July 4, 2011

Paths in the Weeds

I'm starting to like the contrast between my garden and the untended space that surrounds it all.  I didn't at first.

We are encircled by an open area that was disturbed earth left from the construction crews.  It's not a meadow in any pleasing sense, it's just weeds, including swaths of poison ivy and invasive scourges.

But it also has grasses and Queen Anne's Lace and oxeye daisies that are nice even if they are everywhere.  It has milkweed and butterflies and lightning bugs and all kinds of birds and animals (including a vast population of voles and ticks).

The wildlife was always wonderful out there in the weedy mess.  I just didn't like the look of my gardens surrounded by weeds, most of them robustly taller than anything I was growing, making my gardening attempts look so pathetic.

But then two things happened.

First, my gardens matured and the trees I planted grew, and my gardens now frame the weeds and grasses in the distance instead of the other way around.  Out there, beyond my river birch tree and planted garden, the grasses shine, a backdrop now for what I have created in front.

The second thing that happened was that Jim mowed winding paths through the weeds this year.  It has made all the difference.  I had not realized how forbidding the weedy meadow was --- you could only look at the mass of it, but you could not go out into it.  The weeds were too tall and thick to walk into.

The paths now tie the meadow area to my gardens by introducing the smallest bit of cultivation.  It's still a grassy, weedy area, but there is a sense of control, a sense that you can go from the garden into the meadow and back.  It looks intentional.  It looks interesting, like you'd want to go out there.

And I do wander the paths to see what is happening out there close up.

This year the milkweeds are prolific.  There are big stands of them all over the meadow.

I have noticed the deer use the paths.  The tall weeds never stopped them from foraging in my yard before, but now I see they are careful to use the mowed avenues.  Even when I am chasing them, wildly flapping my arms and yelling obscenities, they bound away down the mowed lanes, making sharp leaps at the corners where Jim has cut intersections.

I may need to put some signs up* along the paths in the weeds to direct them more efficiently.  Now that there is structure and coherence in the meadow, there should be some order out there.

* (Deer can read.  I know that from the fact that they read the nursery tags on newly planted things, and select the most expensive and rarest items.)


  1. What a wonderful idea cutting paths through the meadow. It makes it look so much more like a planned meadow, then just a field, and much easier to walk in as well. And what a huge difference with the trees getting some height on them, size does matter, lol.

  2. Oh I had to chuckle at the thought of the deer using the mown paths! They obviously enjoy a stroll along them as much as you. The meadow area does look terrific with these new paths ... great idea.

  3. Yay Jim. Those paths do seem so inviting. I am still giggling at the thought of you chasing the deer down the paths. I think signs are a good thing to direct the deer. Of course they can read. They are very intelligent animals. Just look at those big brown watery eyes. The better to read with.

  4. What a fantastic Idea. I know how I hated the unkept field around our cultivated area when we had a few acres but a few paths would have worked.
    We probably would have had traffic jams with all the wild life using it though:)

  5. Deer CAN read. I can vouch for that. That was a good idea to mow the paths. You have created a "room" by doing so. And it's such a shame to whack down anything that butterflies will frequent. Happy Fourth, Laurrie! We're having lobsta and the potty visual has me giggling all to myself.

  6. "(Deer can read. I know that from the fact that they read the nursery tags on newly planted things, and select the most expensive and rarest items.)" That is too funny!

    I like your paths. We stayed at a B&B that had some acreage with mowed paths. They really let you enjoy the area and the native plants will find their places.

  7. I wish my trees and things would get bigger, FASTER!! I think your landscape and mine are similar, I live next to the prairie restoration area! I have resisted planting out away from the house because of the deer, but I am ready to venture out there!

  8. Can I assume Jim didn't hit any hidden rocks and ding his mower blade? Dangerous foray into the wild!

  9. I love the paths Laurrie. If I were to visit I would probably head straight for them! Something about a path winding off to nowhere is extremely enticing.

  10. Deborah, once my plants got bigger than the nearby weeds, I was happier.

    Bernie, the deer surely thank us for being so accommodating!

    Lisa, those big brown eyes make us melt, but I still have to chase them, they do so much damage!

    Carol, I don't need any traffic jams out there, but it does get awfully busy with all the critters that use the meadow.

    Wendy, have a big bite of lobstah for me! Yum.

    Gardener on Sherlock, the mowed paths really do let me enjoy the area... before it was daunting to go out there.

    Sissy, I wish you luck if you do start planting near the prairie restoration area. It will want to dominate. It takes work to keep the cultivated area separate from the meadow / prairie. But I hope you do it!

    Pam, no adverse events happened with the John Deere out in the meadow, but it's slow going to mow down even a small path. Jim survived unscathed.

    Marguerite, you're right, paths do entice. That's why they are so important in gardens, yards and even out in the wild weeds.

  11. I really like your paths. A friend of mine did that and eventually linked the meadow to paths in the woods surrounding the meadows. I loved it.

    BTW, rabbits must have the same nasty reading habit that deer do. I am feeling like Elmer Fudd these days. lol

  12. Great idea that you had creating those paths. I would love to wander along those paths.
    Paula Jo

  13. Laurrie, How lucky you are to have your own meadow, and someone who will mow paths for you! The paths make all the difference and really make the meadow look more managed and planned. It's beautiful.

  14. The paths are wonderful as is the meadow. I often wonder why more people don't mow paths through their meadows. It makes them so inviting and approachable. But my favorite part of this post is the vision of you wildly flapping your arms while you chase the deer. We are, indeed, soulmates. I have to disagree with the deer reading part though. They don't need to read ... they simply need to fulfill thier exquisitely expensive tastes, something they do quite well!

  15. I like your idea but perhaps there already is order. It's survival of the fittest with plants that don't need any help. I wish I could say the same of my garden. You've connected the ecosystem of your meadow to that of your garden. However, instead of signs, I think the deer need a really narrow turn stile. That will slow them right down!!

  16. Garden Ms. S, rabbits can read, I'm sure!

    Paula Jo, thanks. I wish we had cut paths in prior years, don't know why we didn't think of it.

    Debbie, thanks. We actually don't own the meadow. It is common land that belongs to the association, but it is behind out lot and no one else sees it or uses it or tends it.

    Joene, I can bet that you do some deer chasing too!

    TS, that is the best idea of all: a turnstile for the deer. Love it!

  17. It's it wonderful what shows up in a wild meadow? That's great that Jim mowed paths for you (and the deer).

  18. I can relate to your intolerance of the weeds and grasses around your property. I used to feel much the same way about the space behind our home but over the years I've come to appreciate the diversity of plants and wildlife back there. It has helped immensely though that my husband mows a 5 foot swath along the fence and we added beds along the fence which like yours frames the greenbelt. You had me laughing out loud about your antics with the deer!

  19. You have such a beautiful backdrop for your garden, Laurrie! I always get a little frustrated when I look at photos I've taken of some of the garden areas here--there is usually either some ugly farm machinery or a shed that needs painting in the background that I just can't crop out.

    Mowing paths through the wild area was a great idea--this reminds me of our local forest preserve. The grassy paths will make it easier for you to enjoy the wildflowers and wildlife in this area. And, of course, it will make it easier for you to chase down those pesky deer:)

  20. I adore your writing, Laurrie!

  21. Hi Laurrie,One of the first thing we did in the garden was to build a fence to contain the dogs. The very next thing I did was to look for ways to hide this artificial boundary between my garden and the surrounding landscape.
    Your paths seem like great connection between your garden and its surroundings.

  22. Sweetbay, I love the paths, but wish the deer didn't!

    Cat, it's tricky to get the transition between the "wild" and the cultivated parts of the garden to blend. I'm glad you found a way to do it.

    Rose, the meadow does function as a backdrop for photos. I get houses and wires too, but if I can use the meadow, it frames the shot.

    Heather, thanks so much. I hope you find lots to read here.

    Jennifer, fences can define, and also limit, the transition between spaces. You need a fence for the dogs, but it can cut you off from a visual connection to what's around you. It's tricky!

  23. The path really makes it a destination, sadly for the deer as well as you and your lucky visitors!


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