The Green Grass of Home
paving: the lawn has rivals for your affections. Stephen
Anderton warns against succumbing to their wiles, and
makes a stand for garden greens
The best place from which to look at your lawn is the
south of France, where I have just spent a fortnight
taking a holiday. There, just north of Montpellier,
the natural landscape is evergreen
scrub over almost bare rock. The lawns there, at the
Château de Cambous where we had taken an appartement,
had not needed to be mown since mid June. Nor had they
been watered. They had faded to a kind of camouflage
fawn, erupting here and there in rosettes of grey verbascum.
So coming home to England after that desert was a shock.
Who says all the greenness of our climate is soft and
romantic? There is actually something almost obscenely
opulent about the rich emerald green of an English lawn.
Compared to Montpellier a mere 800 miles away my lawn
is sheer pigging luxury, and closer to the jungle than
Travel, they say
makes you wiser. The more I see of hot countries, the
less patience I have with the anti-lawn lobby back home,
who would have us put our lawns down to gravel, or try
to turn them into species-rich alpine meadows. And the
more I see that, in most of Britain, lawns make sense.
When you think about it, a lawn is simply the native
vegetation cut short (and if you are of that mind-set,
preened a bit). It is weather that makes lawns: our
relatively gentle, moist climate helps soft grasses
grow the year round. We have lawns because the weather
So we ought to get
on and make the most of it, and enjoy our lawns - that
lovely soft feel underfoot and on bare feet, that perfect
foil for colourful borders or the shapes of clipped
evergreens. We can do it. We can shout about it. We
should treat them as a desirable luxury, and stop moaning
about the work.
The work? It’s
a lot less than the serious preeners make out. Unless
you mow mercilessly short, much of the need for feeds
and weedkillers is grossly exaggerated. Mowing often
and not too short is the recipe for easy lawn care.
Gravel? When the climate is soft and moist, gravel grows
weeds like nothing on earth unless, like Beth Chatto,
you have 20ft of pure gravel underneath instead of soil.
Rich flowering meadows? They work best on impoverished
land, due to thin soil or generations of hay-making.
Are you prepared to have mere stubble in high summer?
There are western Brits of course who say that in their
side of the country the grass grows too fast for lawn
care to be easy. They are right, too. They should give
it up, unless they are preeners, or minimize how much
lawn they have, and settle for growing trees instead.
When it comes down
to it, a lawn is only as valuable as the pleasure it
gives you. Or rather the pleasure, in relation to the
work is also causes. Take that château in France. Now,
it may look pretty sad in July and August until the
summer storms come, but consider this: in winter and
all through the spring it is probably a delightful green
plain upon which the evergreen shapes of box and cypress
can roll or soar. See it then, and you too might say,
"If it looks like this now I’ll settle for it
looking poor in summer." It’s a fair deal. Does
your lawn give you a fair deal? If it does, keep it.
Don’t fix it. It ain’t broke.
Visit the Superstore to see our range of lawnmowers.
See also the Helping Hands workshops:
to make a lawn by laying turf
to make a lawn by sowing seed
to look after a new lawn
to renovate an old lawn
to do autumn maintenance on a lawn
to maintain a lawn edge
to choose a mower
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com