Bee lawns versus annual meadows

Last year we wrote about bee lawns shortly before the term entered the nation’s vocabulary. Now everyone from columnists and gardeners to politicians is discussing the benefits and the importance of encouraging pollinators back into British gardens.

Of course, there are many arguments against bee lawns. The most obvious is probably also the main reason that many people haven’t decided to put down the mower and sow clover into their lawn. If your lawn is growing taller and bees find a haven there, it makes your lawn a lot less usable. You’ll not be able to run barefoot across the grass or let little ones play without a lot of supervision and the risk of a sting or two.

Then there is the aesthetic. While a field of clover, daisies and longer grasses might sound idyllic, if you’ve strived for years to achieve the perfect weed free carpet of grass in your garden, it’s very unlikely you’re going to want to throw that all away in the blink of an eye just because of a news report or two.

So if you care about the plight of the bee but would still like to keep your garden looking as neat, tidy and usable as ever, what’s the solution?

It comes in the form of the simple and beautiful annual meadow. These little wonders can be cultivated in a sunny corner of the garden in a bed, or even in a large pot if you’d like a little more control. They’re incredibly easy to grow, inject a much needed spray of colour and perhaps most importantly, are irresistible to bees and butterflies. You can dedicate as much or as little space to an annual meadow as you have to spare, so whether you have a huge amount of land and are always struggling to know what to do with the unused corners of your garden, or just a little patch, you’ll still be able to get involved. By focusing the area where you’re encouraging pollinators, you’ll still be able to mow your lawn and trim your edges without having to worry about the wildlife you’re disturbing.

Start out with clean, well raked soil. When you first get started you’ll just be able to sow seeds in any way you like, picking from a vast selection of meadow flowers or from premixed selections. You won’t need compost or manure – the soil is perfect as it is for these one-year beauties. Mix the seed with dry sand and shake well to mix. Using a grid can help you to sow more evenly, and the regimented lines will soon blend together as your new plants spring up. There’s no need to water with hose or watering can – it can wash the seeds away, and a little bit of moisture from the inevitable showers is plenty.

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If you’ve picked your seed carefully you’ll be able to get flowers from spring right through until autumn, giving a beautiful injection of colour. We need to encourage our native bee back to Britain with these cultivated areas, but a bee lawn is not the only solution.

For a wide selection of seeds, visit our friends at Thompson & Morgan. Packets which are particularly suitable for our pollinating friends will be highlighted with the ‘RHS Perfect for Pollinators’ mark.

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