Gardening & Environment
The family of grasses, the Poaceae, is the fifth largest, with 12,000 species. Their physical stature varies enormously, from low growing bents on golf greens, to pretty ornamental grasses grown in gardens, to the bamboos and elephant grasses used to feed pandas and burn for energy.
Grasses are also crucial for life. They act as a larger carbon sink than the Amazon rainforest and are used to manage floodwaters, improve soil health and provide erosion control on slopes and roadside verges.
The blogs I write here demonstrate how gardeners and researchers are increasingly using grasses to create amazing gardens, as well as helping to save our planet.
A project that set out to restore 200ha (490 acres) of traditional hay meadows in the Yorkshire Dales National Park over five years has successfully increased species richness, species diversity and meadow composition in 141 fields since 2006 by introducing locally harvested wildflower and grass seed. Traditional hay meadows can support over 30 species/sq metre and up to 120 species per field. They are of high habitat value for wildlife, providing feeding areas for invertebrates, bats and mammals and feeding and nesting sites for birds
There has always been a Kelly’s ice cream van parked at the end of our favourite beach in Cornwall – for as long as I can remember.
In recent years we haven’t had to wait until the last two weeks in August to enjoy a Mr Kelly’s – we can buy it in our local supermarket – minus the sand.
In 50 years time large parts of cities like London will have been ‘greened’ both at street level and on the roof-tops according to urban ecologist Dusty Gedge.
He says that there are multiple benefits of having plants living on top of buildings. In summer they help cool offices and factories reducing the need for air conditioning, and in winter they can offer a certain amount of insulation.
They soak up storm-water – holding heavy rainfall in situ preventing flash flooding at street level; provide insulation against noise which is useful in noisy areas such under a busy flight path, filter air pollution, are lovely to look at and attract wildlife such as birds, butterflies and bugs
Green plants like grass could generate electricity according to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It might be some way off before we run our televisions and microwaves off lawn clippings, but within a few years villagers in remote, off-grid locations could start producing enough power to charge cell-phones and lanterns.
“Today the most widely used source of lighting in such locations is kerosene lanterns…
Last summer Colin Crosbie, curator of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Garden at Wisley, defended lawns in a radio debate, saying he believes having dedicated areas for grass is important for recreational and environmental reasons.
For instance, green spaces are good for mental health and lawns help absorb rainfall so less ends up flooding man-made drains.
Trying to dream up a festive blog for this week, I rather hopefully Googled ‘Christmas Grass.’
To my delight and amazement there are three CDs called Christmas Grass (Vols 1-3). This celebration of Christmas Bluegrass style – is a collection of hauntingly beautiful festive songs and instrumentals including classics like God Rest You Merry Gentlemen and Silent Night.