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 Twayblade – Neottia 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.