by germinatrix | August 22nd, 2011
I have never had a lawn, actually.
When my husband and I first moved into our home, I knew nothing about gardening – but I DID know that I didn’t want a lawn.
To be honest, it wasn’t for any of the high-minded ideals that I espouse these days. I just found turfgrass extremely dull. Snore. Snooze. A big blanket of green, and that’s about it. I wanted something different. something dramatic – so my very first garden was a field of double black thundercloud Papaver somniferum. I wanted it to be a goth version of the poppy field in the Wizard of Oz. I loved it! Then I realized that I was basically growing opium in massive quantities in my front yard and I got really paranoid whenever the neighborhood cops drove by. I pulled them out and thought about a new front yard design, but putting in lawn never even entered my mind.
I am an iconoclast by nature. I tend to go against the grain. I love to explore alternatives, and so when I began thinking about what I could do to my front yard, I was attracted to the strong, sculptural shapes of succulents softened by grasses and other drought tolerant perennials. It is a front yard that evolved over time into a dramatic space that uses very little water, has edibles integrated into the design vignettes, and has, in fact, turned into a neighborhood landmark.
So with that in my front yard, why have lawn anywhere on my property? I thought about it, and realized that I didn’t need or want it. Living in Southern California, drought is a constant threat. Watering lawn is expensive and ultimately wasteful. My succulent, drought tolerant borders in both my front and back yards get water once a week in the heat of the summer, and that little bit keeps them looking great. Thirsty lawn is often the lush carpet of green that “sets off” complicated plantings, but in my garden I use gravel as a negative space that also handles foot traffic. The look is neat, clean, and can be either modern or rustic depending on how it is deployed within a design. I have a large concrete patio that serves as a platform for my container gardens, and is used as the main gathering space whenever we throw parties.
My raised edible beds are productive and handsome – they give me food to supplement my marketing as well as a tremendous amount of pleasure in planning, planting, and harvesting seasonal crops.
So with all of this – why would I need lawn? When clients ask for lawn, they always say they need a place for the kids to play. I know several children who have grown up in lawn-free environments – they play in the trees, make forts under large shrubs, create little imaginary worlds among the plants and flowers. It seems to be a much richer experience than whatever game they could play on a backyard lawn.
There is a place for lawn, in my opinion – city parks, museums, public squares – places where people can gather, picnic, play frisbee and other lawn games in a social setting. Maybe small patches of lawn in yards in climates where there is ample water, with wild meadows and gardens filling in the majority of the planted space. But in urban or suburban environments in dry, hot zones, our need for lawn must be re-thought. There is an alternative … creativity, boldness, and commitment to an ideal that is more responsible, more sustainable, and way way cooler.
Re-think your need for lawn. There are other ways.
Now please follow the links around the country and see what my esteemed colleagues have to say! This month we have the members of the Lawn Reform Coalition weighing in, and they KNOW from lawn alternatives! There are ALOT of great posts and amazing ideas in this group, so don’t be shy! Jump on in and get all juiced up to tear out some LAWN!!!
XOXO, Your Germinatrix