The American Meadow Garden: Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn


If there's one lesson every homeowner must learn, it's this: The traditional lawn is a huge, time consuming, synthetic-chemical sucking mistake. The time has come to look for new ways to create friendly, livable spaces around our homes. In The American Meadow Garden, ornamental grass expert John Greenlee creates a new model for homeowners and gardeners.

For Greenlee, a meadow isn't a random assortment of messy, anonymous grasses. Rather, it is a shimmering mini-ecosystem, in ...

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The American Meadow Garden: Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn

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If there's one lesson every homeowner must learn, it's this: The traditional lawn is a huge, time consuming, synthetic-chemical sucking mistake. The time has come to look for new ways to create friendly, livable spaces around our homes. In The American Meadow Garden, ornamental grass expert John Greenlee creates a new model for homeowners and gardeners.

For Greenlee, a meadow isn't a random assortment of messy, anonymous grasses. Rather, it is a shimmering mini-ecosystem, in which regionally appropriate grasses combine with colorful perennials to form a rich tapestry that is friendly to all life -- with minimal input of water, time, and other scarce resources. Kids and pets can play in complete safety, and birds and butterflies flock there. A prairie style planting is a place you want to be.

With decades of experience as a nurseryman and designer, John Greenlee is the perfect guide. He details all the practicalities of site preparation, plant selection, and maintenance; particularly valuable are his explanations of how ornamental grasses perform in different climates and areas. Gorgeous photography by Saxon Holt visually illustrates the message with stunning examples of meadow gardens from across the country.

We've reached a stage where we can no longer follow past practices unthinkingly, particularly when those practices are wasteful and harmful to the environment. It's time to get rid of the old-fashioned lawn and embrace a sane and healthy future: the American meadow garden.

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  • The American Meadow Garden
    The American Meadow Garden  

Editorial Reviews

"John Greenlee's opening lines … open up the imagination to the practical and eye-pleasing alternatives to a monochromatic (and water-hogging) sea of turf."
"In a book long awaited by green mavens and horticultural enthusiasts, Greenlee's dynamic garden designs are paired with Holt's splendid photographs in a beautifully produced, information-packed volume that looks at meadows in the context of garden spaces large or small."
Seattle Times
"Full of inspiring ideas, Greenlee explores how to combine a spectacular variety of grasses with other plants to make the most of their natural forms, fragrance, leaf, and bloom."
— Valerie Easton
Pacific Horticulture

"Here is an entirely new approach to garden-making. It’s enticing and informative—and it’s presented with polish and pizzazz. No wonder they call Greenlee the Grass Guru."

San Francisco Chronicle
"This is the rare species of garden book with a continental-wide scope from a West Coast point of view."
San Bernadino Sun
"Although Greenlee believes every yard should be a meadow, he's also practical. Do the research. The result: less money spent on irrigation and chemicals, and more birds and butterflies in the garden. Not to mention the beauty of the natural meadow."
American Gardener
"If you've ever thought of abandoning your lawn but haven't yet, The American Meadow Garden will surely inspire you to action … Take a long look at your lawn mower, and then go buy this book."
VA Master Gardener Newsletter
"Are you bold enough to try your hand at a meadow garden? The time for bringing back nature is now!"
Garden Design Online
"After you read this book, you'll wonder why you ever entertained the idea of a lawn."
Denver Botanic Gardens blog
"Finally, John Greenlee—who is part of America’s trinity of Gramineous Gods—has mapped out his lifetime of experience creating successful meadows. I highly recommend this treasure trove of a book."
Monterey County Herald
"The meadow garden undoubtedly represents a different aesthetic in landscape design … Greenlee's book is a very good place to begin."
"You’ll be rethinking labor-and-resource-intensive lawns after a couple of minutes with The American Meadow Garden."
Wenatchee World
“Greenlee’s book will lay out a vision for the American yard that is so clearly superior that it will become the new standard. Read this book and find out how your neighborhood will look in about 10 years.”
Gardens Illustrated
“This is not a book about how to create the purist’s wildflower meadow, but breaks new ground in showing how garden plants can be used to create a meadow-like environment. Saxon Holt’s photography is beautiful, and Greenlee’s prose the right blend of informative and occasionally provocative.”
The State
“It’s one thing to hear about the ecological benefits of replacing lawns with meadows. It’s another thing to see it done effectively.”
Chicago Tribune
“As you turn the pages you will start to imagine that you are sprawled out in the meadow of your dreams, the grasses swooshing over your head … It’s not every book that lifts you from your reading nook and opens wide the vista of the heavens.”

"A paean to grassy, no-mow landscapes that shiver, shimmer and wave … Greenlee’s easy prose welcomes all comers to aim higher than slabs of pool-table green."

— Ketzel Levine

Lexington Herald-Leader

"Photos of gorgeous meadows replete with tall grasses, butterflies and blooming wildflowers take a big step in convincing gardeners that their two-dimensional patch of lawn has become passé."

Novato Advance
"This revolutionary book of glorious meadows in harmony with nature will inspire you to begin your own lawn transformation."
Detroit News

"[This book] is the gold standard when it comes to meadow gardening … I've read endless articles on meadow gardening, and none have given me the depth of information that made me feel confident that this would not be a maintenance nightmare."

North Coast Journal

"An exquisitely beautiful book on non-lawns … a winner."

— Amy Stewart

Su Casa Magazine
“John Greenlee knows his meadows like Babe Ruth knew baseball.”
Marin Independent Journal
"[The American Meadow Garden] is an invitation to experiment with regionally specific grasses in colors ranging from chartreuse, purple and ochre to metallic blue."
Chattanooga Times Free Press
"Greenlee brings inspiration and know-how together in this part coffee table book, part how-to guide."
Library Journal
Meadow gardening is an exciting, fresh approach to horticulture. By taking advantage of native plant life and soil conditions, gardeners can create an ecologically friendly yard that requires less water and mowing. Greenlee (Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses) is well known for his work creating meadow gardens and improving grasses available to gardeners. Here, he focuses on the conditions of regional types of American grasslands, emphasizing throughout that gardeners must first understand local ecology (using professional help where necessary) to be successful. With Holt's photographs, this is a large and colorful showcase of Greenlee's extensive knowledge and great passion for gardening. His enthusiasm will be infectious to those who find a natural look appealing, but others may be put off by the idea of meadows growing in suburban lawns. VERDICT Gardeners who are serious about creating a more natural look will find this book extremely helpful and inspirational in its thorough introduction to planning and creating a meadow garden.—Margaret Heller, Dominican Univ. Lib., River Forest, IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780881928716
  • Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/21/2009
  • Pages: 278
  • Sales rank: 363,311
  • Product dimensions: 10.40 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Saxon Holt has combined his career as a photographer with a lifelong love of gardening. His work has appeared in dozens of books and gardening magazines. Mr. Holt lives in northern California and works out of a unique "outdoor studio." He is a member of the American Society of Media Photographers, the American Society of Picture Professionals, and the Garden Writers of America Association, from which he has received two Quill & Trowel awards for his photography.

John Greenlee has been creating grass ecologies in gardens of all sizes all over the United States and Canada since 1984. He owns Greenlee Nursery, the oldest grass nursery in California. He has appeared frequently on television and was named horticulturist of the year in 2002 by the Southern California Association of Horticulturists. His previous book is The Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses (Rodale 1992). He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in ornamental horticulture from Cal Poly, Pomona, California.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 22, 2011

    Missing Key Items + Invasive Species Recommended; Great Photos Though

    This is a nice, well-intentioned book, but it is missing any discussion of the different temperate planting zones of the U.S. Most of the advice seems geared to California. Also, there is scant attention given to what plants are native vs. non-native. I also was concerned that several of the species recommended are invasive per the USDA and invasive dot org.

    On the plus side, there are many beautiful pictures and helpful planting instructions.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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