Show lawn update

I’ve been asked recently how the show lawns used at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show are doing. I’m not sure how long most of the displays used at the show are supposed to last, but the show lawns are looking just fine. Still no need for another chop yet.

Show lawn 1

Show lawn 1

 

Show lawn 2

Show lawn 2

 

Show lawn 3

Show lawn 3

 

The show lawns are nearly ten months old now. I think they are improving with age – just like gardeners.

 

 

 

A very good trampling indeed.

The largest experimental lawn here at Reading probably doesn’t get walked on enough as it should. Even I find myself subconsciously avoiding the taller growing parts of the lawn. People come to look. Most adults stand at the edge looking and feel uncomfortable to step onto the flowers with me. ‘Can’t you put in stepping stones or something?’ I’ve heard more than a few times.

By chance I happened upon a visiting group of schoolchildren from a local primary school. They had come to see the university’s carnivorous plants and visit the tropical greenhouse. I know from Avondale Park that young children are fascinated by the complexity and diversity in the lawn and don’t yet have the inhibitions of adults. Their uncensored comments are quite insightful.

My horticulturist’s mind devised a cunning plan.

Under the watchful eye of mildly bewildered teachers and assistants, thirty two children were let loose on the lawn to find any four leaf clovers they could. It was a complete delight to see them on hands and knees pouring over the lawn. I listened in.  “Look at this!” “What’s that? It’s got orange wings!” “Is this a clover too? It’s got prettier flowers.” “Smell this – it smells like chewing gum!”

The comments weren’t meant for anyone but each other, except for the squeals of delight at success in finding a lucky clover. Those uncensored words were an insight into a child’s-eye view of the lawn, and they brought back memories of how wonderfully fascinating nature and creepy crawlies can be. The lawn also received a rather good trampling – just what it needed.

Well trampled indeed.

Well trampled indeed.

 

Twenty four hours later, apart from the odd broken flower stem here and there, the lawn was back to its normal self, but looking much better behaved. My cunning plan had worked.

 

I’m often asked what a lawn would look like if it wasn’t mown. So, on one of the older experimental plots I have left half of the plot unmown and have mown the other half twice so far this year. One half is becoming a meadow and the lower growing plants are slowly disappearing as they are shaded out of existence. The other mown half remains lawn like. See what you think.

Unmown on the left and twice mown on the right.

Unmown on the left and twice mown on the right.

I know it’s very hard to take a mower to a blaze of flowers; but if you don’t, I hope you like sow-thistles, willow herb and lots and lots of buttercups!

 

 

Three weeks and hey presto

Three weeks have passed since the show lawns received their Chelsea Chop. Remember the utter devastation?

Three weeks after the chop.

Three weeks after the chop.

 

Think the distance is hiding something? Feast your eyes on some close-ups!

Show lawn close-up 1

Show lawn close-up 1

Show lawns close up 2

Show lawns close up 2

Show lawns close up 3

Show lawns close up 3

 

Meanwhile over on the experimental plots the previously swamped lawn has recovered in the same way. The light is working its magic on the plants that had been hidden in the leafy shade.

Trial lawn 1

Trial lawn 1

 

Different parts of the lawn seem to have developed their own character as the plants creep about and self select.

Trial Lawn 2

Trial Lawn 2

Trial lawn 3

Trial lawn 3

 

Avondale is looking really rather good. A blackbird has taken up residence in the ivy behind the lawn, and the air above it is like a park-sized Heathrow of bees, butterflies and other winged critters.

Avondale settling in.

Avondale settling in.

Shock horror! Avondale goes under the blade for the first time tomorrow. Devastation? I wonder…..

 

 

 

 

INFORMATION

Very Warm Greetings to all those lovely people who have taken the time to e-mail this blog with their comments and queries. After several years of working on this research project, it is very rewarding indeed to discover that so many people are interested in a new approach to lawn space.

Thank you everyone.

Thank you everyone!

 

Many of the questions I am being asked are site and location specific. I am unable to answer site/location specific questions at this time.

The trials were undertaken here in Reading, Berkshire. The native plants and cultivars initially used are clonal perennial forbs that can be found in almost every 10km square of the United Kingdom; so they should for the most part, suit any part of the UK, except for extreme environments. As would occur in any garden, the non-native plant species will be variable in their response to local conditions.

The grass-free floral lawn is currently an ongoing PhD research project. The research project is however not yet complete, and I therefore am unable to provide comprehensive lists of plant species. To do so would be premature.

A list of plant species that have been used in the Chelsea show lawns is available on the http://www.grassfreelawns.co.uk website. This is a good start point for those wanting to know what species have been used and therefore might be used.

I have not tested the lawns for dog urine resistance or the effects of extensive autumnal leaf coverage; and since the Reading experimental grounds are not adjacent to the sea or a motorway, the lawns have not been tested for salt tolerance. I am unable to answer questions regarding any of these issues. I think common sense can be applied to these questions and produce relevant answers.

It is perhaps worth remembering that turf lawns have been around for over 900 years. My experiments are in their fourth year. Practically, there will be many questions that remain unanswered simply because it is not humanly possible to answer them within the limited time frame allocated.

I will be adding to the FAQ section of the http://www.grassfreelawns.co.uk website in response to additional common queries that I receive that are not already answered there.

The methodology of laying the lawn and the effect of the seasons on the trial lawn is shown in the video links. Plants and seeds are available from plant nurseries, garden centers and seed companies both in the UK and from around the world.

How grass is initially removed from a grassy space is down to the owner. There are a variety of techniques from machines that lift turf, turf spades, chemicals, light blocking materials etc. The experimental plots here at Reading had the top 6cm of soil removed (by spade) to help remove the surface soil weed bank and to access the less fertile substrate lower in the soil profile.

Oh no! The gnomes are coming. Got to hide – they want more honey.

Chelsea Gnome

Until next time – Happy lawn gardening…..

Avondale Park and the grass-free floral lawn…

I’m currently being wonderfully overwhelmed by the interest in the concept and the Avondale Park lawn. I will endeavour to respond to all enquiries. However in the mean time the website may answer many of the questions.

CLICK HERE FOR THE GRASS FREE LAWN WEBSITE.

Avondale was planted just three weeks ago. The plants are still in the process of spreading and mingling to create a tight sward. It should improve with time. As of yesterday it looked a bit like:

Avondale park lawn settling in.

Avondale park lawn settling in.

Now, why didn’t the pecking peacocks of Holland Park peck out the pesky grass seedlings – I wonder?