Letting the lawn go

At a garden I work in, the owner has a sort of annexe garden next door that was acquired to prevent development in the tiny village she lives in. It’s a simple and pleasant area, surrounded by a low stone wall, of lawn surrounded by shrubs, but with no perennial planting. The issue she’s had with it is the lawn – there isn’t much grass in it and it’s mainly
taken over with wildflowers which she thinks look weedy and unattractive. The thing is, I see it as a wildlife haven and think it looks rather beautiful. I would like to see how it looks unmowed, with all the plants blooming, and see what species it attracts.

We’ve come to a kind of agreement, that the lawn will be allowed to grow up a bit so we can find out what’s actually growing in it. It’s been a few weeks now and the plants are starting to flower so I’ll have the pleasing task of photographing and cataloguing the species growing there.

This is what I’ve found so far. Three species predominate at the moment; firstly, there is Prunella vulgaris, also known as Selfheal. This is a pretty plant with purple flowers which are attractive to bees and other beneficial insects. It’s also edible, which is always of interest to me, and can be used in salads, soups and stews. I haven’t tried it yet, but will make a point of tasting some.


In patches dotted around the lawn grows Lotus corniculatus – Bird’s-foot Trefoil – which is especially attractive to me. Low growing and mat-forming, it has pea-like flowers in shades of yellow and orange, like tiny flames. It is also attractive to a number of butterflies and is a primary food plant for several of them. Letting this plant grow and flower could attract Common Blue, Cryptic Wood White, Dingy Skipper, Green Hairstreak, Short-tailed Blue, Silver-studded Blue and Wood White butterflies. It is also a source of nectar for many other butterflies.

Running through all of this is the gorgeous Pilosella aurantiaca – also called Fox and Cubs. A little like a dandelion in shape, although with hairy foliage and stems, its flowers are a rich bright orange and attract hoverflies and bumblebees.


Around the sunny edges of the lawn, Potentilla reptans – creeping Cinquefoil – is flowering. Looking much like a yellow-flowered strawberry this plant is used by Grizzled Skipper butterflies to lay their eggs. Elsewhere, in smaller patches are buttercups and white clover, which are both attractive to beneficial insects. Nestling under a large Viburnum tinus, I also found a single specimen of TwaybladeNeottia ovata (formerly Listera ovata) – a common but easily overlooked orchid which is mainly pollinated by parasitic wasps, sawflies and beetles.

That’s what we have so far. What might flower in spring, I have no idea, but I have fond hopes that, just maybe, if the grass is allowed to grow  some other orchids might appear. Wood anemones, too, perhaps? It’s an old site, after all, and if some of the moss is raked out it would allow other plants to grow. We shall see but I’ll be keeping a close eye on this little patch of loveliness.

16 thoughts on “Letting the lawn go

  1. Sounds like an interesting project, I hope you manage to convince the owner to leave it alone long enough to properly catalogue everything!

  2. A wonderfully descriptive piece of writing, Miranda: I could easily imagine myself being there. It sounds like a small slice of paradise. I hope that you get your way. I somehow have a feeling you will :) I’m looking forward to finding out what else surfaces over the seasons.

  3. beautiful lawn – much better than stripes… I look forward to seeing how things turn out.

  4. I loved reading this Miranda very descriptive. The pictures are great too, very colourful.
    Good idea to have your own website, you can add to it whenever you want too ;-) take care my friend x.

  5. It looks lovely – just how I want my tiny meadow to look. I hope she agrees with you and allows it to be managed as a wildflower meadow.

  6. Thank you all! I’m so hoping that this little lawn is allowed to grow, at least for a while. I can’t wait to see what else might pop up. It could all be so wonderful!

    1. Good question! It was called Selfheal because the leaves were used to treat wounds and Nicholas Culpeper wrote that the plant is called selfheal because ‘when you are hurt, you may heal yourself’ and John Gerard, the 16th century herbalist wrote, ‘there is not a better wounde herbe in the world’. Maybe I should try it some time.

  7. Wonderfully revealing! Beautifully descriptive too. Is this blog in addition to your RHS one?

    1. Thank you, David! Yes it is in addition to the RHS one – I thought it would be nice to write some extra bits and pieces and put up pictures not necessarily related to gardening. xx

  8. “Letting this plant grow and flower should attract Common Blue, Cryptic Wood White, Dingy Skipper, Green Hairstreak, Short-tailed Blue, Silver-studded Blue and Wood White butterflies”

    Most of these butterflies are pretty rare and / or localised, with specific habitat requirements. The only one I would really expect to see in a meadow like this is the common blue, which is rather gorgeous.

  9. Thank you for sharing this M I think its absolutely fab and I love learning from you, the personal touch makes its such an interesting read too. Surely when your lady starts to understand the land through your eyes she cant help but want to leave it as it is! xxx

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