Lawns: love ’em or leave ’em
Lawns can have an important part to play in garden design and they have a long-standing feature of our landscape architecture. The idea developed over centuries in Europe as a status symbol … deer roaming in tree-dotted parklands … but that does not negate its attractiveness. However, with our increasing awareness of climate change, we are more concerned with the balance between our desires and our environment, certainly it is easier to find a good caretaker for our lawns than it is to find time or gain expertise in managing other types of vegetation.

Lawns can be simple or intricate in shape, although the more edges you have, the more time it takes to keep them in order (imagine the effort needed to cut grass by scythe: mowers were invented only in the 1830’s). Do not be afraid to use clover as an additional ground cover within your lawn: check out new varieties of microclover or miniclover, which is very low-growing, green, and enriches the soil by taking nitrogen from the air and producing an absorbable “free” fertilizer within the soil. I have not tried it, but understand it needs less water than the usual lawn grass species, and is more resistant to pet urine.
Ground cover of tree bark, mulch of wood chips, stone flags, cement pavers and bricks all have a niche where they are ideal – even astro-turf: from a “green” perspective, try to ensure no rain water drains rapidly onto the road, but collects and provides nourishment to the rest of your garden. The basic question is what do we want from our immediate surroundings – a place to play for the kids, or relaxation after a hard day in the office, or maybe a hobby that requires investigation and enthusiasm? Grow and eat your own veggies or fruit for six months each year, but make sure you are going to be content with a bare veggie patch (or snow cover) from October until March!

Glynn Wright.
October 1, 2015