By: Brad Priest, Designer at DG2 Design Landscape Architecture
“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
A “Wild Lawn” is exactly what it sounds like – a lawn that has been allowed to go…well, wild! It is a lawn that embraces bio-diversity and the natural processes of nature rather than fighting against them. Equally important, it is a lawn filled with aesthetic interest – textures, colors and seasonal evolution that could never be found in a traditional ‘pristine’ lawn. Last but not least, it is of course a lawn that provides one the perfect opportunity to discover the virtues of the villainized weed.
The concept of a wild lawn should actually be considered more of a maintenance philosophy than a particular type of planting. More specifically, the maintenance philosophy behind wild lawns is to do very little maintenance at all. It is a choice to allow nature to take the wheel while you, the landowner, sit back with a tall glass of ice cold lemonade and enjoy the scenery. Aside from the benefit of the extra free time not spent laboring diligently, the choice of keeping a wild lawn has important benefits to the environment. Eliminating the unnecessary overuse of the earth’s precious natural resources (e.g. water and gasoline) as well as the man-made ecologically degrading chemicals so many millions dump onto their lawns and into the atmosphere and the waterways (e.g. fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc.) is critical to promoting healthy ecosystems not only locally but globally. Endless scientific studies have made obvious the importance of this last point.
So what exactly does one do to start a wild lawn? The basic answer is nothing at all. Stop cutting the grass every weekend. Stop applying fertilizer every spring and fall. Stop watering every time the sun comes out. Keeping a wild lawn is making a choice to allow weeds to take over, and learning to appreciate a non-traditional lawn look.
And what exactly does a wild lawn look like? The beauty of wild lawns lies in their ever-changing aesthetic. An established wild lawn contains a multi-colored, multi-textured mixture of weeds such as Dandelion, Clover, Plantain, Selfheal, and Wild Violet to name a few. Previously existing turf grass is less dominant, ceding space to the weeds, and as temperature and moisture levels fluctuate throughout the year so do the prominent species. The varying leaf textures, green hues and vibrant colored flowers all work in concert as nature sees fit. Moreover, the lawn is more active with life, as many types of beneficial insects and pollinators like bees and butterflies begin visiting to take advantage of the new habitat and food sources.
While a wild lawn may not be for everyone, it is certainly worth consideration for those who find themselves bored with the typical traditional lawn, or those who find themselves weak and weary from the grind of constant maintenance. And for those not convinced of making the switch – take a walk outside and consider the virtues of your enemies, those pesky weeds…you may just find them friendlier than you thought!