Wildflower lawns

Posted: Friday 14 June 2013
by Kate Bradbury


This week a new type of lawn was born. The flower-rich, low-maintenance, wildlife-friendly sward was launched at a park in Kensington and Chelsea, after its creator, Lionel Smith, wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional grass monoculture.  

As part of a research programme, sponsored by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), Lionel has spent the last few years finding the best plants that would withstand the usual trampling our lawns endure, have a lower carbon footprint, and provide a more biodiverse habitat for pollinators.

The lawn is made from a variety of flowering plants, including daisies, red clover, thyme, chamomile, pennyroyal and Corsican mint. It apparently attracts 25 per cent more insect life than found in traditionally managed grass lawns. It only needs mowing three to nine times a year, is resilient to drought and requires no weed killers or sprays.

The traditional garden lawn requires a lot of maintenance. To look its best, it should be mowed once a week, fed twice a year, scarified, raked and weeded. In hot weather it can turn brown, so it then needs to be watered.

I probably only mow my lawn three to nine times a year, and only then it’s a quick snip with a pair of shears. It’s planted with white clover and I allow dandelions to self seed in it freely. Other ‘weeds’, such as self-heal and mind-your-own-business are very welcome – the only thing I remove is London plane seedlings. My lawn isn’t as well manicured as some gardeners would like and I certainly don’t go in for stripes. It’s not nearly as pretty as Lionel’s tapestry of flowers, but it’s full of insects. Whenever I walk over it, I see clouds of flies, daddy long-legs and, occasionaly, the odd frog.

My local council seems to have cut back on lawn mowing duties of late. The grass in communal areas is full of huge patches of buttercups, daisies and white clover. Pollinators are finally having a field day after the bad start to the year. These lawns don’t need aerating, raking, weeding or feeding. In fact, the lower the nutrient value of the lawn, the more wildflowers will grow in it.

I love the idea of a new generation of garden lawn, one that’s full of flowers and alive with the buzzing of bees and other pollinators. But most of us have already got such a thing outside our backdoor – we just need to mow it less often.

Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Wildflower lawns
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

oldchippy 15/06/2013 at 19:57

My grass looks like your picture before Mrs Oldchippy cuts it as close as possible ,with two dog I keep telling her not to cut it to short, its like talking to the trees not to drop there leaves in autumn.