Avondale Park haircut

The Avondale Park lawn has been flourishing during the hot weather. It’s still green and full of flowers and butterflies and bees and seems to have uses beyond anything I could ever have imagined. The pair of handcuffs amid the greenery that I found on my last visit makes the mind boggle.

As you can see the lawn was flourishing really rather well and in need a visit from the mower.

Avondale ready for a haircut.

Avondale ready for a haircut.

You’ll notice in the background the brown grass of the park turf lawn and the green of the grass-free lawn. I’m pleased to get such a useful climatic test and a clear comparison between the two formats. The fine chap standing in the lawn is Leigh Hunt – one of the principal horticultural advisors at the RHS and my RHS PhD supervisor. He’d come to have a look, and being familiar with all my work so far, was in agreement that the lawn was blending well but a haircut was in order.

When the height of the sward reaches about 9cm it begins to look a little too meadow-like to be called a lawn – in my opinion. There is no specific height at which to choose to cut, it tends to be an aesthetic judgement on the overall look of the lawn and the plants that have been used and their purpose. However, myself, Leigh and the good people at the RBKC all agreed – time to get the mower out – for only the second time since the lawn was laid. We waited until the stress on the plants from the 30°C heat had passed – no point stressing the plants with a mowing and heat at the same time.

And lo, it came to pass that the mower was duly applied.

Avondale after the haircut

Avondale after the haircut


The lawn will look a little lack lustre for a couple of weeks before starting to look refreshed and clean.

One of the interesting things (for me anyhow) was how seeds from the meadow plants that occupied the space last year were coming up in the joins between the rectangles of plants. Corn marigold in particular had come up across the lawn. It emphasizes the importance of a ‘seed clean’ ground before laying the lawn.

Avondale was laid directly over the surface of the previous wildflower meadow, with the hope that the soil in the seed trays would act as a barrier. It seems they do, but only partially. The mower has of course resolved the immediate problem but the stems of chopped corn marigolds aren’t that pretty. Some grasses and parkland weeds are also popping through the gaps between the trays – time for a spot of weeding I think. It is only the first year, so some remedial weeding is to be expected, particularly since last year’s wildflower meadow has definitely left a potent seedbank legacy.

I remain amused that the lawn may have naughty nocturnal visitors. I never thought to include scented night-flowering plants in this particular lawn since the park closes of an evening.  Hmm, there’s a little ‘note to self’ I must remember.

I just hope the city-wise local foxes have seen it all before and are completely unfazed by the creative uses the lawn is put to!

2 thoughts on “Avondale Park haircut

  1. I love this idea, have been inspired so much with this…

    is there somewhere I can look online to find an extensive list of plants to use for a grass free lawn?

    My plan is to order 2 tonnes of mulch to apply to my rather confused Jackson Pollock of a garden, so that I can have a blank canvas… then Ill put down pockets of compost and either sow seeds or plant when ever i can plants that you may have used…..

    any help would be most appreciated….

    many thanks,


    • Hi Shaun. No definitive list as yet I’m afraid. You can see the plants I have successfully used at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-SxwHjHOwc&feature=youtu.be and there is a list of the plants we used at RHS Chelsea 2013 at http://www.grassfreelawns.co.uk some of them may also prove suitable.
      I haven’t tried the methodology that you propose but I’m a great fan of experimental horticulture and shall be most interested to hear how things go.
      Personally I would recommend keeping poor soil rather than enriching it, although I suspect that is a judgement call to be based on the conditions specific to your site. I found sowing seed to be unsatisfactory. For the most part it inevitably excludes cultivars and plants that aren’t commercially available via seed, and it relies on good and synchronous germination in all species. Using plants in tiles/trays circumvents the delicate seedling stage, timing issues, the need for seed treatments and young plant-plant competition. Slugs also seem to have less impact on tiles of adult plants, they seem to prefer seedlings. It is also a bit easier to see what your doing at planting and tweak the plants to suit the spot.

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