Wildflower meadow…or not?

The university has quite a few areas of lightly managed grassland and even a wildflower meadow. I was passing the meadow on my way to visit the grass-free lawns and decided to take a photo.

University Wildflower Meadow mid-March

University Wildflower Meadow mid-March 2014

 

As you can see the cowslips (Primula veris) are out and so are the…no wait a minute. Hmm, yes the cowslips are out.

 

I decided to take a photo or two of the grass-free lawns on the same day for comparison.

Grass-free lawn mid-March 2014

Grass-free lawn mid-March 2014

Admittedly the image is a close up and only shows daisies and violets in flower, but it does show the value of ornamental foliage. I had probably better add another image or two.

Grass-free lawn mid-March 2014 (2)

Grass-free lawn mid-March 2014 (2)

Naughty me I’ve done it again. Only daisies and violets. Must do better…

 

Grass-free lawn mid-March 2014 (3)

Grass-free lawn mid-March 2014 (3)

Ah, that’s better, you can see that the cowslips (foreground right) aren’t in flower yet. A bit more waiting until they look as gorgeous as the ones in the wildflower meadow.

Somehow, maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s worth the wait… don’t you? (Wicked and very naughty chuckle………)

Spring is in the air

Yes folks, we have a very spring-like lawn here at the university.

Mid March 2014

I did say I’d take a photo once the daffodils in the lawn bloomed. Well, here they, are looking great.

If you should be wondering about the grass-like leaves on the left of the photo, they are from the autumn crocus – they’re not grasses!

It’s at moments in the sun like this, as I tramp over a boring grass lawn in need of its first mowing on my way to my little patch of grass-free lawn, that I realise how just how very pretty a grass-free lawn can be. The fact that it’s a gazillion times better for insects and wildlife seems just the cherry on the cake. I very much hope to see the concept spreading, and spreading, and ……

More sunshine…

Another day with no rain. I’m feeling spoiled, so I thought I’d go out in the sunshine (yes, it was even sunny!) and have a close look at things.

I’m pleased to see that crocus’ definitely like grass-free lawns. Last year I spotted little wispy seedlings and this year those wisps have solidified into identifiable crocus leaves.

Crocus seedlings

Crocus seedlings

Fortunately crocus leaves are fairly easy to distinguish from grass leaves by their feel, if not their looks.

Grasses too pop up from time to time in the lawn, particularly since the University’s British grass collection is growing about 5 steps away. Early spring – and yes, by some reckoning today is the first day of spring, is a good time to check the lawn for grasses that may have crept in. They easily stand out against the forbs, and as spring progresses they get even easier to spot as they produce a typical vertical profile.

Grass at the edge of the lawn.

Grass at the edge of the lawn.

The eagle-eyed among you will spot the plantain (Plantago major) in the top right of the image. I didn’t plant it and am in two minds as to whether I like it or not. I find the eco-friendly part of me thinking, it’s a useful plant to have in the mix, it’s not hurting anything etc. The ornamental gardener in me is thinking, hmm a weed that doesn’t have pretty flowers. The eco-friendly gardener is winning so far. I know for sure now (another research conclusion) that the plants in a grass-free lawn aren’t all there because of their flowers. There are ground cover plants and flower producing plants and ones that do both, and they are all required for the most effective lawns. I shall view the plantain as a useful ground cover plant; apparently it is as good as a dock leaf for stings and bites, and a wide variety of  insects, bugs and beetles will chomp on it along with rabbits and hedgehogs. My aesthetic sensibilities are feeling soothed already.

The sun seems to have woken a few more flowers up. They are a bit hard to see in the image but the sweet violet (Viola odorata) is beginning to make an appearance. There are pink ones and purple ones and a sweet mauve hybrid if you look hard enough. There are yellow and white forms to choose from as well, but not in the image. The first ornamental daisies are showing too, and I do like the little splashes of red they provide.

St.David's Day Lawn

St.David’s Day Lawn

It may be St.David’s day (I’m 1/4 Welsh – so I notice these things), but the daffodils just haven’t quite opened yet. I’ll post an image when they do.