Clarion call issued to gardeners to let lawns grow wild and allow spring pollinators to thrive

A clarion call has been issued to “do nothing for nature” by letting wildflowers bloom, in the wake of new findings over the impact of spring droughts.

Boy counting flowers as part of Every Flower Counts (c) Archie Thomas

Charity Plantlife launches its No Mow May campaign today to encourage pollinators such as bees to the nation’s lawns, fields, and road verges.

It suggests last spring’s prolonged sunny spells resulted in far fewer native flowers such as dandelions and daisies.

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The wildlife charity has revealed the findings from its annual survey and warned of the impact of climate change on the nation’s grassy areas. It is hoping to build on a growing interest in “rewilding” in everyday life.

Honeybee on dandelion (c) Trevor Dines Plantlife

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Lawns are far from the “biological deserts” that some people think, its experts say, after a citizen survey last year found nearly 100 different species such as butterflies and bees.

Botanist Dr Trevor Dines said people have been seeking out connections with nature like never before and changed their usual mowing habits over recent months.

“We’ve come to appreciate the vital role wildflowers play in supporting a wealth of wildlife and are less comfortable with the neat-and-tidy aesthetic, embracing a wilder approach instead," he said. “There’s a definite trend towards a shaggier, ‘managed messiness’ as gardeners’ outlooks have rewilded.”

Mass of bird's-foot-trefoil in lawn (c) Trevor Dines

Results from Plantlife’s “every flower counts” survey show mowing once a month produces the most amount of flowers and nectar.

Last year’s survey, in which people counted the flowers they see in a one metre square patch of their lawn, saw flowers wilting in the driest May since 1896, Plantlife said.

It found 56 per cent fewer dandelion flowers and 40 per cent fewer daisies on lawns compared with 2019.

Warm conditions encouraged nectar-rich summer flowers to bloom early, so there was only a two per cent drop-off in nectar for bees, analysis showed.

Mass of bird's-foot-trefoil in lawn (c) Trevor Dines

Spring sunshine

After a very dry April this year, the charity has said many lawns are suffering from drought and has encouraged gardeners to leave them unmown through coming weeks to allow remaining flowers in them to bloom. A mix of wildflowers such as bird’s foot trefoil, self-heal, and even dandelions can make a lawn more resilient to drought, Dr Dines said.

“If you want to have a drought-resistant lawn you want a good mix of native plants because they will often have deeper roots that go down further and can tap into scant water resources,” he added.

The charity’s campaign encourages gardeners to leave their lawnmower in the shed through May, boosting the number of daisies, dandelions and others flowers as food for pollinators.

Last year, the campaign saw mounting interest, with the number of people taking part more than doubling compared with 2019.

Dr Kate Petty, Plantlife’s road verge campaign manager, said: “These results are so exciting as they mirror the national trend towards less cutting of road verges, with seven out of 10 councils now making efforts to encourage wild flowers on verges.”

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