Eco-Friendly Garden Tour – Sonoma Meadow Garden


Downtown Sonoma Water Wise Meadow Garden

Eco-Tour Picture 1
Eco-Tour Picture 2
Eco-Tour Picture 3Eco-Tour Picture 4

This east side Sonoma front yard represents the smallest meadow garden that “the master of the American meadow” John Greenlee has designed. His designs are featured at such notable public spaces as the San Diego Zoo, Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, and the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Greenlee is the Author of “The American Meadow Garden” and “The Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses”.

Plant List


  1. Achillea spp. (Yarrow)
  2. Aquilegia spp. (Columbine)
  3. Dasylirion wheeleri (Desert Spoon)
  4. Digitalis spp. (Foxglove)
  5. Jacobaea maritima (Dusty Miller)
  6. Cordyline Australis ‘Red Star’ (Red Grass Palm)
  7. Euonymus japonicus (Golden Euonymus)
  8. Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ (Pincushion)


  1. Bellis perennis (Common Daisy)
  2. Bromus benekenni
  3. Carex buchananii (Leather Leaf Sedge)
  4. Eragrostis curvula (Weeping Lovegrass)
  5. Festuca mairei (Atlas Fescue)

Excerpt: ‘The American Meadow Garden’

Chapter 1. The Lure of the Meadow
At base, all meadows are grasslands. In various times and on various continents, these grass ecologies have been described as meads, pastures, savannahs, sods, and lawns; some of the world’s most famous grass ecologies are the South American pampas, South African veldt, the steppes of Russia, and the great North American prairie. These ecologies are characterized by vast, largely treeless grass-covered landscape. Although they vary greatly in their components, they are broadly similar in their nature and look.

Meadows are generally acknowledged to be grassy openings in landscapes with trees, often associated with streams or creeks. Meadows can be composed of indigenous species, or they can be mixes of both native and introduced or exotic species. Rightly or wrongly, we may also refer to pastures as meadows. More often, pastures, especially those with a long history of grazing by horses, cattle, or sheep, are altered native ecologies, with very little or no native components.

Meadows, although dominated by grasses, are also a madcap of many other broadleaf plants, something that is like no other plant community. A meadow is a symphony of color, light, and texture. Any one small plot of meadow may look amorphous or anonymous, but actually it is rich in plant species with bulbs, annual grasses, sedges, rushes, mosses, and lichens interwoven to make a living cloth — the hair of the earth, as the great German horticulturalist Karl Foerster put it in his book, Einzug der Gräser und Farne in die Gärten (Introducing grasses and ferns into gardens). Like icebergs in the ocean, there’s as much, if not more, going on beneath the soil in meadows, out of sight, than there is visible above the ground. And because they are filled with a diversity of plants, they support a diversity of life: from the crucial microbial level to birds, bees, and butterflies, all kinds of creatures are found in meadow ecologies.

For me, meadows have always meant grassy places that were enclosed or framed by the natural features surrounding them. By the sea, you will find grasses adapted to sand, salt, and the wind of the dunes. Meadows on ridge tops, often called balds or portreros, are populated by grasses and other plants adapted to survive the extreme conditions found in these locations. In parts of the Midwest, the term “glade,” an opening among trees, is interchangeable with “meadow.” For many people the word meadow is synonymous with the phrase “mountain meadow.” Indeed, after one reaches an altitude of 8,000 to 9,000 feet, the forest trees give way to grassy, flowering meadows, no matter where such conditions are found in the world. Meadows can show up anywhere. For the sake of this book, we will define meadows as grassy spaces that are not mowed and maintained like conventional lawns.

From The American Meadow Garden: Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn by John Greenlee. Copyright 2009 by John Greenlee. Published by Timber Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.