Customer Reviews: The American Meadow Garden: Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn
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on July 10, 2010
The photos in this book are lovely - inspired alternatives to lawns and endless mowing. Planning, planting and maintenance are nicely described.

However, the enormous majority of photos and gardens are California or the southwest (there is one photo from the midwest, none from the east). Most the planting suggestions work only in zones 8 and up. As a result, the book has limited usefulness to those of us living in the rest of the country.
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on November 28, 2009
I waited a few years for this book to finally come out after hearing Mr. Greenlee give a talk at the SF AIA. It is everything I recall him promising, but way better. He not only discusses the beauty and environmental sense of meadow gardens, but gives good INFORMATION on site prepraration, design, and maintenance. As a landscape architect, I would strongly recommend anyone considering a meadow-inspired garden to actually read the text (which is well written). Too many coffee table books are crap reads, this one is markedly better and the best of its kind. I'm SO glad I kept looking for it and was able to pre-order.
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on November 14, 2009
This book will make you want a meadow. I can't imagine how anyone could see these gorgeous images and read the author's argument for replacing traditional lawns and not want to start right away. The photographs are beautiful and the writing is very well done. I learned so much and I feel ready to plan a meadow of my own. My only wish is that the book covered more geographic areas...the vast majority of the gardens are Californian, but I am sure that is at least partly due to the fact that meadows as a landscape are not embraced all over the country (yet).
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on November 16, 2009
Though I pre-ordered this book and waited for three (3) months for the release, I now realize that I have actually been waiting for this book for years! After reading the American Meadow Garden, I feel positively free to dig up my lawn and replace it with a wonderland of ornamental grasses and native perennials.

I have been gardening on the East Coast for over 25 years and have been huge fan of John Greenlee's West Coast work. His other reference work on ornamental grasses is a staple in my gardening library. In that text, as in his new book he is always careful to address all regions and environmental conditions that horticulturists might face.

I have contemplated meadow gardening before, actually for a long time, as it is an age-old method of xeriscaping. I know full well that it is a nice thing to do for the Earth. I've researched the benefits, even visited sites such as Kurt Bluemel's design at the River Farm Meadow in Virginia that happens to be elgantly featured in this book ([...]). It always seemed like a nice place to visit and I really WOULD like to live there except for one hitch.

Truthfully, I've always worried about what the neighbors would say if I had huge stands of ornamental grasses and a soft, wispy palette of butterfly attracting perennials with no suburban turf. What would they say if I didn't meet neck and neck with the Saturday morning mower-brigade? Would the mulch guy stop sending a fruit-log at Christmas if I stopped ordering my annual 12 yards? How would visitors feel if I gave up on keeping tidy paths and elongated turf vistas in the traditional methods of Gertrude Jekyll and Rosemary Verey?

Who cares what they think; I hate fruit cake anyway! I have found a new truth. I will woo them all with my new effort that will be carefully mapped from my Greenlee guide. I will spend the winter contemplating the release of my inner passion to have my very own meadow. I now have a comprehensive plant list specific to my region and garden conditions. All that information, coupled with inspiration and confidence, I am now armed and looking forward to shopping for my new mini-ecosystem. Fingers crossed that I find the things that I truly want! Only question left is how I'll spend my Summer Saturdays. Perhaps collecting wildflowers in my yard with the faint background noise of "other people's mowers." Hope they catch on and buy the book!
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on January 27, 2010
I am enjoying the new crop of gardening books because most of them no longer masquerade as odes to gardening. Instead, authors and publishers make certain that books on horticulture empower readers to garden successfully. No matter how complex the topic, gardening advice now takes the form of an easily digestible manual, usually integrated into a reader-friendly text. The American Meadow Garden is a bold step in re-defining our outdoor environment. Here is a book that informs and instructs us how to use a meadow garden as an alternative for a lawn. Neat green lawns are becoming an albatross and an anachronism. Evolving lifestyles, shrinking natural resources, and a deepening concern about the chemicals that pollute our water table are causing some horticulturalists to re evaluate the role that lawns play in the quality of our life.

John Greenlee is a respected horticulturalist and writer who suggests using meadow gardens as an alternative to green lawns. This is not the stereotypical meadow with cows grazing. The author presents us with a relatively new concept for North America: a field of ornamental grasses punctuated by naturalized bulbs and native flowering perennials. The design of an urban park, influenced by this principle, already exists at the Lurie Gardens in Chicago. Mr. Greenlee believes that this landscape treatment is far more satisfying than either a lawn or a traditional mixed flower border and that it combines the best attributes of both. Furthermore, he argues, a meadow is more ecology-friendly than a lawn because it consumes fewer resources.

A meadow garden should not intimidate, as it does not need to be all encompassing and expansive. This substitute for a manicured lawn may be small enough to insert into any size garden plan. There it will serves as a place for the eyes to rest, or as a transition between formal garden and the wider landscape..

The scope of information covered by the author is vast yet distilled, so that the reader can learn without becoming overwhelmed. One chapter deals with grasses that work best for landscaping fields. Another chapter discusses the purposefulness of a meadow, because some grasses can be useful in dealing with issues such as slopes, drought, marshlands, and drainage.

A subsequent chapter introduces the art of designing with grasses. Some varieties work better as brushstrokes, others as groundcover, some as filler, and others as a background. In addition, much attention is also devoted to wild flowers and naturalizing bulbs. These plants work well among grasses to add continuous color, throughout the growing season. The last chapters that round out the book include a photo essay on drought tolerant meadow gardens, a user-friendly encyclopedia of grasses, and a chapter on how to undertake a meadow project, complete with a formula for calculating the number of plants needed.

A review of this book would be inadequate if it did not pay tribute to the visuals that illuminate its pages. Saxon Holt is an established and award winning horticultural photographer. The author is fortunate that Mr. Holt has taken a subject, ostensibly still limited in its appeal, and has propelled it into consciousness with photographs that are extraordinary. The luminescence and ethereal texture of the grass meadows captured in these images are a convincing testimonial that such gardens merit serious consideration.

Allan Becker reviews books on garden topics[...].
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on June 20, 2014
Beautiful photos. Agreed.
The Great American Lawn is a chemical sucking, water sucking wasteland. Agreed.
Planting with anything BUT natives local (genotype) to the region. DISAGREE.
Learning to live with European/Asian/African exotic weeds and invasives. For-absolutely-get it.

Greenlee misses the point that the reason for installing an "American" (which implies native plants in my mind) meadow garden is to correct habitat so that fundamentally, insects and then the rest of the food chain can live there. No matter how pretty, if the plants do not satisfy the needs of the insect community (IE: no matter what we think, Monarchs need milkweed to reproduce. End of discussion according to the Monarchs. So, you can plant what you like in hopes of supporting Monarchs, but if there is no milkweed, they are out of here), this garden is not doing its job. Chewed, by the way, is good. These are not gardens primarily for humans, they are for re-establishing diversity and sustainability in the environment. That we benefit by their beauty is a side effect in my mind. If you are going to go through the time and trouble of digging out the dreaded lawn, you might also consider the larger reason you are doing this: it's to recreate balance in the natural world.

Books like this freak me out as they mislead the beginner. The impulse is right, but the planting advice in many places in this book are off target. One would be much better off with Bringing Nature Home by Tallamy (read the last chapter first for inspiration). Also, check out your local nature centers and find the native plant growers in your region for some solid advice on how to get started. No point in spending money to repeat a prettier version of that stupid lawn.

BTW: this is a major cultural shift and guaranteed the neighbors won't like it one bit. They like their lawns and consider native plants "weeds." Don't let that deter you, keep on knowing that in the course of the universe, you are doing the right thing. (But do it with the right plants.) PS: ABSOLUTELY no pesticides, fungicides, insecticides or "cides" of any sort in the native garden. Keep in mind your goal: restoration. Mother Nature knows what she is doing, that's what predators are for: they keep populations under control. The day the Preying Mantis show up, is the day you break out the champagne as your garden is doing its job.
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on February 28, 2015
Get it in print, the "Kindle" format is a pain to use as a reference book, the captions and corresponding images are on different pages, so you constantly are going back and forth trying to make sense of it, I would not recommend the Kindle format for anyone.
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on December 3, 2009
This is a terrific book for those who have been wasting their time, our resources and endangering our aquifers. Restrictive neighborhood covenants may have to be modified BECAUSE wherever possible a return to native plantings will go a long way to resolving the three problems above. I have a pasture that has begged to be replanted as a meadow. The only thing that held me back is not enough information as to how to go about this. The answers are here for the serious individual to break the restraint of maintaining lawns, etc. Matt Cohen MDZen of Watering Your Garden
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on August 9, 2013
This is a great book for anyone contemplating a meadow garden. It gives a blow by blow explanation of how to go about this task with a chapter towards the end on actually planting the garden. There are great nursery resources in the back as well. My only two complaints are: it is heavy on California and in the plant descriptions there is no notation to plants being deer resistant - which may not be a big thing to some but to those of us out in some rural areas - it is important to know.
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on June 9, 2010
i have been wanting to do a "meadow" style planting on the hill of our new home. this book is wonderful for general information, the plant dictionary, and a general how-to. the photography is beautiful, and gives lots and lots of wondeful ideas.

this being said, i found that most of the book was geared towards California. granted the author lives there, but i don't. the only place he mentions in Wsconsin, i have already discovered.
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