Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | September 7, 2013

Autumn in the Meadow

Our White Oak Acres meadow garden is in its finest glory in September.

The ornamental grasses, the native Cup Plants, Black Eyed Susan’s, Rubeckia, Pink Cone Flowers, Golden Rod, Joe Pie Weed, Iron Plant and Obedient Plants are in full bloom right now and the meadow is ablaze with bumblebees and birds. And lots of Milkweed plants as these are the main host plants for the dwindling Monarch Butterflies. The shrubs are Viburnum and Butterfly Bushes, Forsythia, St. John’s Wort’s and Burning Bushes; most were seedlings that I propagated and have nurtured along for many years now.


These native plants are good for the environment and the wildlife as they provide safe cover, water, seeds and berries for birds fattening up for the long migration ahead. I’ve truly grown a meadow that is for the birds, butterfly’s, dragon fly’s and the bees.

When we moved here, 13 years ago (14 years this coming October 12) this meadow was just an ordinary mowed grass lawn. Early on I envisioned a meadow full of native flowers providing a blaze of color as well as a feast for the eyes. As I began to study, I realize that this meadow could become a source of food (of both seeds and bugs) as well as nesting sites for the birds. I made the decision to plant all native plants; shrubs, herbs and wildflowers.

As a result of our efforts our property is a National Wildlife Federation Certified Property AND a Monarch Butterfly Waystation, two certifications I am very proud to be associated with.


I like a loose and wild garden and this part of our two acre garden is pretty wild! It’s been a slow and gradual process as a garden like this is always a work in progress.

Our soil here in SW Michigan is sandy and the soil under grass has barely any nutrients left after growing grass. To create our meadow, I first dug out the grass along the meadow’s edge and add a thick layer of bark chips to begin to create better soil.  More bark chips get added every other year and as they breakdown the soil is improved.


When I began to plant I planted small plants and let them wander as they willed. I found out through trial and error which plants could tolerate the grasses encroaching upon them and which plants could take the heat and drought. I rarely if ever water this area. I’ve lost a few of the less hardy ones but the ones that have lived are tough. Think ditch flowers – the kind you see in ditches along the road all golden and purple.


This has been a fun long-term project and we find that the Eastern Bluebirds love to nest in their boxes in this area and almost every year are successful in their breeding, which is reward enough for me.


Small House / Big Sky Donna


  1. Hurray for all the wildlife you are nurturing! You can certify your property as a wildlife garden through this link at National Wildlife Federation. Both my parents and I have done so on our respective homes. I still attract very few butterflies in spite of my efforts. Boyne

  2. Thanks Boyne. Actually we ARE a certified wildlife property AND a Monarch Butterfly Way Station. I just didn’t mention it this time around! We have had a LOT of butterflies in past years but our big flood years really changed things as I lost a lot of my butterfly host plants plants to the flood waters. If you are in an urban area where folks spray and put chemicals down on grass, that really effects the populations.
    Small House / Big Sky Donna

    • I do believe chemicals on the grass may be the problem as some homeowners in my neighborhood have weed control sprayed on their yards.

  3. Gorgeous garden! Love it. Thanks for sharing about how you established your wild garden. We have lots of acreage & I would like to create a wild garden. I pinned this post to my gardening section.

  4. I loved reading about the meadow you have created. I’d never heard of a National Wildlife Federation Certified Property; what a lovely thing to learn. Wish I had more property of my own for such a project. I do have a “wide patch” behind our backyard fence where I sow wild flower seed. How nice to watch Nature do her thing with so little help from me (though I realize your meadow has required more planning and work on your part; its own wonderful reward)!

    • Someday when you have the time do a Google search on National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Certification. It’s a fascinating program. Even small backyards can be certified with a bit of planning and planting! You can also buy a small metal sign for a modest fee and hang it in your yard which gives you a bit of “bragging rights.” It’s lots of fun!

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