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How to Have a Flowering Lawn

How to Have a Flowering Lawn

15th December 2014214Views2Comments
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Last week I spotted the first snow crocuses (Crocus chrysanthus) and snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) opening their flowers in my lawn — they are just one of the benefits of the fine fescue grasses that I grow as turf. These grasses are the basis of the “no-mow” lawns that you see advertised by various companies, especially Prairie Nursery and Wildflower Farm (which sells its seed mix as “Eco-Lawn”) .   I actually make up my own mix of half a dozen different cultivars of hard, Chewings and creeping red fescues, buying the seed from a local retailer and blending it myself.

If your conditions suit these grasses – you need a well-drained, preferably not-too-rich soil – they offer a number of advantages. They are drought and shade tolerant and they are naturally short so they can be kept neat with just 3-4 mowings a year, or even allowed to grow un-cut if you don’t mind a more tousled look.

This last point brings us back to my early spring bulbs. These are difficult to naturalize in a conventional lawn, as the constant mowing shears off the bulbs’ foliage so that they cannot make and store food for the next year’s growth. As a result, early spring bulbs planted in a conventional lawn rarely perform as true perennials, but instead tend to peter out after a couple of seasons.

Because my fine fescue lawn doesn’t require a mowing until late in the spring, however, there is plenty of time for the bulbs’ foliage to make food; for the most part, the early spring bulbs have gone dormant before I bring out the mower for the first time.

Indeed, my crocuses have not just survived, they have thrived, multiplying year by year. Likewise, my snowdrops have increased slowly but steadily. I started with a single clump that I dug as a remembrance from an elderly friend’s lawn on the day of his funeral; this single clump took so well to my lawn that I have divided it many times and I now have snowdrops dotted here and there all over my small front lawn.

I planted my front lawn to fine fescues as a gesture of sustainability – these grasses need no irrigation once established, thrive in conditions of low fertility, and are naturally weed-resistant — but I’ve found that they have aesthetic advantages as well.

 

Posted by

Thomas Christopher
on March 7, 2016 at 7:44 am, in the category Lawn Reform, Shut Up and Dig.

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2 Comments

  1. I love this look and tried it myself with Berkeley sedge and oxblood lily bulbs, but the deer ate my bulb flowers and foliage. The sedge lawn still looks great though! I mow it once a year, on a high setting, and it needs much less water to look great through our hot, dry summers in Austin.

  2. What time of year does mowing typical lawns start in the area? Is it typically Kentucky Bluegrass that people have for lawns there? When does the crocus and galanthus foliage typically finish up? Do you think you could pull this off with a standard lawn if it were in the backyard and the grass could get a little long waiting for the foliage to die back?

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