The grass-free lawn: floral performance and management implications

Article English OPEN
Smith, Lionel S. ; Fellowes, Mark D. E. (2015)

Grass lawns are a ubiquitous feature of urban green-space throughout much of the temperate world. Species poor and intensively managed, lawns are ecologically impoverished, however environmentally aware lawn owners are reluctant to implement alternatives due to aesthetic concerns. Developing an alternative lawn format which is both biodiversity friendly and aesthetically pleasing is an imperative for urban greening. We suggest that such an alternative can be provided by replacing the grass lawn by a forb-based mix. To advance this, we tested the floral performance of three groups of clonal perennial forbs (native, non-native and mixed), each maintained using standard lawn management mowing regimes. \ud Our findings show that both the frequency of mowing and the height at which mowing is applied influence floral performance and lawn aesthetics. Species origin was found to influence floral productivity, floral visibility and floral variety within grass-free lawns, with native species providing the greatest floral performance. The behaviour and management of grass lawns was not found to be a suitable analogue for the management of grass-free lawns and grass-free lawns are sufficiently different from grass lawns to require an entirely original management approach. We suggest that the grass-free lawn can provide an aesthetically and environmentally relevant replacement for the ubiquitous and ecologically-poor grass lawn.
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