My wife – who is the mower of lawns in our partnership – has taken to mowing around any wildflowers she encounters. As a result, our rather sparse fescue lawn has sprouted tufts of black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), yarrow (Achillea miilefolium), mullein (Verbascum thapsus), maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoides), oxeye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) and, in the shady areas, Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum). I am aware, by the way, that most of these are not true natives, but all are so long naturalized in our fields that they have thoroughly integrated into the local ecology and provide benefits to pollinators and other wildlife.
I’m not sure how I feel about the present look of this selective mowing, but I applaud the impulse. I want to transform our lawn but don’t know exactly how.
It’s too big a space (3/4’s of an acre) to convert it all to groundcovers and flowering plants. The labor of weeding and maintaining that would be far too much. I could dig it up and plant a meadow, and I may well do that with a part of it, but our dog, a compulsive retriever, needs a mown area to practice her stick fetching.
I’ve experimented with fine fescue lawns, the so-called “no mow” lawns, using organic techniques to install them for a variety of clients. They can be very attractive, with a soft, lush look to them, especially when mown high. They don’t have any benefit for pollinators, however.
What I wish is that someone would do for the Northeast what the late Dr. Mark Simmons of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center did for central Texas and develop a lawn mixture of native grasses that could be started from a seed mix. I had the good fortune to speak to Dr. Simmons a year or so before his untimely death at age 55. When we spoke, he was beginning to explore wildflowers that were compatible with his native grass lawns; I’ve been informed that research is now on hold.
If anyone who reads this is aware of any similar effort taking place in the Northeast, I would greatly appreciate a heads-up.