Sunday, 8 June 2008

is grass green?

Michelle and Susan made me think in their pieces on Garden Rant.

Here in wet England, we have perfect pastureland. When our forbears’ opinions were formed, there were fields of grass all around us and great landscapers creating parks full of trees and lush sward. I think that this is when we became imprinted with the idea that gardens need lawns. Lawns grew so easily and cheaply and had been created for the wealthy. I want one!

As the British Empire spread, the colonialists took with them the mental pictures of their native land and tried to create it wherever they were, no matter how inappropriate it was. Lawns were synonymous with the mother country. The establishment of a lush green sward in places where it was clearly incongruous became a huge status symbol.

And that was how the myth began, that a garden must have a lawn. And, not any kind of lawn, but a perfect lawn, where the blades of grass are all the same height, colour and shape. It is now the status of a major world religion: lawn worship!

It’s a right old load of rubbish in my opinion!

Grass should only grow where it grows naturally. If it needs inputs of energy, fertilisers, weedkillers and water it is not a lawn –it is a huge, flat, boring great green weed. A weed is a plant that is growing in the wrong place.

Monoculture or diversity? I vote for diversity every time. I like buttercups, daisies and clover. Our industrial farmers have decimated wildlife in their drive for uniform crops. Monoculture has no place in a garden. I demand a mixture of plants in my lawn!

Wildlife hates pesticides and herbicides. The food chain is poisoned and the consequence is silence when we should hear the song of the song thrush and the snuffle of the hedgehog.

And these lush lawns produce a mountain of clippings. Some are toxic following applications of weedkillers and so can’t even be incorporated in the compost or used as a mulch. When they are not poisonous, many people give no thought to how they should use this waste they have created. The clippings go into the dustbin or trash.

And then we get onto the whole business of reducing inputs and the carbon footprint of our gardens. Powered mowers have a carbon footprint that is unnecessary. Fertilisers and weedkillers have a carbon footprint that is unnecessary.

And water! A scarce commodity in most parts of the world. Even where it isn’t as scarce, great dams and water cleaning and filtration systems are needed. To produce water that is then wasted on a lawn. In Perth, in desiccated Australia, they pump water from the underground aquifers to water the lawns.

Is grass green?

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