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Category: Gardening

If you have decided to create a lawn from scratch and want a lawn with a difference why not consider a grass free lawn? We thought we would look at what is involved in grass free lawns, how do you go about choosing the right plants for a grass free lawn and then maintaining it?

Grass prefers to grow in open sunny conditions and to receive a frequent supply of water to thrive. Grass free lawns can offer a solution if you have vary varied conditions within your lawn, or you have conditions which don’t suit grass particularly well such as a shaded lawn or a lawn that suffers from drought.

The best grass free lawns are a mixture of plants that are low growing, will tolerate mowing and being walked on. They are also know as tapestry lawns because of the rich textures and colours they contain.

Grass free lawn

Grass free lawn – Image courtesy of gardenersworld.com

Mowing a Grass Free Lawn

The good news is that the grass free lawn needs mowing much less frequently than a grass lawn: About once a month in the growing season. They also don’t need weed control measures, scarifying or patching as they self seed and spread according to where each species thrives best.

Cut the grass free lawn on a high setting, you don’t want to scalp the plants, you just need to make sure the lower growing varieties get enough light.

You will lose some flowers as you mow, but you will also encourage new flowers – think of it as pruning to encourage healthy growth.

You just need to make sure you remove any clippings as you mow to prevent a build up of clippings which would lead to rot, and it is a good idea to pull out any stay grass seedlings by hand as they take root.

Encouraging Biodiversity

Grass lawns are by nature a monoculture. They are one species of plant covering a large area of the garden. Grass free lawns offer the opportunity to plant many different species which in turn can house a much greater variety of animal life.

A grass free lawn can be chosen to provide particular interest for pollinating insects and all sorts of other wildlife, and because it needs no chemical additives or controls it is much kinder to the environment generally,

Colour Variety

Having non grass lawns means that you can choose plants with leaves that are other than green, and that encourage flowers as well as foliage, and it can flower all year round, which is quite liberating for gardeners. A grass free lawn produces many more flowers than a grass lawn would even if you are not a fastidious lawn gardener.

Even better there will be something in flower all year round. There’s also a bonus for us, as it’s nicer to look at and requires far less maintenance than a traditional turf lawn. We hope that people will visit the gardens and feel inspired to try it themselves at home!

Wear and Tear on a Grass Free Lawn

A grass fee lawn won’t be suitable for boisterous children and dogs, but will bear light use and even benefit from being walked on occasionally providing the ground is not waterlogged. It should tolerate some wear and tear, and soon recover if the grandchildren visit. Just make sure it gets the best start in life by preparing the ground well. See our project on laying a new lawn for how to prepare the soil prior to starting a new lawn.

What are the Alternatives to Grass in a Lawn

The plants below have been tried out in grass free lawns and tapestry lawns around the country. There is no need to include them all in your lawn but research has shown it is beneficial to try to incorporate 30 or so different varieties and to plant seedlings and small plants rather than larger well established pot-grown plants.

No doubt you will try out new ones and even find some willing volunteer once the lawn is in and neighbouring plants start spreading their seed.
Grass Free Lawn Plant list

Grass Free Lawn Plant List

Now that we have established what a grass free lawn is and how they should be cared for and maintained, here follows a selection of plants that will thrive in a grass free lawn:

Acaena buchanii Leptinella squallida Ranunculus repens ‘Buttered Popcorn’
Acaena inermis ‘Purpurea’  Leptinella squallida ‘Platt’s Black’ Ranunculus repens ‘Gloria Spale’
Acaena magellanica Lobelia angulata Sagina subulata var
Acaena microphylla ‘Copper Carpet’ Lobelia oligophylla glabrata aurea
Achillea millefolium ‘Aureum’ Lobelia pedunculata Selliera radicans
 Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’, ‘Alba Super Star Creeper’ Taraxacum pseudoroseum
 Ajuga reptans ‘Chocolate Chip’ Lobelia pedunculata Taraxacum rubrifolium
Ajuga reptans ‘Multicolour’ ‘Blue Star Creeper’ Thymus serpyllum
Ajuga reptans ‘Variegata’ Lobelia pedunculata ‘County Park’ Trifolium pratense ‘Susan Smith’
Anthyllis vulneraria Lotus corniculatus ‘Plenus’ Trifolium repens ‘Garnet’
Argentina anserina, Lotus formosissimus Trifolium repens ‘Son of William’
Bellis perennis (wild form) Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ Trifolium repens ‘Chocolate Splash’
Bellis perennis (mixed cultivars) Mazus reptans Trifolium repens ‘Purpurescens Quadrifolium’
Campanula cochlearifolia Mentha requenii Trifolium repens ‘Dragons Blood’
Campanula rotundifolia Nierembergia repens Veronica armena
Cardamine trifoliata Oxalis adenophylla Veronica austriaca ‘Ionian Skies’
Chamaemelum nobile ‘flore pleno’ Oxalis corniculatus  Veronica officinalis
Chrysanthemum weyrichii Oxalis magellanica ‘Nelson’ Veronica prostrata ‘Goldwell’
Dianthus deltoides ‘Flashing Lights’ Parachetus communis Veronica prostrata ‘Mrs Holt’
 Erodium x variabile Phylla nodiflora Veronica prostrata ‘Lilac Time’
Erodium castellanum Pilosella aurantiacum Veronica prostrata ‘Nestor’
Fragaria vesca ‘Golden Alexandria’ Pilosella maculatum ‘Leopard’ Veronica repens
Geranium pyrenaicum Pilosella officinalis Veronica repens ‘Sunshine’
Geum urbanum Pilosella tardans Veronica spicata ‘Dwarf Blue’
Glechoma hederacea Polygala vulgaris Veronica spicata ‘Dwarf Pink’
Glechoma hederacea ‘Variegata’ Potentilla neumanniania nana (P.verna) Viola hederacea
Houstonia caerulea Potentilla reptans Viola labradorica
Houstonia caerulea ‘Millard’s Variety’ Primula – Wanda hybrids Viola odorata
Leontodon saxatilis Prunella grandiflora Viola sororaria.
Leptinella dioica Prunella vulgaris
Leptinella dioica minima Ranunculus repens

If you are indeed considering mixing in some grass with your grass free lawn, or needed to patch some areas with grass seed then check out our sowing a lawn from scratch project here.


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