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Germany's Shift: From Manicured Lawns to Wild Meadows

Over 120 years ago, Jerome K. Jerome, in his lesser-known gem, Three Men on the Bummel, captured the German affinity for nature with his usual wit and precision:

Your German is not averse even to wild scenery, provided it be not too wild. But if he considers it too savage, he sets to work to tame it.

For in Germany there is no nonsense talked about untrammelled nature. In Germany nature has got to behave herself, and not set a bad example to the children.

It is a tidy land in Germany.

And now, over a century later, it seems that the winds of change are finally blowing through the German forests and meadows. I recall, only last year, I was strolling through a flower-rich meadow buzzing with insects, and with the birds who dined upon them. I carefully checked light and wind direction, plotting my weekend photography escapades. I was confident in my plans. Nothing could go wrong.

But when I returned on the weekend, the meadow resembled a pristinely groomed football field, as if it had been subjected to the mercy of a military hairdresser. Not a blade of grass rose more than an inch. Unbeknown to me, Thursday had been the designated “cut-the-meadow” day.

However, things are changing. This year it appears as though even the most conservative councils are beginning to see the wildflowers at the end of the tunnel. This year, the wild meadows in numerous places I have visited have been left untouched and will remain so until after the blooming season. It is a delight to plan my visits based on the natural rhythms of nature and not councils. Now I can witness how each flower, insect, and bird appear in their rightful time, unbidden and unrestrained.

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