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Walk-on meadow ... it's blooming yarrow.

Walk-on meadow . . . it's blooming yarrow Like a meadow dotted with wildflowers, the dense planting of common yarrow (Achillea millefolium 'Rosea') pictured above makes a practical alternative to a thirsty lawn.

This planting, at the water-conserving garden at the Lummis Home in Los Angeles, was chosen by landscape architect Robert Perry for its fern-like, tough leaves and relatively low water needs. Visitors enjoy the perennial's rosy flowers, while garden volunteers note its easy maintenance and fire retardance.

Planting yarrow now could save water

In mild-winter climates, the best time to sow yarrow is on a windless day, early spring through late fall. With enough fall and winter rain, seeds sown now become established with less supplemental water than a summer planting requires. An ounce of seed covers 3,000 square feet.

Prepare the soil as you would for a new lawn. After clearing the planting area, install irrigation. Put in edging to help contain the plants (they can become invasive, especially in overwatered gardens). Water regularly for two to four weeks so weed seeds in the soil germinate, then hoe or till in weed seedlings. Water again before planting, to a depth of 4 inches.

To plant, mix 1 part seed with 4 parts sand and broadcast with a hand-held spreader. To press seeds in, walk on the seeded area or use a lawn roller. At the Lummis Home, seeds planted in early spring sprouted in 10 days; plants filled in and sent up flower stalks in three months. (Growth may be slower in cool winter months.)

When to mow. Cut yarrow two to eight times a year, depending on the effect you want. A rotary mower at a 3- to 4-inch setting should do the job. Frequent mowing keeps plants dense and matted--best for walking and playing. Heavy foot traffic slows yarrow growth (less mowing) and reduces flower stalks. If you let yarrow grow tall and flower fully, you may need a weed trimmer to cut tough stems. Though yarrow looks best with regular watering during the dry summer, it needs much less than a same-size lawn. During summer, in the Lummis Home's quick-draining sandy soil, yarrow is watered twice a week for a total of 25 minutes. It needs less water in clay soil or loam.

Check well-stocked nurseries for seed, or order by mail. For seed in any quantity, try the Theodore Payne Foundation, 10459 Tuxford St., Sun Valley, Calif. 91352; (818) 768-1802 (seed list $1). For planting small areas, look for plants in flats or 4-inch pots at nurseries.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Nov 1, 1989
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