What is it with the “Great American Lawn?” Garden Historians and Sociologists alike try to study this phenomenon and figure out why people in the States are so obsessed with a nice green lawn. It has been conjectured that because Middle Class homeowners in Europe and the UK do not have large sweeping lawns, that this has become a status symbol here. When I was living in Ohio, we had a neighbor who mowed his lawn three times per week and heaven help you if you walked on it or even got near it. It was a perfect carpet of green with nary a weed in sight. Oddly enough, they rarely ventured outside to enjoy it.
Now all this brings me to this week’s topic – Rewilding. I actually got an email from the Royal Horticultural Society two days ago on this very topic. Simply put, Rewilding is allowing your lawn or even a section of your garden to go back to its wild state – just stop mowing, weeding, fertilizing, cultivating, etc. Most people understand that this would be so much better for the environment. Just to stop the constant sound of mowing and blowing would be a benefit. It is easier said than done. Many communities have POA’s that would go into cardiac arrest if we stopped mowing our lawns and let them grow up with weeds. It takes courage to let your yard “go.” Obviously this is difficult or nearly impossible to do so let me give you an alternative. Take a small area of your yard where you do not need to have a lawn and let it return to its natural state.
With encouragement from a course I took from Dr. Noel Kingsbury, I decided to do this on a very small scale. I took one corner of my yard and just ignored it. It was just starting to get wild Black-eyed Susan plants when my mow and blow guys got a little too enthusiastic and mowed that small section. They had never done it before. So—up went a small fence to cordon off the “wild” area.
I am just starting to see results. Of course, most things that are growing are listed in Clemson’s guide book Weeds of Southern Turf Grass, but they are also interesting and I would call some of them flowers with a real appeal. I have Beggarstick (Bidens pilosa ) coming up, Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia fulgida), Pink Puslane (Portulaca amilis), Goldenrod (Solidago spp) and a volunteer from my flower garden, Verbena bonariensis. There are also some interesting grasses starting to come up. It has only been two months, so there is time for other natives to appear.
Other things you might find when you rewild is our Native St. John’s Wort (Hypercium stragulum – often called St. Andrew’s Cross) and Purple Berry Beauty Bush (Callicarpa Americana) I have St. Andrew’s Cross in my front garden and I have noticed babies starting along the edge of the woods. What you do not want to get started is Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) which seems to take over down here. I am forever “taming” it as well as Wax Myrtle (Morella cerifera)
A great book for native plants in our region is Native Plants of the Southeast by Dr. Larry Mellichamp. It does help to remember that quite a few of what are designated as weeds are also sold commercially as nursery plants - Coneflowers, Goldenrod, Rudbeckia, and Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) to name a few. The old adage “A weed is a flower in the wrong place” is certainly true. So, be brave and designate a small area for rewilding. The pollinators will thank you and you can say that you are very avant garde (or for my friends in Sun City, an Avant Gardener!)
My blog in two weeks will be about Keeping Bambi at Bay. – everyone’s favorite topic.