The meadow in my garden in Saltsjöbaden - kept in bay by the cold and salty winds from the sea, but still needing maintenance to keep out the unwanted invaders.
Meadows formed also as a result from the ancient farming practice of growing winter feed for the cattle on open land. The grasses were cut down in the end of the summer and carted away and their seeds were left on the fields, and so could regenerate the vegetation the following spring. Pastures are not really meadows as they are continuously grazed by animals that keep the grass short the whole season.
Beautiful, seaside pastureland with grazing sheep at Beachyhead, East Sussex; I warmly recommend it as a a wonderful place to visit.
Meadow gardening and "prairie style" gardening have been popular since the 1990's when Piet Oudolf's and Oehme & van Sweden's designs (only mention a very few) got a lot of space in the gardening magazines. And of course, Christopher Lloyd's many books, with beautiful pictures of lovely meadows have had an enormous impact. In my research for my first garden history thesis, I found some wonderful articles in Swedish gardening magazines from the 1930s promoting meadows in gardens, as the first picture above. During the 1930s, meadows as an agricultural practise was disappearing and many garden writers were worried about that the cultural and ecological environments would disappear as well. One of the most popular garden architects in Sweden during that time, Sven A. Hermelin, suggested using meadows instead of lawns in gardens, as they are more esthetically pleasing and give a larger biodiversity than the monotonity of a close-cut lawn. It just took another 60 years before his thoughts became popular... is nothing ever new in gardening?
A birds-eye view of the meadow towards the moat and the pavillion at Sissinghurst, with mown paths, roses and fruit trees in the grass. I took this picture from Vita Sackville-Wests writing tower.
Later update: see also my post European meadows, American meadows.