‘It looks beautiful’: UK gardeners on leaving lawns uncut for No Mow May | Gardens

The conservation charity Plantlife again urged people not to mow their gardens in May to help wild plants and pollinators thrive.

As the month draws to a close, we asked some of this year’s No Mow May participants what new plants and wildlife they have seen in their gardens.

‘It’s nice to know we cater for the butterflies’ whole life cycle’

An orange-tip butterfly in Adam Linnet’s garden. Photograph: Adam Linnet/Guardian Community

I thought I had better practice what I preach as a conservation charity worker. My three-year-old daughter loves the flowers in the garden, even more so when they are visited by butterflies, such as this orange-tip (pictured above). Our lawn is currently a sea of cowslips, but hidden under them, waiting to come into flower are meadow vetchling, yellow rattle, common knapweed, and even common spotted orchids.

We have a second no-mow lawn next to our little allotment. The wetter ground here supports cuckooflower, which is the food plant of orange-tip butterfly caterpillars. We spend many a happy hour searching for the eggs in May and the caterpillars in late June. It’s nice to know we cater for their whole life cycle, rather than just feeding the adult butterflies.
Adam Linnet, 35, conservation charity worker, Ipstones, Staffordshire

‘People stop to speak to me about my front garden’

Sean South’s front lawn.
Sean South’s front lawn. Photograph: Sean South/Guardian Community

Two years ago, inspired by the No Mow movement, I decided to resow the lawn of my back garden with both grass and clover to increase biodiversity. We also have a front garden that was once a very sad and bare patch of dirt and stones. I threw some wild flower mixes on to the ground, added a few self-seeded plants from the back garden and plants that had outgrown their pots. Even the bin store has a living roof.

Now, the front garden is left to its own devices and is a bountiful haven for birds, small mammals and insects. And I don’t need to mow it! A number of people have stopped to talk to me about the front garden. Most are positive – although one lady seemed to think I had too many weeds.
Sean South, 52, primary school teacher, London

‘I use a sickle at dusk, when the bees have gone to bed’

Martin Dohrn’s lawn.
Martin Dohrn’s lawn. Photograph: Martin Dohrn/Guardian Community

Early in the year, this scene is covered with lesser celandines, primroses, grape hyacinth and dog violets. In early May, this gives way to daisies, bugle and forget-me-nots. All these flowers are useful to early spring bees, of which quite a few species nest in the garden: furrow bees, flower bees, mason bees and mining bees.

Some parts I keep short, using a sickle at dusk when the bees have gone to bed. Some species of mining bee and furrow bee like to nest in shorter grass areas. Despite this being a small garden (10 x 30 metres), the diversity of plant species and vegetation allows insects to thrive: along with the bees, many species of hover fly and wasp, as well as beautiful green rose chafer beetles and scarlet tiger moths.
Martin Dohrn, 65, wildlife film-maker, Bristol

‘I am not interested in absurd putting-green perfection’

Peter Finlay’s lawn.
Peter Finlay’s lawn. Photograph: Peter Finlay/Guardian Community

I don’t often mow my lawn as I cannot bear to turn the sea of hawkweed, daisies, dandelions and other wild flowers to pulp and convert it into a desert for all the bees and butterflies that thrive there. Then there are creatures like slow worms. It is heartbreaking to come across their remains after being mangled by a strimmer. I recently saw one only a few yards from my lawn, which no doubt froze in terror as the awful noise bore down upon it.

People can call it a ‘lawn’ in inverted commas if they like; I am not interested in having some absurd putting-green perfection in its place! I have a lovely Austrian scythe which is so peaceful and it is quite enough to keep some paths open.
Peter Finlay, retired church minister, High Corrie, Isle of Arran, Scotland

‘The insects and birds bring life to the once dull lawn’

Ros Page’s lawn.
Ros Page’s lawn. Photograph: Ros Page/Guardian Community

We stopped mowing most of our front lawn about six years ago. That year, we scattered fresh yellow rattle seed sent by my brother from the Yorkshire Dales, which weakened the grass to such an extent that many species of plants and insects have become established. Flowering starts in January with snowdrops, followed by crocus, anemone blanda, primrose, snake’s head fritillary, cowslip, dead-nettles, cow parsley, red campion, buttercups and daisies, oxeye daisies, yellow rattle, ragwort and many different grasses.

Our most exciting arrivals have been pyramidal orchids and white helleborine, which appeared with no help from us. Bees, flies, butterflies and moths busy themselves among the flowers; the striped caterpillars of cinnabar moths strip the ragwort leaves; and every summer, two colonies of ants extend their anthills. The insects attract many birds too, bringing even more life to what was once a dull piece of lawn.
Ros Page, retired civil servant, Oxfordshire

‘The cats liked playing jungle’

Jo Burgess’s cat Deedee.
Jo Burgess’s cat Deedee. Photograph: Jo Burgess/Guardian Community

After I stopped mowing, there was a parade of flowers, buttercups, creeping charlie, dandelions and clover. It got to over half a metre high in some places, so I cut the middle of the lawn but left the edges wild all summer. In the end it was nearly a metre high, with amazing wild grasses and flocks of butterflies everywhere.

The cats liked wandering along the little paths I made and playing jungle. Luckily they don’t hunt. Towards the end of the summer, I attacked everything with the lawnmower, but I only have a small mower and it choked up in a couple of minutes. So I had to get some garden clippers to cut it all by hand. The clippers were blunt so in the end I resorted to scissors. I am not sure cutting a long lawn with a pair of scissors is the right look for an experienced gardener, but was a lot of fun.
Jo Burgess, 64, entertainment agent, Exminster, Devon

‘We were blessed with this beautiful carpet of daisies’

Jemima Harrison’s garden.
Jemima Harrison’s garden. Photograph: Jemima Harrison/Guardian Community

We have left our front lawn to its own devices over the past few weeks and were blessed with this beautiful carpet of daisies. We hope it will help support our local bumblebees. It’s been good to see the number of little insects that fly up from the daisies when I walk across the lawn. Hopefully they’re helping the small wild birds that are breeding at the moment.

There has been a marked drop in the number of flying insects in Britain over the last decade, even here in beautiful Wiltshire. I hope this will help a little bit. We also now make sure we leave the boundaries pretty wild, knowing that nettles support butterflies. We also leave some rough-and-ready parts of the garden to encourage hedgehogs. I love the idea of No Mow May, and will definitely leave this section of the garden more wild from now on. I think it looks beautiful.
Jemima Harrison, TV producer, Wootton Rivers, Wiltshire

‘We’ve spotted at least four types of wasp’

Tony Barnett
Tony Barnett’s garden. Photograph: Tony Barnett/Guardian Community

We don’t often mow our lawn, and feel guilty about it. But not this year. We’ve seen lots of different bumblebees and solitary bees, as well as bees from our neighbour’s hives – we always get a jar of honey or two from them. We’ve spotted at least four types of wasp and a couple of other types of bees, butterflies – including red admirals, peacocks, cabbage whites, yellow ones with a black spot, Polyommatus icarus, and others I couldn’t identify. I’ve also seen brown and orange moths, which were possibly Agrotis puta, Ochropleura plecta and others not known.
Tony, north Norfolk