The word lawn, which comes from Old French and in the 16th Century and means “glade,” invites us to a calm and relaxing state. The lawn is viewed as an essential part of the garden in modern times.
As the sun continues to bake our grass, we cannot avoid thinking about how we should interact with and treat it. These questions are not trivial, as we have discovered.
Lancelot “Capability Brown” was a landscape gardener in the 18th Century, also known as “the improver”. The idyllic landscape paintings of 16th and 17th-century Europe inspired brown. He transformed vast expanses of English countryside to lawns punctuated with clumps and “antique follies”. The lawn was the backdrop for the country home and created the illusion of an endless estate.
These efforts helped to improve the prospects of the landowner by separating him from the vileness of village life. These policies were also supported by government and social policies that excluded people.
Many English manors were decorated with large lawns. Dyrham Park in the 17th Century was one of them.
Through the 18th Century, the English public park with its lawns became a place for democratic mixing of classes. The park was also a catalyst for the “improvement of health and manners of working-class people – a phenomenon that is not ironically called “civilizing”.
The design of New York City’s Central Park, which was based on the same ideals, became the symbol for American democracy and equality.
Lawns: Nature under the cultural boot
Michael Pollan, in his book Second Nature refers to “the egalitarian conceit” that the American lawn represents as a puritanical manifestation of the ideals of shared spaces with neighbors and social progress. Pollan says that a property can be democratic with regard to neighbours but authoritarian with regards to nature. The lawn is “nature in the boot of culture.”
Raising the blades on your mower will slow down the growth rate of the lawn, resulting in less need to mow, water, and fertilize. This also gives some grasses the chance to produce seed.
This will also result in a lawn that looks unkempt. If you don’t want to go that far, you can choose to mow your lawn according the season, timing, or purpose.
The “Corduroy” method involves mowing long strips of grass to create lanes. The lanes are great for running for children, while the unmowed turf is a wild place of death and sex.
The process is restarted at the end of every autumn with a few mowings of the lawn. These lanes are also useful for navigating around large gardens. Mow the turf in the spring and summer to create a path.
We can also be strategic in the way we fertilize and irrigate our lawns. Fertilizers and water can be used to create edges and boundaries. We could choose to maintain and develop a lush area by applying fertilizers, watering heavily, and mowing closely, while encouraging other regions to be more open and to reflect the seasonal changes.
It is possible to expand the green lawn by adding a variety of complementary plants. The property can be explored by using cornflowers, dwarf gladiolis, native grasses, and a variety of annuals and perennials that are free-flowering.
The modern Parisian park grasses are often shaggy, unkempt, and untidy. They are the democratic meadows par excellence.
Reduced lawn mowing can save you time and money, while staggered mowing combines the cycles of nature’s sex and death to bring a bit of adventure into any landscape. It is a simple act that adds a touch of rebellion. What joy if life were easy like that!