The grass is finally up in the round garden. The silver and red Bird Scare Flash Tape generously given to us garden writers by Ed Hume—thanks so much, Ed—has worked brilliantly, constantly moving and dancing in the slightest breeze. But whether the long green stubble will be walkable a month from now for The Garden Conservancy‘s July 7 Open Day—who knows?
Last week, Nathaniel Sperry, my arborist returned for more consultations. He glanced at the growing lawn surrounding the round paver pad and said, “Looks like a destination resort.”
He wasn’t talking about the bird scare tape. And that was not a compliment.
I wondered what got his back up to make such a sneering comment. Then I realized—it’s the grass itself. Lawns have such a bad name now. The over-watered, over-chemicalized, over-manicured prima donna greensward should be canned. It’s de rigueur for gardeners to at least consider, if not act, to dig it all out.
And here am I, putting more in. So let me tell you why and how I can justify this wanton act of horticultural contrariness in the face of contemporary garden wisdom.
#1. I’ve considered the lawn’s purpose.My home features four bedrooms. Most likely it will always be a family home. So everyone will need a place to play.
That includes kids and pets.
Our garden has seen raucous games involving nets, frisbees, croquet mallets, soccer balls, flag capturing and a brief spate of bows and arrows. During the August meteor showers, we blow up air mattresses and sleep on the grass to watch the night sky show.
#2. I’ve lowered my expectations.This is a lumpy country lawn. Watered some. Fertilized with cotton seed meal occasionally. Allowed to go brown in the hottest summer days. It’s a mix of anything low and relatively green, including daisies, and crab grass. And considering #1, that works well.
#3. I have fewer garden chores with grass. One time I was weeding the rock wall bed, and I sat back, imagining the lawn as more beds. No matter what kind of nifty plants I might grow there, the thought of weeding that whole expanse on a regular basis was daunting.
I always say a lawn is low-maintenance if your husband mows it. And my Lou does just that. He also digs out broadleaf weeds with what we call “the ponker.” It has four long metal teeth on a pole.
Ponk it in on top of a dandelion, and rock back. The teeth clinch the weed and out it comes. Fiskars makes a fancy one that allows you to snap the handle and launch the hapless weeds a couple of feet—a debatable form of gardening fun, because I have to go around and pick them up. Even so, once you follow #2, grass does mean less work.
#4. My new lawn is a design place-holder. In 1993, this garden started out all lawn, with few beds and borders. Over the years, I chipped away at the grass as the design I wanted became clear.
My now grown children return home to visit and complain that more lawn is missing. (But neither of them has offered to do the mowing, so their votes count for little—I’m kind of Henny Penny that way.)
I have plans, but I don’t know how they will play out. I might ring the pavers with a low-growing salal border, or with cranberries—it’s a wet area.
I might make the outer mowing strip the edge of a pathway that circles around to the center pavers.
Gardens are always shifting, either from weather, growth habits, or the gardener’s whimsy. I’m not done yet. # # # #