Wildlife Column: Where better to start than the turf of your own lawn?

Following on from my article on the ox-eye daisy last week, I thought we could turn our attention from the bigger local landscapes to the intimacy of our front and back-garden lawns.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 12:00 am

I do subscribe to the view that we can change the world and re-nature our environment bit-by-bit if only we try. In this context, then where better to start than the potentially inhospitable turf of your own lawn – if you have one. If you lack a garden or a lawn then head down to the local park or other open space and see what can be achieved there!

The picture here is of a very unassuming front lawn of one of my neighbours who for several years has been carefully nurturing patches of orchids that appeared maybe six or seven years ago.Along with ox-eye daisies, meadow buttercups, meadow grasses of various types and several species of sedge, he now has many hundreds of orchids. The latter include southern marsh orchids, common spotted orchids, early marsh orchids and ‘swarms’ of hybrids of all three. Clearly the conditions on his little patch of grass suit the development of this spontaneous wildflower meadow and in particular, the wetness of the site is probably very important in influencing the success of these species. (We have lots of spring-lines where I live in Norton). However, whilst not every meadow will be so successful, this does show what can be achieved with a little foresight and a bit of effort.

The lawn is cut hard in spring and then left. It is then cut in patches in late summer to leave the orchid seedheads untouched; and finally the whole site is mown clean in the autumn.

Wildflower lawn by Ian Rotherham.

This approach perhaps hinges on a little tolerance of the dead and the untidy which are essential to trigger the splendours of the flowers in spring and summertime. One problem is that we seem to demand short, green and tidy landscapes throughout the year everywhere; hence the current eco-crisis in our patch and indeed across the country. When will we learn to do it differently?

Professor Ian D. Rotherham, researcher, writer & broadcaster on wildlife & environmental issues, has a blog at https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/ and is on Twitter @IanThewildside