Mike Lizotte, owner and managing partner of American Meadows and author of Mini Meadows, shares how a meadow can be created anywhere — from a rolling plain to a rooftop in the city. 

Seed World (SW): Favorite TV show/Movie?

Mike Lizotte (ML): I’m a big fan of Growing a Greener World. It airs on the local PBS channel. Joe Lamp’l really does a good job of showing off unique gardening and horticultural moments. And biasedly, we just got done finishing filming an episode all about Mini Meadows, which will air this November.  

SW: Do you have a motto for life?

ML: For me, this isn’t a difficult question, and it relates to what I’ve been doing in my life. I’ve had one job in my whole life, and I came up with this phrase: doing good through gardening.

SW: No. 1 thing to do on a Friday night?

ML: My wife Rachael, my daughter Sadie, and I use Friday nights to go out to a casual dinner. It’s a good way to unwind after a stressful week and turn off the work week. Usually, we’ll follow up with a Redbox movie that our daughter Sadie (who’s eight) chooses.

SW: Why are you called “The Seed Man?”

ML: I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years now — I started when I was 13 years old. The company I started with had a retail store. It was in Vermont and was operated as a tourist scene. You had to enter the upper level and come down to the “Seed Shop.” People would always come downstairs to the seed level and see me behind the counter and say “Oh, you must be the Seed Man,” and I would respond “Yep, I’m the seed man!” That was how it originated, and it’s stuck since then.

SW: So you’ve written a book! Tell us about Mini Meadows and why you saw a need for this book. 

ML: I was at a garden communicator show around 2015 or 2016, and we were exhibiting. At the show, all these communicators come to your booth and you can tell your story about your company, new products, etc. We were in Pasadena, Calif. Carleen Madigan from Storey Publishing stopped by the booth to learn more about American Meadows. I told her my story and before I knew it, she wanted me to write a pitch about Mini Meadows.

With my 30 years of experience in the industry and my experience with wilds and meadows, it was of interest and it was exciting, especially with the trends of pollinators. Why not replace your lawn with wildflowers to help? It all just came hand-in-hand. The book was published in January, which was exciting.

A lot of what I do is just constantly educating — getting back to the benefits of pollinators, why meadows are important and the definition of a meadow. Maybe a meadow is a large area, or maybe it’s a planter on your rooftop in a city — anything can be a mini meadow!

SW: Why do you think native seeds and making “mini meadows” is so important?

ML: There’s a lot of reasons, but I think for me, the most important aspect is that it teaches people the benefits of natives. Natives are hardy. There are beautification aspects. It benefits the ecosystem. It benefits the native pollinators to feed the local pollinators.

SW: What are some challenges you face when talking to consumers about native seeds?

ML: Three of the biggest challenges I face in talking direct to consumers is: No. 1 The definition of the word “native.”  No. 2: You need to find a good resource like us, like Prairie Nursery, that carries a good selection. It’s very challenging to find true natives at the big box store or more conventional gardening stores, and No. 3: The costs that can be associated with native seeds.

I can’t tell you how many people like the concept of natives, but when I put together a quote for them, there becomes a disconnect. I always try to make that balance and let consumers know that upfront — you have to set the expectation that natives can be more expensive than other pollinator-friendly flowers. In the long run, knowing that they can last for many years, then there’s a reason and it eases the potential anxiety of paying a little bit more for those natives.

When I’m discussing “natives” with a prospect customer, I always want to make sure, from the start of our conversation, that we’re on the same page as to how we’re “defining” the term “native.”  This can vary tremendously so I find it’s also where I do a lot of educating in my job which is something I enjoy tremendously!