Transforming Turf into a Meadow Ecosystem

From a swath of turf grass came a thriving meadow ecosystem full of wild flowers, pollinators and biodiversity.

September 12, 2022 | | Notes from the Wild

I recently wandered through a wonderful meadow ecosystem in Adjala-Tosorontio Township, imagined and installed by Cheryl Bailey with help from her husband. They transformed a swath of turf at a property they call Pleasant Hill into a biodiverse habitat of native wildflowers. 

From spring, when the vibrant blue-purple hues of wild lupine dominate, to the fall, when drifts of showy goldenrod bloom, the meadow is a visual treat. Cheryl, an accomplished contemporary landscape artist, draws inspiration from the changing palette of colour. 

Cheryl in her meadow ecosystem.

Cheryl in her meadow ecosystem. Photo by Cheryl Bailey

Wild Lupine dominates in spring

Wild Lupine dominates in spring. Photo by Cheryl Bailey.

But her meadow offers far more than lovely flowers. Her plants, unlike the nectar and pollen bereft annuals found in so many gardens, are serious ecological players. Bees, wasps and butterflies are in constant attendance. 

When I visited in early August, the whirring of bumblebees filled the air as they bounced from flower head to flower head, targeting wild bergamot and purple coneflower. 

Great-spangled fritillaries danced over the meadow. The caterpillars of these lovely orange butterflies feed on woodland violets, but the adults need the energy-laden nectar of meadow wildflowers. 

Cheryl has counted over 20 species of butterflies visiting her meadow – a diverse winged menagerie that was unknown in the meadow’s previous incarnation as turf grass. 

Great Spangled Fritilaries on Purple Coneflower

Great Spangled Fritilaries on Purple Coneflower

A Monarch Butterfly perches on Showy Goldenrod

A Monarch Butterfly perches on Showy Goldenrod

The arthropod abundance of Cheryl’s meadow is not limited to bees and butterflies, of course. Moths, spiders, grasshoppers and ambush bugs abound. Tree crickets sing from concealed perches among the goldenrod and spent blossoms of blazing star. 

These arthropods are critically important. Many are pollinators. But many others convert the plants they eat into protein that feeds bats, birds, frogs and other vertebrates. 

In late summer Showy Goldenrod prevails.

In late summer Showy Goldenrod prevails. Photo by Cheryl Bailey.

Liatris is a bumblebee favourite

Liatris is a bumblebee favourite. Photo by Cheryl Bailey.

Cheryl doesn’t water her meadow – in fact there is no practical way to do so.  Regardless, in this summer of drought, the plants continued to offer an abundance of bloom. Their resilience was remarkable.  

Cheryl’s meadow is a triumph. It nurtures life, invites discovery, pleases the senses and, for Cheryl, inspires art. 

About the Author More by Don Scallen

Don Scallen enjoys sharing his love of nature through his writing and presentations. Check out his blog "Notes from the Wild".

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