CBJ: Meadow-scaping emerging trend in landscaping industry - The Daily Progress: Cbj

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CBJ: Meadow-scaping emerging trend in landscaping industry

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Posted: Sunday, August 11, 2013 7:15 pm | Updated: 9:12 pm, Sun Aug 11, 2013.

A meadow of wildflowers might appear to be an occurrence of natural beauty, but in the Charlottesville area it’s just as likely to be another indicator of a healthy, cultivated business.
Purposefully designed, installed and maintained wildflower meadows are among the services provided by J.W. Townsend, an Albemarle County-based landscaping company that is marking its 30th year in business.
“We learn something new and different every year … it’s a very specialized field,” said Jay Townsend, the company’s founder. “This new dimension has been a lot of fun to develop and promote.” The company has planted more than 100 acres of meadows.
The idea of cultivated meadows of wildflowers and grasses isn’t new. But it has resurfaced in recent years as more environmentally sensitive landscaping designs have become more popular.
“The meadows just constantly evolve,” said Ed Yates, the company’s wildflower meadows expert.
Yates typically seeds meadows with about 20 varieties of flowers and grasses. Nearly all of them are native to and thrive in the region and none is invasive. The plant varieties include brown-eyed Susan, bee balm, partridge pea, New England Aster and bluestem grass.
“The native grasses and wildflowers are a big improvement on the mowed field that we had been viewing,” said Roxanne Booth, who turned to J.W. Townsend under Yates’ guidance to convert 17 acres of her property in Albemarle County to meadow. “We enjoy the views, as well as the wildlife attracted to the meadow.”
Yates has about 15 years of experience in the industry and previously worked in Northern Virginia and at a privately owned arboretum.
In about a year, Yates said, unattractive thickets can be transformed into colorful habitats for butterflies and ground-dwelling birds, such as quail. The meadow plants are tolerant of drought and poor soil and don’t need regular mowing or irrigation.
Yates and Townsend said a meadow conversion is popular with people who are looking for a bit more variety, diversity and beauty for their properties.
“We have seen endless goldfinches, butterflies and assorted small birds and bees. This month, we have seen two turkey nests and fledglings who had not been there before,” Booth said by email.
“The ability for bird life to come into these meadows is just extraordinary,” said Townsend. “We spend a lot of time educating people about the environmental pluses and the benefits.”
Townsend, who attended Albemarle High School and Virginia Tech, credits a people-oriented approach for his company’s success. The company employs about 50 people, and about 70 percent of clients are residential customers.
“Our company has been able to attract some very capable people,” Townsend said. “If I could point to any one single thing that has changed in last 30 years … that’s what enables us to operate the way we do today.”
“We’ve had a pretty conservative business philosophy … We’ve been remarkably stable through the [recession], and I think we are a much stronger company today than we were five years ago,” he said.
                     ndelesline@dailyprogress.com | 978-7243
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