Wildflower verges offer cost saving to local authorities

Business that sells seeds to councils to replace grass areas says they cut maintenance costs.

Wild flowers can help to cut cost of mowing roadside verges - image: HW
Wild flowers can help to cut cost of mowing roadside verges - image: HW

Local authorities can halve the cost of looking after roadside verges by axing mowing regimes and planting wild flower seeds, a botanist and garden designer has claimed.

Steve Alton researched upkeep regimes and found that sowing wild flower seeds, letting grass grow and trimming at the end of the season is at least half as expensive as mowing 15 or 20 times a year and gives a psychological boost to locals.

His business FlowerScapes is selling four seed mixes to local authorities, each with 40 pollinator species that flower for seven months. Different themes include Sunset with gold flowers and Monet inspired by shades used by artist Claude Monet.

Birmingham, Brighton and a few London councils have bought seed, while East Grinstead Town Council and South East in Bloom are also keen, said Alton.

"The current economic situation has led a lot of local authorities to reduce their expenditure on mowing, and people have started to notice. Flowers have appeared on verges that have been dominated by grass and cow parsley for years, giving an added psychological boost."

Alton and his wife Karin had a "road to Damascus experience" a year ago in Germany, where verges and roundabouts are packed with colour. They tracked down the pioneer planters and worked out the cost benefits against mowing regimes.

A few residents had complained of overgrown verges to their local authorities, he said, but most locals and councils were positive.

A West Sussex County Council representative said the cost of cutting grass was "extremely high", adding: "We promote all aspects of countryside conservation. One way to enhance it is to plant more trees, shrubs or flower beds by the highway.

"But under the Highways Act, a licence must be applied for before anything can be planted."

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