in the first meadow in July.

Lynn, you made the right decision about the meadows. Let nature decide what happens (with a little prompt here and there, something less than “curating”). Let’s think of it as a small wilding experiment. This summer I read Annabelle Tree’s book “Wilding,” her account of trying to return a large farm in Sussex to the way it was before people, using a heavy hand, sought to control the land and ended up distorting nature. It is a powerful and sad account of what was, should be, but isn’t. Maybe, Lynn, seeking to control nature really is a form of colonialism.

A winding path through the first meadow in July. Working on my line of grace…

But there is one thing you must have in a meadow, even a wilding meadow. A path through it. Not a straight path, but a sinuous one, what William Hogarth called the “line of beauty.” “In his The Analysis of Beauty (1753), William Hogarth identifies… a “serpentine line” that he terms the “line of beauty.” This line, articulated variously as a “waving line,” a “winding line,” and “the line of grace,” is unique because of the way in which it “leads the eye in a pleasing manner along the continuity of its variety.” (Princeton University Art Museum).

And the first meadow in early June.

A line of beauty through wilding meadows. A path that allows you to see the continuity of variety. That’s the way.

The path in the third meadow leads to the woods and loops around a small adjunct field.


I took the “line of beauty” idea from the path through the pollinator garden. That was your idea, although straight lines aren’t really my thing either. I’m still messing about with it in the meadows, easy to experiment and improve when I cut the path a few times each year.  

“I have found the line of beauty and it is here!” Newly discovered cell phone pics (with a scratchy gardener’s lens) taken in 2016 when we were planning the pollinator garden after grubs from Japanese Beetles devoured the turf grass.

Did you get my note on the Narrow Leaf Goldenrod? It’s a member of the Damned Yellow Conglomerate. It took me an hour online after I came up dry trying to i.d. the thing in my wildflower and weed books.  Apparently it is native to Nova Scotia and only grows here although I’ve seen seed companies sell it. I found some in my woods yesterday. A lovely addition to the meadows.

Narrow Leaf Goldenrod in the first meadow in early September.

I forgot to mention our third meadow. I’ve planted nothing there because it already has beautiful grasses and I want to see what it wants to become without any curating or colonizing. I look forward to reading “Wilding”.

Queen Anne’s Lace presides over native grasses in the third meadow in September.


A couple of final thoughts. Once upon a time the meadows were part of a working farm, and had – what – cattle grazing? When we bought the place the old barn had cattle stalls and a hayloft. (Now it has ping pong and foosball tables for grandkids. Progress? I don’t know.) And in the back meadow there was a stand of dead trees that Garlint Oickle, who used to work on the land, cut down. Then, for a time, we mowed the meadows because, well, we couldn’t think what else to do. Along came your hip dysplasia. Mowing was out. Necessity – the mother of invention.

Top: No meadow is complete without dandelions. Bottom row: Asters in autumn.

3 thoughts on “The Meadows”

    1. Hey Pam, thanks for virtually dropping by the gardens! I bet (hope!) you’re having a great summer at your new cottage. Nothing like pristine nature to
      take the edge off a pandemic. Hope to see you in Toronto sometime in 2021.

  1. Maybe there is an important ecological reason for the “damned yellow”. One thing I know for sure, the knapweed will win and is displacing even Canada goldenrod. If you want butterflies you need to think more about their evolutionary relationship with native plants. As they evolve, the plant evolves chemicals and leaf types to keep from being eaten…then the caterpillar evolves body chemistry to digest the leaves, and specialized mouth parts. Yeah, just like the monarch and milkweed, there are thousands of species with specialized host plant relationships. Over time, many can’t just switch to the 40 or so invasive and “naturalized” species. “Naturalized” being a bad term, because there is nothing “natural” about a rapid rate of introduced species with few to no predators spreading through our landscape, dominating space and changing soil chemistry having massive advantages over native species which have many, predators, co-evolved over 10,000 years to eat it without killing it. Wonder where the butterflies are? We stopped making their food available and we think they can eat any old thing. 96% of songbird species need thousands of insects, mostly caterpillars of 12,500 species of moths, and 825 species of butterflies to raise each and every clutch of eggs. Birdlife 2022 reports 50% of birds are declining, and Kew says 40 percent of plants are in danger of extinction. We mixed and strewed species of plants and insects across the world carelessly, and now seem to think growing exotic weeds will work, when that only encourages the problem. Oh, and the pollinators? 300 or so species of bees alone not even counting flies and ants. And we think Eurasian plants will feed them? Some will adapt, but the vast majority not likely, as we are seeing the fallout now. Push back towards native species (including grasses, ferns, sedges, etc.) as much as possible, that is a tall order and a lot of hard work, but richly rewarding, because if you plant the right thing they will come.

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