Mini Meadow. Mega Mission.

Photo Credit: Morgan Ancell

Seed. Soil. Water. Cold. Warm. Germination. Cotyledons. Stem. Leaves. Time. Flower. Seed. The journey to being fully formed is long. The final bloom of a plant is not fully realized until the right things happen in the right order and at the right time. A plant does not try to hurry time but rather accepts its journey as perfect. How wise we could be if only we would follow their lead.

In 2018 when the design plan was done for my property my vision was unformed, just an idea that this area would be good for a wildflower pollinator garden. Ahimsa Garden did not exist. One moment at a time, one experience at a time. Listening, learning, the journey began to paint a picture that was much bigger than a pollinator garden.

Now 4 years after the design was done, 2 years after Ahimsa Garden was born, I have learned there is actually a habitat called a Piedmont Prairie. The Clifton Institute has been researching how to manage and do conservation restoration of this habitat type. “At the Clifton Institute we are studying remnant grasslands in the Piedmont of northern Virginia to (1) better understand what plants and animals are found in these habitats, (2) learn about the conservation status of these species and sites, and (3) come up with strategies to restore Piedmont prairies.”

I have been involved as a volunteer at The Clifton Institute for many years. Helping with soil samples, riparian buffer plantings, controlled burns, and watching how the different study plots look, change and are impacted by the different management methods. This has been an exciting part of my journey.

In the Fall of 2021, inspired by what I was seeing and learning about Piedmont Prairies, I made the decision to continue the next stage of Ahimsa Garden and started preparing the 950 square foot planting area for the wildflower meadow. I worked with Marie Norwood at Clifton to understand that the process of killing lawn is called solarization and there were several methods to do this. After reading the information she provided I settled on using cardboard, it is free and it will degrade in place.

Day One – Look close, see the pink flags. Using a 25 ft. tape measure I laid out the shape of where the meadow will be. I changed the shape from the original design. Yes you can do that. It is your space, let it speak to you.

The cardboard was an excellent choice for several reasons other than the cost and the 3R’s. It performed nicely at smothering the lawn that was there. It kept the soil from drying out so when it was time to plant the clay soils were easier to work with. Best of all, it also will stay in place providing these benefits as the plants mature and get established. I was skeptical about leaving the carboard in place and planting right through it. After all it does look messy. However, after a conversation with Matt Bright at Earth Sangha where he said something to the effect of .. leave it there, don’t even mulch it. When you mulch it you run the risk of bringing in seed of non-native plants that you currently don’t have on your property. The cardboard is serving as mulch now. Just leave it in place and plant right through it. Don’t add mulch on top. I said to myself, Reneé he has a lot more experience than you do and he gave you good free advice. Listen to him and have faith it will be okay. So that is just what I did. Now, it doesn’t look all fancy and “clean” like the mulch islands of traditional ways, but I am okay with that and we need to start driving toward a new method of creating landscaped places. With LESS MULCH!!

The above slide show depicts the progression from laying out the first pieces of cardboard, finding random heavy items to weight it down, and the final stage 12 months later just before the plants were installed where the cardboard has aged and started to break down. Please keep in mind I live on the outskirts of suburbia and do not have an HOA to abide by. I informed my neighbors of my project not because they would complain, but because I looked a little like I was loosing my marbles, and we look out for each other around here. If you do live where there is an HOA that would require this to look “tidy” then I would suggest the same method but cover with leaf mulch and maybe put a potted plant or two on the corners to show intent. HOA problem resolved … hopefully.

All the plants were sourced from Earth Sangha where they collect only local-ecotype seeds and only grow from the seeds they collect. I do recommend trying to source local-ecotype plants when you can, as feasible, but understand the market is limited. So do your best. And if all you can do is understand what local-ecotype means, why these plants are limited and just be informed then you have done a GREAT thing. Now, go read this PRESS RELEASE so you can be GREAT!

Installation day! Laying out the design isn’t hard, but it does require the ability to remember that the design will be up to Mother Nature in the end and not the colorful icons on a print out. I tend to fuss about placement, and having a friend keep you from being too fussy over 2 inches this way or that is helpful. I am so glad Morgan and Jake Ancell responded to my FB community post asking for some help with native plant garden maintance. In just one and a half days Morgan and I got 334 plants carefully tucked into the earth. And Jake fixed the garden carts, hauled all the logs that boarder Ahimsa Woodland Garden and Ahimsa Meadow Garden as well as fixed a fence rail.

Now we did take this picture after the plants were laid out and before all the hard labor. But I assure you we were smiling even bigger after seeing what two amazing women can accomplish with a drill auger, knowledge, strong backs and strong hands.

Ahimsa Meadow Garden is born! She will focus on setting strong roots, getting established and forming a solid foundation before she fulfills her purpose of creating healthy soil, feeding birds, insects, amphibians and probably a groundhog too. Offering habitat, energy, life.

Step by step, in the right order, a plant does not try to hurry time but rather accepts its journey as perfect.

Ahimsa, in my middle I will do my best to live a life where I do not harm, wishfully or in action, myself or the world around me.

Romans 12:18
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Published by Ahimsa Native Plants & Design LLC

Creating habitat in the home landscape.

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