Traditional mowing techniques on our sloping, flower-rich grasslands

Our rose garden is now completed. However, the new design presents some challenges. The steep slopes and deep wadis are difficult to mow for our usual machines such as the cutter bar, the disc mower and even our ‘tough’ brush cutter.

In our search for an ecological and safe solution, we discovered a local company called ‘Zeis en Bijl’ (which translates as ‘Scythe and Axe’). The scythe may seem impractical, and evokes times long gone. However, it is a clean (not fossil fuel) and quiet technology, and with a tight technique, scythe work today is certainly complementary or even competitive to automated mowers. ‘Zeis en Bijl’ are now working with us on a customised programme to transform these steep slopes into species-rich grasslands.

Scything these slopes is no easy task. The stiff, woody stems of Canadian horseweed (Conyza canadensis), saltbush (Atriplex sp.), wormwood (Artemisia sp.) and the dense mats of Italian rye-grass (Lolium multiflorum) were a challenge even for an experienced mower like Kevin Lambeets.

We have also introduced seeds of field scabious (Knautia arvensis) and burnet-saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga), and in November, some fifteen plants of mouse-ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella) were planted on the nutrient-poor, south-facing slope. The result is already impressive and we are eagerly looking forward to the further development of this part of the Botanic Garden.

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