My Front Lawn : “Plant it and they will come”

05 July 2019
My Front Lawn : “Plant it and they will come”

Do you remember that Kevin Costner movie ‘Field of Dreams’? Kev plays an Iowa farmer who, after hearing strange voices, transforms his land into a baseball pitch and summons the ghosts of a long-dead baseball team. Ridiculous. Yet, when I bought my first home eight years ago and stood on my new perfectly manicured 15ft by 20ft suburban front lawn, all I could hear were voices in my head telling me to destroy it.

Rumours spread of my debauched gardening plans. My new neighbours eyed me with suspicion – especially when they overheard that I was planning to hire a stripper for the weekend. Soon the clattering of that petrol-powered turf stripper was only drowned out by my own maniacal laughter as I razed the 300 square feet of lawn to mud. You could hear the house prices dropping all along the cul-de-sac. The neighbourhood watched from behind twitching curtains as I carefully broadcast native wildflower seeds over the bare soil. Through the wet winter my front lawn looked ready to host a re-enactment of The Battle of Agincourt.

And then spring came. 

Richard Lawn   Richard Lawn 2

Photos: My front lawn vs. my neighbour's front lawn. 

Meadow Buttercup, Oxeye Daisy, Cowslip, Yellow Rattle, Lady’s Bedstraw, Crested Dogstail, Red Clover, Ragged Robin. The ground erupted into a riot of colour. And then the wildlife arrived. Bees, bee-flies, beetles, burnets and butterflies. Unexpected species appeared too: Wall Brown and Brown Hairstreak butterflies, Ghost Moths, Wasp Spiders and a lone Common Spotted Orchid.  On summer days my mini-meadow sang to me; a choir of buzzing bumblebees and chirruping grasshoppers. My own nature reserve; beautiful, wild, endlessly fascinating and filled with life. I am genuinely bemused as I watch my neighbours struggle with their lawnmowers each week. Why go out of your way to kill something when you can just sit back and let it live? I simply swing my scythe and mow my meadow once at the end of the summer. I imagine I look like that shirtless bloke from Poldark (although in reality I look more like a chunky yet cheerful Grim Reaper).

Richard Marbled White

Photo: Marbled Whites have just moved in this month. I can't tell you how thrilled I am.

Wildflower meadows were once a widespread feature of the English countryside but since the 1930’s we have tragically lost 97% of our flower-rich fields. Many have been improved with fertilisers, re-seeded with faster growing grasses or ploughed for arable crops. This in turn has caused a massive decline in many species of wildlife that depend on them. By creating my own humble field of dreams it feels as if I am summoning the ghosts of the English countryside and giving them life.

And then, last month, I turned the corner to see a deer, an actual wild Roe Deer, lost in suburbia but stood seemingly at home in my meadow. Ridiculous. 

Richard Deer

Photo: The Roe Deer that stopped by last month.

If you’re interested in creating your own wildflower meadow you'll find more information on our website here.



  • Alice Renton:

    25 Jul 2019 10:47:00

    I would like to fence of a corner of my sheep-grazed field to turn it into a wild-flower area. Can I do this without ‘stripping’ the turf – just rake some downland flower seeds in? And if I can, when?

  • John Scates:

    25 Jul 2019 11:10:00

    We had a two acre wild flower meadow but a year or two ago the farmer who used to cut the it and take away the hay stopped doing so because his cows would no longer eat it due to the increase in rush ( the field can be wet). At one stage I found some 70 species of wild flowers, but now there are many fewer. Can you suggest anything to improve the situation,please?

  • Nicki Kent:

    25 Jul 2019 11:15:00

    I have recently moved to Bexhill and have decided to let my front lawn be colonised by wild flowers – inspired, I should say, by lady a few roads away who has lovingly produced a great flower meadow that even boasts a spotted orchid. I was thrilled skinny to find a small cooper butterfly in my modest garden meadow in May and the bees are loving it. I hope for greater diversity of wild flowers as the years go by and lots of beautiful little beasties.

  • 25 Jul 2019 11:37:00

    @Alice Renton: Maybe try fencing out the sheep and letting the area grow, as there may well be existing wildflowers that will flourish given the chance, especially if the site is near to existing species-rich grassland. If this doesn’t yield good results after a year or two (with an appropriate cutting/grazing regime) then there are various methods for adding wildflower seed but they do require the creation of bare ground and preparation is important. There’s some good advice and information here:

  • Paul Robards:

    25 Jul 2019 14:27:00

    Keeping spreading the word.
    We need our wildflowers
    we need our butterflies
    I am doing my bit in Broadwater cemetery Worthing. 14 1/2 acres of many different grasses and flowers, also many butterflies. The grass cutters are in this week, but working with them (or them with me) I got them to leave mosaics of flowers for the bees and butterflies.

  • Lizzie:

    25 Jul 2019 15:44:00

    I have a little corner of garden. There is a bench a pond and hopefully next year lots of wild flowers.So far I have had hedgehogs,lizard and fox. Counting the different butterflies this week. 🤗

  • Elaine Parkin:

    25 Jul 2019 18:10:00

    I want to create a wildflower mini meadow in my front garden, but am confused by comments I’ve read on various sites about what to grow! On one hand, it seems inadvisable to introduce flowers that are not already growing; on the other, people are recommding ‘wildflower seed mixes’ which may not be rightfor my garden! Apparantly the much advertised ‘beebombs’ are not wildflowers at all so I dont’ want to use them. What is the best option?!

  • Ree Buss:

    25 Jul 2019 20:35:00

    Love the way you tell it Michael xX never have I know a more fun and interesting conservationist :) fantastic that you have created habitat for Marbled Whites!

  • Edith mary Jeffery:

    25 Jul 2019 20:43:00

    I intend to do the same or as close as I can manage. My neighbour’s living garden is a joy to me.

  • Annie:

    25 Jul 2019 22:38:00

    We have fenced off half of our back garden and have been wilding it for the last two years, it is now ‘alive’ and we get so much enjoyment seeing butterflies, bees dragonflies and of course the birds. I just can’t believe how much fun a wild and living garden is.

  • Nigel Kingston:

    26 Jul 2019 12:31:00

    Hi Michael, my wife and I have almost replicated your suburban Good Life. Neighbours gardens are barren and heavily manicured. Our garden on the other hand buzzes , chirrups , sways and welcomes all and every type of flora and fauna. Great to know we’re not alone.

  • Mary Fitzmaurice:

    26 Jul 2019 19:20:00

    I have had a wildflower patch for around 13 years now. It;s amazing how it varies over the years – things seem to parachute in from nowhere, I had an invasion of chicory (how did it know I love blue flowers?) last year but this year the ox-eye daisies have taken over; Lady’s Bedstraw appeared from nowhere too. Perhaps these species were in the original mix and need particular weather or conditions to flourish? In another triangle opposite, where I no longer have the time to cultivate veg, I sowed cornflower and marigold seeds (I love the combination of blue and orange) and it’s a humdinger – glorious! You don’t need a lot of space – my patches are a few square feet. Hordes of pollinators zoom in. Everybody should do it!

  • Merry Irwin:

    27 Jul 2019 03:21:00

    What seed mix to buy and from where in East Sussex?

  • Helen Gander:

    27 Jul 2019 09:18:00

    My front garden has never been manicured over the last 15 years we have lived here, but it is only this year i haven’t been pressured into cutting the lawn vaguely neatly. I think because they can now see the really pretty flowers that have migrated into our unkempt lawn, they are beginning to see a glimpse of my vision. I don’t know what I am doing, but I am pleased with the results – loads of wildlife.

  • Sue McRae:

    29 Jul 2019 08:47:00

    We’re lucky enough to have a large garden, much of which is left to meadow with mown paths running through it. I planted a few geranium pratense (grown from seed) in one area, and they’re beginning to spread. Rabbits are a problem, but they’ve stopped eating the ox-eye daisies now, and they’ve never liked buttercups or bird’s foot trefoil. Thistles and docks have been weeded out, and the “good stuff” is increasing, plus the wildlife. We love it – and yes, just one cut towards the end of the year, although the grass has grown hugely this year.

  • 29 Jul 2019 13:28:00

    @Merry Irwin: try based in Horam

  • Julia Desch:

    11 Aug 2019 10:25:00

    Lovely story and so encouraging: it breaks my heart to see banks and verges scarified to bare earth and so damaging. I would be thrilled to have marbled whites…… I am liaising with other wild flower groups in the High Weald to boost our efforts. Any publicity from such as SWT would be a great help.

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