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Posts Tagged ‘lawn’

Lawn daisies

Anyone who read this blog post on turfgrass lawns probably understands the arguments against turfgrass lawns.   So now what?  Do we all need to tear out or grassy swathes and put in wildflowers?  Not necessarily – there are TONS of turfgrass lawn alternatives, and so much documentation that it would be insanity to try to catalog everything without actually considering a career in publishing….go ahead, google it.

But this morning I was thinking about a mid-way point between eliminating an existing turfgrass lawn in favor of other groundcovers, perennials, or the extreme artificial lawns that seem to be gaining in popularity at the moment (due to extensive television advertising?).

I came upon the mixed lawn as a compromise / move in the right direction.  When I was little, the local library had tons of tiny daisies in the lawn which I thought were completely charming.  At our home, there was clover in the front lawn that I would sit in, pluck at the flowers, and hang out with the cat or bunny.  Even if you don’t go to the expense and trouble of removing an existing lawn regardless of its condition, simply overseeding with white clover can start a remarkable transformation.  Adding clover to your turfgrass lawn can begins the transformation of adding little flowers, benefits from nitrogen fixing, and gaining a more textured, greener appearance.   What can be a better solution in having a lawn than having one that eliminating the need and expense of chemical fertilizers, needs less mowing, uses less water, and it is prettier and greener as well?!  Sign me up.

Oh!  and by the way – an added benefit of intentionally mixing other plants in with your turfgrass is supporting bees in your area (they like clover very much) – and please don’t get me started on the crisis facing the bees in California!

It seems that Oregonians are embracing mixed lawns already, something I have yet to notice much here in California.  Hobbs and Hopkins in Oregon offers some clever seed mixes for more interesting and environmentally friendly lawns.  They include all sorts of things from clover to lawn daisies and dwarf yarrow.  Isn’t that so much more fun than plain ole turfgrass?!  Am I the only one who loves this!? Their photos look like exotic salads – not dull, flat green carpets.

As soon as it is released, I will have a copy of The American Meadow, a book that John Greenlee has been promising for a couple of years now.  It isn’t quite the same concept as mixed lawns, but maybe he will cover that in the book?  We’ll see when my copy arrives….oh, I am so excited!

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The memory of that scene for me is like a frame of film forever frozen at that moment:  the red carpet, the green lawn, the white house, the leaden sky.  The new president and his first lady”  – Richard M. Nixon

Wikipedia defines a lawn as “an area of recreational or amenity land…that is maintained at a low, even height.”  Wikipedia goes on to describe the history, popularity, criticisms, maintenance, and various grasses for lawns and is well worth a read.  I am talking predominantly about turf grass lawns, not ‘alternative lawns’ of other plants and materials.  Lawn alternatives will be dealt with in a future post.

When asked about turf grass lawns, some clients feel that they should have one but cannot provide a particular reason.  “Because they’re nice” someone once said to me.  I don’t think that is reason enough if there’s no functional or aesthetic need for it.  If a lawn fills a particular emotional need or is meaningful in some way, that is a different story.  Unfortunately, the care required to keep them healthy makes turf grass lawns one of the least environmentally friendly growing things you can have.

Obviously, I have feelings about lawns; I’m generally not a fan.  Growing up, one of my chores was mowing – front and back, we had lawn to play on.  Ironically, I spent most of my outdoor play time in the sand box, stacking stuff up to make forts, and making up stories about things I found (read: not throwing a ball or running).  Our lawns weren’t really big enough for running and playing, anyway.

twin houses 1

Lawns are good for kids to play on, dogs to pee on, garden parties, and to give people something to do with their weekends.  Aesthetically, a turf grass lawn can be used as a visual contrast to other plantings.  A lawn can be a path or an area; it can reinforce a geometric design or be a place holder if you can’t decide what else to do.  As a designer, lawns do serve certain functions – I’m okay with that.  What I am not okay with is installing them for no particular reason, especially given the environmental and financial impacts.

I love this post on a NASA website which outlines research on the impact of lawns on the environment. We mow, fertilize, poison, water, and fuss over these flat green carpets as though all that stuff was fun or healthy.

Personally, if it was my garden, my money, my weekend time, my water and carbon footprint, I’d find something else to grow.

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