Avondale Park’s grass-free lawn, a few weeks after planting. Source: Lionel Smith
London is famous for its green spaces — Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regent’s Park and Green Park, to name a few. What they all seem to have in common is the endless expanses of grass. But there’s another green space in town, and you won’t find a single blade of grass. The world’s first public grass-free floral lawn is growing in Kensington and Chelsea’s Avondale Park, based on years of research by Lionel Smith at the University of Reading.
Smith told the BBC that his initial goal was to create something beautiful, but the lawn’s beauty also has ecological benefits. The sheer variety of the plants in the 200-square-meter lawn — over 30 species including mint, chamomile, daisies, thyme and red-flowering clover — is more attractive to pollinators and able to sustain a more diverse range of species. With no grass and more flowers, the lawn requires minimal mowing (only 3-9 times a year) and watering, and no fertilizer. As hard as it is to trample over flowers, the lawn can also withstand light walking. In fact, a little bit of walking helps the plants stay rooted.
Smith’s experimental lawn in late summer at University of Reading. Source: Lionel Smith
While Avondale’s floral lawn is believed to be the first one in a public park, Smith has spent the last three years tending to a 15-square-meter grass-free lawn (below) at the University of Reading as part of his PhD research. He displayed these initial results at the Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year before planting the public lawn at Avondale over two days this past May.
Since the experimental lawn at Reading has lasted three years, the Avondale lawn is also expected to grow for the long term. Eco-conscious gardeners can try this on their own lawns too, if they’re willing to pay for over 30 species of plants. There’s no word yet whether the lawns are pet-proof, but researchers say they probably haven’t found the fix for that yet!
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