That perfect, turf-like lawn may be the ideal for many homeowners, but it doesn’t hold the same appeal for Mother Nature.
So-called “bee lawns,” however, are growing in popularity, as they provide more of an attraction for pollinators like bees, birds, and butterflies, which help to pollinate nearby food and flowering plants.
“Bee lawns aren’t 100% flowers. They have some grass included,” said Mary Meyer, an extension horticulturist and professor with the University of Minnesota. “While bees don’t use grass, humans do. Most flowers, if you start walking on them, will die. Clover will tolerate a bit of foot traffic.”
Dutch white clover, which is rich in nitrogen, is considered the best alternative to traditional grass for homeowners looking to attract pollinators. Many turf seed mixes used by landscaping companies used to include clover, until the trend changed to favor more “pure” lawns.
“You can mow [clover] and keep it relatively tame in a lawn, and bees love it,” said Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in Portland, Ore. “The good thing about Dutch white clover is that it is good [to grow] across most of the U.S.”
Some homeowners are reluctant to incorporate broadleaf plants and flowers into their perfect lawns. For these people, the best option to consider might be locating the more pollinator-friendly plants in less visible areas of their property, and keeping the front lawn or other areas often seen by passersby, looking sleek and turf-like.
But does clover and other bee-friendly ground covering count as weeds, or just grass alternatives or companions? Well, that’s a matter of personal taste. There’s no right or wrong answer, but if more people start planting bee lawns, the trend of manicured, uniform lawns that look like golf courses might begin to change into something more natural.
One significant benefit of bee lawns? They are much easier to maintain than traditional grass. They require less fertilizing, and are more resistant to drought and pests. Since their imperfection is part of their charm, they don’t require as much extensive upkeep.