Mowing mania

There has been a bit of mowing here at Reading. Firstly the newly planted Palmer Building lawn received a haircut.

Mown Palmer Building Lawn

Mown Palmer Building Lawn

and then the large trial lawn had to get its first haircut of the year.

It went from this:

Getting a bit too tall, too crowded, time for the mower...

Getting a bit too tall, too crowded, time for the mower…

To this:

Apres - mower

Apres – mower

What amazes me is that now the lawn is heading toward 4 years old, that whenever its mown, it looks like – well, like a grass lawn I suppose. It even takes the lines of a mower! You’d never know it was so full of different species, even the red leaved clovers somehow blend into the green.

However, I’m not unhappy about it. I confess to rather liking the patchwork quilt effect of the first couple of years, but as the earlier posts show we’ve had 3 months of flowers already. Now its three weeks of grass-like lawn and then the flowers will be back and a whole new set of plants will benefit from the extra light and air.

It is important to remember that this lawn was and is experimental. Since it was created over three years ago I was not able to incorporate all the data I have subsequently acquired, just a lot of theory. I know now that this particular lawn probably had a bit too much buttercup and yarrow at the start and some of the plant forms were not ideal. There was quite a bit of educated guess work involved, but even so, it’s not turned out too bad has it?.

The data is all in now and has been analysed. The thesis has been written. Time to write a book perhaps?

 

 

A bit more foliage

I did say I’d add a few more foliage images.

Foliage 4

Foliage 4

A bit of Selfheal, (Prunella vulgaris), some Acaena microphylla, a touch of Leptinella squallida Platt’s Black, a sprinkle of germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys), a smidgin of Polygala vulgaris, a souciant or two of Bellis perennis and Lysimachia nummularia and a splash of Hieracium maculatum ‘Leopard’ and Violá.

Foliage 5

Foliage 5

A simple recipe like this one has a little Erodium castellanum, some Ranunculus repens ‘Buttered Popcorn’, some Silverweed (Argentina anserina) and Acaena magellanica. It’s not enough for a lawn, too few species but looks very tactile.

 

Foliage 6

Foliage 6

I’ll leave you work out the ingredients on this one, but in case you’ve never seen pink bugle, this one is Ajuga reptans ‘Pink Elf’. Cheeky little beauty isn’t it!

Old Whiteknights House gets a new grass-free lawn

The Head of Grounds at the University of Reading, Giles Reynolds, has been beavering away again, and once again I can take no credit.

The old lawn at Whiteknights House

The old lawn at Whiteknights House

 

Disappearing turf.

Disappearing turf.

 

A new grass-free lawn

A new grass-free lawn

It’s the first University of Reading style grass-free lawn on a slope. I look forward to seeing it develop. My congratulations to Giles and his team.

 

 

Countdown

Mowing looms. The large lawn is reaching the 9cm height limit that will trigger mowing. Parts of the lawn I am sure have reached that height already and if I was an absolutist I would have mown already, but the bugle (Ajuga reptans) is just coming in to flower. I shan’t make the same mistake as last year and let the lawn get much over 9cm in places, but I’ve decided that once the bugle has largely finished its show in about a week or two, the mower will come out. No mowing = No grass-free lawn!

Reaching the height limit.

Reaching the height limit.

This years mild weather has given quite a boost to growth and although I’m delaying mowing for the bugle, it might just vanish before the mower is applied. The changeable environmental conditions are one of the reasons that a species rich lawn is best. Last year we had a cold start to the year and a spring moisture deficit – a mini drought of sorts, and growth was much later and much less lush. A greater diversity of plant species means there are always some plants that can respond well to the conditions.

Disappearing bugle.

Disappearing bugle.

 

It is when mowing looms large that I’m reminded exactly how fundamentally important foliage is to a grass-free lawn. Flowers are the cherries on the cake. The lawn should be first and foremost a ground cover of foliage managed by mowing. That is after all what a lawn is.

Here are some examples of lawn foliage in the neighbouring experimental lawns that were planted in late 2012 for my research into pollinators:

Foliage 1

Foliage 1

There’s a good mix here of two types of Leptinella (Dioica and Squallida) , wild type Potentilla reptans, ornamental Ranunculus repens, Mouse-ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella), bugle (Ajuga reptans atropurpurea), ornamental red clover (Trifolium pratense ‘Susan Smith’) and ornamental daisy (Bellis perennis).

 

Foliage 2

Foliage 2

 

An eye catching mix of golden creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia aurea), silvery Pilosella tardans (which I obtained as Hieracium niveum), germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys), white flowered common buttercup (Ranunculus repens ‘Gloria Spale’), pink dandelion (Taraxacum pseudoroseum) and a smattering of Leptinellas.

 

Foliage 3

Foliage 3

I know there are dog violets (Viola riviniana) in the image, but they will soon fade away and its the leaves that will contribute to the mix of foliage for the rest of the year – along with the Viola odorata leaves now the flowers have already faded. The little leaves of the thyme (Thymus serpyllum), the emerging silvery fur of silverweed (Argentina anserina), the (in this case) shiny mouse-ear  Hieracium pilosella, mix with ornamental spotted hawkweed ( Hieracium maculatum ‘Leopard’) and a little creeping jenny and crosswort (Phuopsis stylosa).

I think I will add a few more foliage images shortly, certainly before the blade falls.

Just because..

No specific reason for these images. Taken today and I just like them.

Lush lawn

Lush lawn, the daffodils are faded and there is a bit of height in the lawn.

 

A nice species mix.

A nice species mix.

 

Must remember foliage is THE most important part of a grass-free lawn.

Must remember foliage is THE most important part of a grass-free lawn.

 

Another nice mix of species.

Another nice mix of species.

 

Not bad for an overcast and cool day. Oh I do like my lawns…

 

 

 

A new grass-free lawn at Reading

Oh yes. Grown industriously by our very own grounds folk, I can take no credit in the first of two new grass-free lawns at the University of Reading. Mr Giles E. Reynolds, our fine and upstanding Head of Grounds here at Reading has taken the concept and applied it.

The first of two new grass-free lawns at Reading

The first of two new grass-free lawns at Reading

Now, here the lawn has been freshly laid. It has yet to be watered in or receive a rolling to level it out and compress the trays to the local soil (I was quick with the camera).

It will look a bit squished for a day or two after rolling, but it is essential to have a level lawn at the start, otherwise the mowers blade is likely to cause a bit of damage on that first day of mowing. Some of the plants in their rectangular tray shapes are looking a little winter weary (and half drowned actually) – as many were grown and kept outside over winter, but they will probably cheer up with this early spring sunshine we are having.

Another even more splendiferous lawn is on the way – so I am told. I’m very chuffed indeed.

The ‘other’ lawn (my one) is looking particularly splendiferous itself at the moment.

Splendiferousness!!!

Splendiferousness!!!

 

I should also point out that the University’s wildflower meadow has perked up a bit:

Wildflower Meadow

Wildflower Meadow

As promised here is a cowslip in the grass-free lawn.

Cowslip in the lawn

Cowslip in the lawn

 

Oh and while I had my camera to hand a tortoiseshell butterfly came for a drink at the Lesser Celandine bar (Ficaria verna), which used to be Ranunculus ficaria, or sometimes known as Ficaria grandiflora. Now here is a plant that can get some hackles up if ever there was one.

Left to its own devices wild form lesser celandine can get quite rampant. It’s one of those plants that should be used sparingly and ornamental cultivars are better forms. They tend to be not quite as vigorous. There is one wild form plant in the lawn (its very obvious by its vigour) and I am half tempted to remove it but, not yet I think. The leaves don’t last long and the sun is shining and the butterflies are drinking. Perhaps I’ll think on it again on a cold, wet, dull day and change my mind, we shall see.

Tortoiseshell butterfly amid the daisies.

Tortoiseshell butterfly amid the daisies.

The lesser celandine is being given a run for its money by the daisies in this image. I was the same situation last year. I keep waiting for the celandine to be problematic but it seems to be held in check at the moment. Amazing what goes on in a lawn eh!