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.
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.
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!