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Urban and Suburban Meadows: Bringing Meadowscaping to Big and Small Spaces Paperback – June 1, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This skillfully crafted guide is a wonderful resource providing the gardener with concise step by step instructions on how to meadowscape existing lawns into easily managed, pesticide free, native meadow gardens that provide all-season beauty while protecting and providing for nature."
--Steve Castorani, North Creek Nurseries

"This is a great book - beautiful and useful. It is totally organic in approach and gives step-by-step instructions (with pictures) for several different organic approaches to meadow establishment. It stresses the use of native plants and lays out the environmental benefits of meadows - providing habitat and food for wildlife, controlling erosion and restoring a natural water cycle, as well as the cost benefit of much reduced maintenance after establishment. The list of regional resources for creating meadows is a gold mine of information for meadow enthusiasts across the U.S. And, it has gorgeous pictures of meadows on practically every page."
--Sarah Little, Ph.D. NOFA Organic Land Care Committee, Chair



"Before manicured lawns, with their chemicals, mowers, and blowers, there were ecological meadows, with their butterflies, birds, and bees. Catherine Zimmerman's Urban and Suburban Meadows reintroduces readers to the beauty and biodiversity of the meadow and reminds them of the intricate connections between wildlife and native plant communities that serve as both food source and habitat. Whether restoring a small urban pocket garden or reclaiming an acre of suburban lawn, this beautifully photographed book will compel readers to plant these living landscapes. Zimmerman provides both the inspiration and the thoughtfully developed and comprehensive practical steps necessary for success."
--Penny Lewis, Executive Director, Ecological Landscaping Association

"Urban and Suburban Meadows by Catherine Zimmerman (Matrix Media Press, 2010) is a practical compilation of information collected from Zimmerman’s background growing up on a small farm in the 1950s and ‘60s and her training and certification in horticulture and organic gardening. She captures the enjoyment of having a meadow garden and takes you through the steps of how to create one for yourself.

Zimmerman writes about meadows vs. monocultures and how to prepare the sites, and she provides 70 pages of contacts across the country. This how-to guide offers the most up to date information for succeeding at meadow gardening in urban and suburban settings. Available now at The MeadowProject.com and Amazon.com; June 1, at major bookstores. This 272 page paperback has more than 200 color photographs."
--Joel M. Lerner, Washington Post, Green Scene: Books to help plant gardening ideas



"THE CONCEPT of a meadow garden is simple: wildflowers, grasses, butterflies, and minimal maintenance. In reality, meadows are complex ecosystems that re- quire some know-how to create. Enter horticulturist and landscape designer Catherine Zimmerman and her new book Urban and Suburban Meadows. Chock full of concise information, this book enables readers to envision meadows and prairies as achievable, low-maintenance gardens that offer a viable alternative to lawns. Imbued with Zimmerman’s passionate commitment to sustainable gardening, this well-researched book starts off by building a convincing case for meadow ecosystems versus monocultural lawns, complete with charts comparing costs. (On average, meadows are twice as expensive to install but half as expensive to maintain over time.) Integrating advice from a handful of experts, Zimmerman leads readers step by step from conception to fruition. Chapters cover topics such as site preparation, design, establishment, and maintenance, enhanced by plenty of color photographs, illustrations, and sidebars. A plant key presents recommended regional wildflowers and grasses grouped by soil moisture requirements.

The chapter on maintenance, with its dramatic photographs of raging conflagrations, may put a few readers off. While burning is the best way to maintain grasslands, it isn’t always tenable due to community ordinances, spatial concerns, and the expertise required to conduct a burn. That said, the book presents alternatives such as annual mowing, which are more practical for the home gardener.

It is difficult for any book to cover an entire continent, though this volume makes an attempt. The book’s overall focus is clearly east of the Rockies, yet a large number of pages are devoted to other regions, including brief descriptions of 84 eco-regions with diverse floras that are excluded or glossed over by the plant key. And because, as Zimmerman puts it, “finding local resources, such as nurseries, providing plants native to your area is a key element in the successful outcome of your meadow or prairie planting,” there is a section listing these re- sources for various regions around the country.

Despite the book’s ambitious scope, any reader considering a meadow, as a landscaping alternative will find it contains a wealth of information and clearly articulated step-by-step methodology for meadow making."
--C. Colston Burrell, The American Gardener: The American Horticultural Society magazine

About the Author

Catherine Zimmerman, an award-winning director of photography, has over 30 years of experience in documentary filmmaking with an emphasis on education and environmental issues. Environmental videos she has worked on include global warming documentaries for CNN Presents and New York Times Television; Save Rainforest/Save Lives, Fresh Farm Markets, Wildlife Without Borders: Connecting People and Nature in the Americas, and videos for Discovery Creek Children's Museum. Catherine is also a certified horticulturist and landscape designer, based in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. She is accredited in organic land care through the Northeast Organic Farmers Association and has designed and taught a course in organic landscaping for the USDA Graduate School Horticulture program. In writing Urban and Suburban Meadows, Catherine has created a stunning and enticing introduction to meadowscaping that will inspire her readers to do away with pesticide-ridden, manicured lawns and return their land to a beautiful, natural habitat for native plants and wildlife. She hopes that her project will start the movement toward making natural landscapes the new landscaping norm.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Matrix Media Press (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984456007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984456000
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 7.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #855,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Douglas W. Tallamy on June 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
Many who decide to embrace the native plant movement choose to start with a meadow. It seems like an easy first step to convert a section of lawn into a beautiful meadow. Meadows are productive and diverse sources of food and shelter for wildlife and can enrich the local food web quickly. But successful meadows are not as easy to create as they may seem and a number of discouraging traps await the uninformed homeowner who simply stops mowing and hopes for the best. But now Catherine Zimmerman has assembled a superb, step-by-step guide to help us all avoid these traps, whether we are creating a small meadow strip or a multi-acre prairie restoration. Urban and Suburban Meadows not only presents the timely case for adding meadows to our managed landscapes but also tells us exactly how to do it, no matter where you live or how much money you have to spend. There are other good books about meadows, but this is my favorite.
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When designing a native meadow or prairie, it is critical to have locally appropriate information both with regards to what is native to your state, but also what will thrive at your site (dry/wet or sun/part-sun). This book is worth buying for the plant lists alone which are indexed by region, state, and site. But it goes a step further and has a several page summary of each of several major regions of the continental US, making this book truly useful to anyone in the lower 48. I also discovered a very helpful web site from the local resource lists in the back.

Most chapters are inspired by an interview with a meadow expert from a different state, giving the book both a broad geographic appeal, but also some very different points of view, as each of the people interviewed has a different focus. There is a wonderful chapter on burning, which I have never seen detailed so well before.

Zimmerman also mentions a few critical tips I hadn't heard anywhere else, like the desirability of wild species over hybrids due to hybrids being chosen for bloom size and color over vitality, nectar production, and forage value for native wildlife. Also she does a good job of showing multiple ways of accomplishing the same goal so that you can choose instead of saying, "you must do it this way" and indicates which factors might influence your decision. The pictures are beautiful and the layout is attractive, clear, and easy to follow.

I'm only giving it 4 stars instead of 5 because the editing was poor enough to be distracting. It looked like it shipped before the final edits were incorporated. In particular, steps 7 and 8 on page 97 are both essentially "water what you planted.
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There are few if any photographs in this book of the small- to medium-sized plots that most urban and suburban meadow gardeners have to work with. Most of the lots pictured are so large they might as well be rural.

We never see a small front-yard meadow surrounded by the neighbors' traditional lawn-and-shrub yards either. The photographs focus instead on individual houses with meadows, leaving out all the surrounding areas. This creates the illusion of a rural setting--the very thing that suburban and urban meadow gardeners don't have. So the book skirts one of the main problems most urban and suburban meadow gardeners face: how to make a meadow look appropriate in a non-rural setting, the lawns of suburbia. If you're looking for a meadow book that goes beyond the talk-to-the-neighbors-first cliches, this isn't it.

The book is not really about meadows at all. "Meadow" is a broad term. It may include almost any combination of grass and flowers growing in a naturalistic way, including many exotics and plants considered to be weeds. The focus of this book is much narrower. It takes a hard-line, all-natives approach. It's about simulating native grassland habitats of North America in a garden setting. The title should reflect this.

There are other problems with the book.

With the exception of the "reflections" at the beginning, it's written in a dull, didactic style.

The section on growing flowers in existing turf--one of the best ways of making a meadow in many situations--is extremely weak. She basically has someone plant a couple of purple coneflowers in an overgrown patch of lawn.

The author devotes many pages to burning meadows when most gardeners working in a truly urban or suburban setting are not allowed to burn.
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Format: Paperback
This is a great book - beautiful and useful. It is totally organic in approach and gives step-by-step instructions (with pictures) for several different organic approaches to meadow establishment. It stresses the use of native plants and lays out the environmental benefits of meadows - providing habitat and food for wildlife, controlling erosion and restoring a natural water cycle, as well as the cost benefit of much reduced maintenance after establishment. The list of regional resources for creating meadows is a gold mine of information for meadow enthusiasts across the U.S. And, it has gorgeous pictures of meadows on practically every page.
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