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Low growing flowers for lawn alternative

Hi all,

Last year I got a bit lazy with my mowing (small lawn originally from turf) and it ended up long and scraggly, so that when I did eventually mow it there were a few big ugly tufts and areas of bare soil.

So, I made the decision to kill it all off and look into a more wildlife friendly, low maintenence alternative. My thoughts were:

1) No mowing (save an end of year tidy up if needed)

2) No grass at all.

3) Low growing flowers (say up to 4"), or ones that put up a single tall stem with flower atop (Scabious, Fox and Cubs, Creeping/meadow buttercup?)

4) Pollen/nectar rich where possible.

What I'm thinking is as follows, use a "base" of Thymus serpyllum (Wild Thyme) either by sowing seed direct or plugs, or both (belt and braces?)

Into that add other varieties I discover and grow or buy in plugs. Ones I've chosen so far are as follows:

Dutch White Clover (very low variety)
Self Heal
Bird's Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
Small scabious - Can't find a low variety, but this is an absoute hero when it comes to bees/insects
Fox and Cubs - I like this flower, shoots up quick after mowing, I'd probably just keep deadheading.
Pheasant's Eye (Adonis Annua) - I just like it, never tried growing it.
Scarlet Pimpernel - I just like it and the colour

Has anyone attempted anything similar? Would appreciate any pointers or advice based on what you've found, or any low varieties you may know of that bees love.

Many thanks in advance :)



  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,305

    That sounds more like a flower bed - it'll need the same sort of maintenance - weeding, hoeing, dividing, mulching etc.  

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • Not really, I chose most of the varieties as they're carpet forming, so once it's established they should suppress any weeds (I'll interviene if I see anything I don't want growing!) but I just want it to find it's own "balance".

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 21,268



    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • CeresCeres Posts: 2,149

    Sadly when you try to get rid of grass and replace it with something that will be less bother, the damned stuff returns. I wish you luck with your wild flower bed and hope it reaches some sort of equilibrium fairly quickly.

  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,878

    I looked at the photos on your previous posting

    There are some lovely effects but they bring to mind the 'show' or makeover garden. Lovely now but what happens later?

    What comes after is maintenance ie weeding. I don't think you're looking at a labour saving plan here.

    My advise would be to try it. Nothing to lose, you'll see what works and what doesn't.


    A few points. mat forming thyme lets the weeds through and goes brown if it's over-shadowed for long. Scarlet pimperenel has no mat forming ability, it's a plant of field edges and bare places, not part of a lawn effect. 

    Good luck

  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,297

    It will certainly need refereeing! Whatever is best suited to your soil and conditions will take over and swamp the restimage If you want it to find a 'balance' then you need either to select plants of similar vigour to suit your conditions or provide the conditions to suit the plants you want to grow.

    As you like the thymes, which enjoy sun and good drainage, one possible solution, if you have a sunny area, would be to kill off the grass first and then make a gravel garden, adding extra gravel or grit to improve the drainage. Grown in gravel as a backdrop you can keep the plants separate to give slower things a chance, make a pathway through it and see where to weed. You can allow the mat-formers to run together if you wish, but leave some bare spaces as the dianthus especially like to self-seed.

    You would then have ideal conditions not just for the thyme but for other alpine plants, many of which are mat forming. Dianthus deltoides is a good one, either white, red-centred Arctic Fire or scarlet Flashing Light, or the native form, if you prefer, which is bright pink. Butterflies like it.

    Geranum cinereum Ballerina is a paler pink, very low and spreads very well for me or try Guiseppe for a brighter purple pink; a bit taller but not much and then there is G. sanguineum, either the original magenta pink form, or striatum Lancastrense which is pale pink, or white G. sanguineum Album. Bees love all geraniums. 

    For a change from pink and red there are the creeping campanulas - C. pulla is little beauty -  and Pratia pedunculata in either blue or white, Sedums, S. acre in yellow and others with white or pink flowers, and Potentilla nana with sunny yellow flowers.

    For leaf colour there is non-flowering camomile 'Treneague', the Acaenas, variously grey, grey-green or purple leaved and Leptinella Platt's  Black which is, you've guessed it, blackimage

    We made a rockery/gravel garden in front of our house where a shaly bank was held back by a dry- stone wall. We have added little bulbs for early colour, small shrubs like hyssop, lavender, rosemary and sage and some larger alpines such as Helianthemum and it gives pleasure year round. Self Heal and Fox and cubs are in there too, they grow wild hereimage

  • GreenupGreenup Posts: 2

    Sagina subulata  makes a excellent carefree lawn, it's often sold as a alpine in 9cm pots which would make it a very expensive alternative, however you can buy the seeds in bulk on line at a reasonable price, or you could do a camomile lawn 

  • Thanks for all the tips everyone! :)

    @Nutcutlet - Yes I did try a corner of the lawn for a "Armeria Lawn" but it didn't really work out, I don't think the ones I put in were vigourous enough but even if they were, they seem to grow in a sort of undulating manner, with roots exposed, hard to explain but wouldn't really be good to walk on. So do you not think the Thyme would be suitable? I don't mind the odd bit of weeding, I tend to "weed as I go" so if I walk through the garden, see a few weeds, I pick them out and just throw them to the back to die. :) If not Thyme could you recommend something low, mat forming, walkable on and keeps weeds back? I could use the Dutch white clover as the main one? :)

    @Buttercupdays - Thanks for the suggestions, I'll look into those, I think I may have Dianthus Deltoids as it rings a bell. My only worry would be walking over it, it's not a "high use" lawn but I do like to walk over it and sunbathe etc there. I think sunbathing surrounded by wild flowers and insects would be great. :)

    @Greenup - I've not heard of that, just done a quick search and it appears it's called "Scots Moss" or "Irish Moss", looks pretty will investigate. :)

  • LeadFarmerLeadFarmer Posts: 1,256

    pictorial meadows sell rolls of wildflower turf.

  • GreenupGreenup Posts: 2

    Both are practical because you can walk on them and they will spring back obviously you wouldn't play football on themimage

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