An Alternative Approach to Accent Plants

This spring I planted a meadow next to my house. I had no idea what I was doing. The last time I’d planted herbaceous plants in the ground was in grade school, in my parents vegetable garden. With that dim memory, I took out the grass, prepared the soil, spread the seeds around, and dusted with top dressing. I watered it now and then. And waited, wondering. The mix I’d been gifted didn’t list what plants it contained. A Russian roulette of flowers.

The first to open was a lavender thing. Even the plant apps didn’t know what it was (a friend later ID’d it as Hydrophyllum). Next, bachelor buttons opened. Then red clover. Now I see borage, some tiny poppies, and a frilly leaf that I hope is cosmos.


My micro-meadow planted from an unknown flower mix

Given that the plot is ten feet by five, this is a micro-meadow. The pollinators love it but I suspect the deer scoff at it as footnote to a real meadow.

Now I wonder why I didn’t spend more time considering native plants.

Which brings me to the point of this post, which is a rebellious idea that flies in the face of all respectable practices for accent plants, perfect for the busy person. Buy a native mix. From a particular environment, or region. Take a pot and sow your seeds. Check the package for the seed depth, usually it’s a light soil cover, 1/8” or 1/4”. Protect from birds, and wait.

Then, after your plants have risen, sharpen your scissors. With pruning, you can create balance. Try to make one plant dominant. Let it have a flow, right or left. (You may wish to encourage grass within your flowers, if after a true meadow feeling.)

This is an easy way to have fun with accent plants. I’d make several, as an idea as improvisational and cow-stupid as this will hit some odd notes.

If you prefer the snobby ways to make an accent plant, with ideas that might even make a deer proud, join us for Wild for Accents. This online course hits all the high (and low) points of accent plant design and styles (yes there are such things), as well as making and maintaining them. You must endure a couple cameos from Vivian, our mascot cat, on the videos. But if you have three hours free this Saturday morning, July 16th, send me an email (, and I’ll send you some details~

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  1. Ruth Farris grega says:

    Please send info on accents. Thank you also can’t wait to meet Vivian.

  2. Bob West says:

    I recognize that yellow one!

  3. Susan Daufeldt says:

    Michael, I really enjoy this idea. This spring, I did something similar – I went out to the woods and took small bits of the forest floor and put them in pots. At the time I did this there were already plants growing, but I have also done it with soil prior to spring growth. You simply cannot imagine how many plants grow up out of those little bits of earth! Early spring bloomers go dormant as the plants that populate the forest floor in summer and fall come on. These tiny plantings are amazing! And it is SO cool to watch them grow and change – I love that element of never knowing exactly what will show up!

  4. kiwijaz says:

    Perhaps we could all share our successes with photo posts?

  5. Katherine says:

    If you are in the Pacific Northwest, checkout the offerings by ProTime Lawn Seed. They have several different “native” plant seed collections to create meadows depending on the growing conditions you have. They also have a number of “lawn” alternatives. We replaced our sad turf with their “No Mow” and are very pleased with the windswept grass look. And rather than scissors, a Kama or Japanese grass sickle with a good, sharp blade. Niwaki makes a nice one that isn’t too expensive and is very sharp (as one of my knuckles can attest) and they ship very quickly.

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