Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Green City: When the Best Lawn Blooms Dark Pink Sometimes

Yesterday morning the gardeners were mowing lawns in the cemeteries on Mount Royal. Armed with weed whackers to get around tombstones and sit-down power mowers for the more open areas, they were cutting back the grass which has grown fantastically this summer. Good rains every five or six days, plus much ground moisture from last winter’s heavy snow fall, have meant luxurious green all over the northern and western slopes of the hill that is called a mountain around here.

The lawns are not sterile, grass-only ones, however. Over the decades they’ve become lovely patchworks where clover, daisies, violets, wild strawberries and other flowering plants mixed in with the more traditional grasses. Probably the most spectacular are the stretches of what I think is a hybrid of creeping bush clover (Lespedeza repens) which are in bloom now, turning the greensward into a carpet of dark pink.

Last week’s New Yorker (the one with that awful Obama-as-terrorist cover) has an interesting article by Elizabeth Kolbert, reviewing several books about lawns. The perfectly manicured suburban lawn is a wasteful conceit we can not afford to maintain, she seems to be saying. If she saw the spectacle the clover is providing now, she’d cheer, I imagine.

For more about lawns and how the desire for them has fueled sprawl, check out my Green City: People, Nature and Urban Places, by the way.

Note: Originally I thought the patches were of alpine azalea but a closer look suggets that they are of a creeping clover. Lespedeza repens is not supposed to be found in Quebec according to The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildfloers, Eastern Region. The handbook does say that the plant hybridizes widely, though, so perhaps that's what has happened. Or maybe its success on Mount Royal says something about climate change.

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