Meadow lovers find that life thrives “in chaos.”
Americans began to embrace alternative lawns, ditching the stereotypical simple patch of green for more vibrant foliage to benefit themselves and the surrounding ecosystem.
Abraham Levitt said in 1949: “A good lawn frames a dwelling. It is the first thing a visitor sees. First impressions are lasting impressions.”
Levitt founded Levitt and Sons Inc., which built the Levittown neighborhoods in the late 1940s and 1950s in New York, New Jersey and here in Bucks County.
Somewhere along the way in the creation of neighborhoods, the “perfect” lawn became part of the image symbolized by the American Dream: a house with a white picket fence and green grass.
Maintaining a “perfect lawn” is hard, demanding and expensive work, involving chemical fertilizers, weed killers, weekly mowing or weekly lawn care contracts that can exceed $100.
John Celentano, a Yardley resident and amateur wildlife photographer, is part of the growing crowd of Bucks County residents who are embracing alternative lawns that are lower maintenance, provide habitat for pollinators and birds, increase biodiversity and reduce water pollution.
“We love nature and have been trying for years to reduce the chemicals used on our property,” Celentano said. “This takes that to the next level, not only reduces the chemicals, but finds something that helps the soil and the birds and the bees, and it’s beautiful,” he said, referring to his wildflower front garden.
Celentano and his wife, Jane, created a buzz in the area with their new front garden over the summer after switching from grass to native wildflowers to promote an array of color and beauty. With the intense heat and rain that occurred, thousands of flowers bloomed, some of which reached a height of nine feet.
“It makes us really happy to see her giving others happiness,” Celentano said. “People write or call us to tell us how to start their own business. It was nice to hear that it has definitely inspired others to have alternative lawns that are definitely environmentally friendly.
While walking and driving, community members enjoyed not only the flowers, but also the abundance of pollinators and birds.
Some pesticides, when sprayed on plants, kill clovers and dandelions, which serve as a supplier of pollinators. They also can create the potential for poisoning beneficial insects and birds, alternative grass advocates say.
Shallow grass roots and compacted soil of lawns can limit water absorption when it rains. This increased runoff can pick up more pollutants from yards and streets and transport them to nearby streams causing toxic algae blooms that can harm aquatic life and people.
On the other hand, meadows and forests can help prevent flooding thanks to their deep root systems that are better at absorbing rainwater.
Adam Chrisman, founder of Pleasant Valley Farm and Garden LLC, added that maintenance for replacement lawns is minimal. Chrisman helped the Celentanos with their replacement garden.
“Unlike mowing your lawn once a week, this grass is mowed once a year,” he said.
Advocates say alternative lawns reduce homeowners’ contribution to air pollution.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, using a new gasoline mower for one hour emits the same amount of VOCs and nitrogen oxide as driving a new car 45 miles.
Chrisman’s original wildflower mix is a mix of annuals, which are plants with a one-year life cycle that will drop seed and come back the next year, and perennials, which have a root system that stays there so they come back every year.
To grow flowers, Chrisman uses the practice of digging seeds.
“If you just spray the seeds, they don’t have a good chance of germinating,” he explains. “It’s very simple, and it can be done on a very large scale or a very small scale, it could be an acre or a small plot.”
“The first step is to accept the messy nature and find beauty in the chaos,” Celentano said. “Create a beautiful environment.”
For more information about alternative meadows, visit https://pleasantvalleyfarmandgarden.com/.
(Tags for translation)Alternative meadows