Calico Lawns

Is this your idea of a beautiful landscape?  If so, you will really like the new Round-Up Ready turf that is about to go on the market.    This was just published in Garden Rant.

http://gardenrant.com/2014/02/coming-soon-round-up-ready-turfgrass.html

But calico lawns, sprinkled with wild flowers are so much more charming, why would anyone want a plain green carpet?

 

Siberian Squills (Scilla siberica), Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginiana), and Daffodils {Narcissus ssp.) still come up early every April in the partially shaded lawn of a long vacant house in my neighborhood.   April 1. 2011

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) produces tiny, five-petaled, pale pink flowers striped with darker pink lines, which bloom from late March to mid-May. ) It is common in woodlands, but it grows in pastures and lawns, as well, particularly under oak trees.  April 26.2008

Early Buttercup (Ranuculus fascicularis) in bloom at what used to be the Chicago Junior School in Elgin.  It is found, as here, on dry, gentle slopes shaded by scattered trees.  it is frequently found mingling with  Pussy Toes and  Shooting Stars, says Dick Young in Kane County Wild Plants & Natural Areas.  April 28 2007

Pussy Toes (Antennaria plantaginifolia) in bloom at Bluff City Cemetery, the only place I have ever seen them, growing on a gravelly hill amongst the gravestones.  The white flower tufts bloom at the top of 8” stalks that emerge  from white,woolly mats of leaves.  They grow in fields, pastures, savannas, woods, and lawns.  April 26. 2008

Common Violet (Viola sororia)  jumped out of the gardens into my lawn.  This photo was taken April 24, 2008

Another lawn in my neighborhood is filled with Confederate Violets, a variant of  Common Blue Violet.  April 27, 2009

Common Cinquefoil  (Potentilla simplex)  is a low-growing, creeping perennial with broad 5-fingered leaves and shiny yellow buttercup blossoms that bloom from mid-May to early June.  It will make large patches in the lawn, particularly in sunny areas.   In nature, it is found in dry, disturbed woodlands, dry prairies, and abandoned fields.  It’s also occurs along the edges of lawns next to woodlands.  May 22, 2008

White  Clover  (Trifolium repans) in my parkway.   Pre World War II, clover seed was always mixed in with grass seed for its nitrogen properties that fertilized the grass.   And while the grass would become dormant in hot, dry summers, clover always kept its emerald green color.  One does not have to plant White Sweet Clover; without fertilizer or herbicides applied to lawns, this plant will appear within 2 years in ones lawn.  May 30, 2010

The Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis)  in the gardens next to my front walk cheerfully scattered its seeds into the  parkway lawn.  The lavender-blue trumpet blossoms do indeed resemble  the annual petunias with which we are all familiar, but they are smaller and not as flared.   It blooms from early July through August.   July 2006.

Wild Petunia, last summer, July 2013.  It has spread throughout the front parkway.  The Kentucky Bluegrass is still there, but completely overtaken by the Wild Petunia.  Isn’t it gorgeous?

All the above flowers can be mowed over and will pop back up and bloom again.  But set your mower as high as it goes and mow infrequently  in order to have  as many blossons as possible.

Beside charm, are there any other reasons to allow or plant wildflowers in one’s lawn?

Of course–all these flowers attract bees and other insects.  Wild Petunia, for instance,  attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, and hummingbird sphinx moths.

It goes without saying–never herbicide your lawn.  If obnoxious weeds such as Canada Thistle (Crisis arvense) find ways into your yard, they are easy to dig up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. Carol Rauschenberger February 15, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    I love this idea, I am starting this spring/summer. And I now have a new appreciation for clover.

    • Kevin Pfeiffer July 11, 2014 at 4:07 am #

      Bees also appreciate the clover (but you knew that, I imagine).

      And it (letting clover, etc. grow) doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition: Where clumps of clover start to grow, let them be; you can still mow other areas of the lawn. For small yards this is a great way to develop some real “sculptural” interest in an otherwise flat space. Just avoid straight lines.

      Here’s an example (our rooftop garden)…
      https://www.dropbox.com/s/lgwbgm6dilz6wo7/1-CIMG9094.JPG

  2. Suzanne Massion February 15, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    Aaaah the vernal equinox is drawing closer and we’ve left the winter solstice far behind. Pat, your images help us endure the snow, although there is great beauty among the drifts. I’m sure the farmers welcome the deep coverage for several reasons, but violets, cinquefoil, buttercups, Pussy Toes, and Virginia Bluebells are what I long for right now. Thanks.

  3. Stephanie March 4, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    Love these lawn ideas! If lawns incorporated these plants, how much more life there would be!

    If you mow–maybe try to sweep though the section–many of those plants host beautiful butterfly caterpillars–Pussytoes will feed American Ladies, native Petunia could host Buckeyes, and Cinquefoil.

    Usually caterpillars drop to the ground when they are disturbed, so many would probably respond the the vibrations of the mower. Keeping the height higher too like Pat said will save many of them.

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