Garden Photo of the Day

Massachusetts Meadow

A field of blooms

green meadow with flowers

Today we’re visiting Heidi Dollard’s garden.

I have been gardening for 35 years in western Massachusetts. My gardens were always in the shade until four years ago, when we moved into a new house. The new house is on a slope and has dramatic views of the Connecticut River Valley and Holyoke Range. I now have all the sun I could ever want, and I’ve had to learn about a whole new plant palette. I’m creating a low-maintenance, bird- and pollinator-friendly yard. A landscape architect designed the hardscape and land contours, including a welcoming pebble patio under a pergola, surrounded by a mostly perennial bed that also sets the house nicely into slope. Below the perennial garden is a mown swath, and below that is a native plant meadow over our leach field.

My initial plant choices for the garden were mostly “pollinator friendly” but not necessarily native species. Since I retired two years ago, I have been volunteering with the Massachusetts Pollinator Network and have learned the importance of planting “straight” natives, not cultivars. In addition to providing nectar and pollen for adult bees and butterflies, they also provide food for early life stages and nesting and overwintering habitat. Some specialized native bees can only feed from specific native plants. I now follow Doug Tallamy’s advice to plant at least 70% natives, which allows plenty of scope for my favorite nonnatives. The foraging bees and butterflies provide endless entertainment and a sense that the garden is truly thriving.

The garden area has excellent topsoil and has been a pleasure to fill with flowering plants; nearly everything is happy there. The meadow, by contrast, has lean soil that dries out quickly, and it has been slow to establish. This year it’s finally coming into its own as the little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium, Zones 3–9) becomes dominant, with red-hued wild rye (Elymus canadensis, Zones 3–8) around the edges. The subtle colors and textures of the grasses are complemented by bright pops of color from seasonal flowers scattered in the meadow and are a special delight.

Most of these photos were taken by my friend and neighbor Marvin, who is an amazing photographer!

garden pergola overlooking meadowThis first photo shows the patio and pergola, with its surrounding flower garden and the meadow below.

meadow gardenThe flowering pollinator meadow lies over the leach field. In addition to the bluestem, which I planted both from seeds and plugs, currently flowering are volunteer goldenrods (Solidago canadensis, Zones 3–9; Solidago altissima, Zones 5–10; and Euthamia graminifolia, Zones 3–9), fleabane (Erigeron strigosus, annual), boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum, Zones 4–8), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea, Zones 4–9), prairie coneflower (Ratibida pinnata, Zones 3–8), New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis, Zones 5–9), green-headed coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata, Zones 4–9), and Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum, Zones 4–9).

meadow garden with mountains in the backgroundThis is a view from the patio. I’ve planted lots of annuals to make sure the patio is always surrounded by flowers, and I make sure they are airy enough not to block the view. Seen here: Verbena bonariensis (Zones 7–9 or as an annual), orange cosmos (Cosmos sulphuerus, annual), zinnia Queen Lime (Zinnia elegans, annual), and Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota, annual or biennial).

mix of annual flowers growingZinnia and Queen Anne’s lace are growing together with Verbena bonariensis.

mix of pink and purple flowers in a meadowThis view of the meadow includes an orange gladiolus (Gladiolus hybrid, Zones 7–10 or as a tender bulb) in the background.

orange Butterfly weedButterfly weed (Asclepius tuberosa, Zone 5–9) looks great with little bluestem in the meadow.

purple flowers surrounded by grassAnother favorite in the meadow (from earlier in the season) is blazing star (Liatris spictata, Zones 3–9). Even the dried seed heads look cool.

pink flowers next to plant with dark foliagePenstemon digitalis (Zones 3–8) is one of my favorite plants. It is decorative in all seasons. Here the seed heads look great, especially with the purple coneflower.

green meadow with flowersHere is one of Marvin’s perfect photos of the garden, the meadow, and the mountains in the distance.


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View Comments


  1. runfortheroses 09/14/2021

    Amazing! Well done, Heidi! Doug Tallmay rules! Thanks for sharing

  2. garden1953 09/14/2021

    Beautiful and inspiring!

  3. User avater
    user-7007816 09/14/2021

    What a beautiful setting you have created. I commend you for your use of native pollinators. Well done

  4. karen49 09/14/2021

    Thank you for sharing your amazing gardens! I am so jealous of all the sun you have! Love your views too!!

  5. gardendevas 09/14/2021

    Huzzah! Absolutely stunning views! Thanks for being inspired by Doug Tallamy, and providing such a wonderful pollinator habitat.

  6. Jay_Sifford 09/14/2021

    Really great!

  7. coastalgardener 09/14/2021

    Beautiful garden with stunning views...and kudos for choosing native plants!

  8. User avater
    treasuresmom 09/14/2021

    Nothing like a wildflower meadow & mountains. Lovely!

  9. btucker9675 09/14/2021

    This is how I hope heaven looks... what a beautiful garden you've made in a beautiful location. Thanks to you and to Marvin for these wonderful photos.

  10. User avater
    pattyeckels 09/14/2021

    Gorgeous! Do you mow it down in the winter?or let it go? I have a much smaller strip of property..10 wide about 120 feet long, with horse fields in the background. I would love to do this.

  11. User avater
    simplesue 09/14/2021

    What a great job you did creating a natural wild garden of natives with a few added non natives.
    I love the wildness of it all, it looks like it just takes care of it's self.
    Your photographer friend took some amazing wide shots of the garden which really shows how big it is and how it's really a part of the natural landscape!

  12. Maggieat11 09/14/2021

    Wonderful! Great views, too😉.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful gardens.

  13. user-5117752 09/16/2021

    Now, that's my favorite kind of garden!!! Natural, colorful and a perfect habitat for pollinators and birds!
    Of course the mountains do add to the stunning location but a meadow full of color takes the prize!!!

  14. marpin214 10/14/2021

    Wow it is one of the most beautiful garden i ever saw. thank you for sharing this article.

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