The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea will be the first borough in Britain to host a grass-free flower lawn.
Avondale Park is to have a trial 220m example of a flower lawn in place of a floral meadow that had previously existed on the same site. The floral meadow was well received by users of the park and added to the overall biodiversity. However there was a tendency for dogs and younger visitors to plough through the small meadow. Once trampled the plants did not recover well and continued trampling compounded the problem. An equally biodiverse, lower growing and trample tolerant replacement was required.
The borough’s Ecology Service Manager Saskie Laing contacted me after a talk I gave at the Natural History Museum in 2012 and planning began on a flower lawn to replace the floral meadow.
Fortunately Kensington & Chelsea are one of the few borough councils to still maintain a plant nursery and have the capacity to grow their own plants. Sourcing some of the species for the flower lawn was challenging to say the least. The horticultural industry is as yet not set up to provide all the plant species and none in the format we needed. Saskie’s hard work managed to source some of the species in plug form and the rest had to be sourced from seed merchants and from the experiments here at Reading. We never managed to fulfill the wish list of species and some of the plants supplied from Europe were extremely poor quality.
Following a method developed here at Reading the seeds and plugs have been grown on in a suitable format at the borough’s Holland Park nursery under the watchful eye of Leonie Castro the glasshouse manger and grower.
One of the unexpected problems at Holland Park has been – would you believe it – Peacocks!
While it’s really nice to see such magnificent birds wandering freely around the park, they have become quite a nuisance in the hard standing outside the glasshouses. They take quite an interest in the species that are being over-wintered outside. A peck here, a tug there and more than a nibble or two have left some of the winter hardy plants looking, well – peacock pecked!
Another outdoor surprise has been the ‘Alpine’ plant Phyla nodiflora, sometimes known as ‘Frog fruit’ or ‘Turkey tangle’. It’s over-wintered outside well, despite its origins being the famous snowy alpine regions of Florida. Horticultural labeling of ‘Alpines’ seems to me to be in need of a rather serious review.