Register with us or sign in
in The potting shed
Bob Flowerdew a Gardener I have watched on TV and read his articles published in weekend papers has suddenly come out against lawns,"worse than driving a gas guzzling vehicle" he proclaims. Now I respect his views although having seen his garden on TV years back where he had old carpets laid out on parts of it supposedly for a year to suppress weeds and his containers coming in what most of us would weigh in at the scrap yard I was not too impressed with the look of it.We gardeners are a varied bunch and at times you can imagine the owner by just looking at the garden something I often did when dog walking and peering over fences, it is surprising how often first thoughts are correct, we like order in various degrees.As a lad when a surge of new build happened in our village the houses all had a front lawn with low wall to contain it and the back garden was a working garden with a clutch of hens, vegetables, fruit bushes, and anything else that would feed the family over the seasons and produce food to bottle or make jam. The front lawn was the posh bit, thou shalt not walk upon it, hand mowed trimmed with scissors in places it showed your place in society, well we were the posh end of the village!Over the years as new estates went up the lawn became the playing fields that had been there before the houses were built. Lawn back and front, the front still kept neat the back no longer producing food the clutch of hens long gone was the football swing slide dads garden shed retreat and Mun's drying area, the lawn was for recreational safety of the children.Then came the make over years ugly decking gravel paved areas hot tubs and anything else the trendies could sell people plus of course the "Trampoline", a quiet Sunday afternoon sit in the garden became a mesmerizing glimpse of heads shooting up beyond the fence as they became airborne and it was not always the kids.Even as a kid where the garden small holding was a working area, Dad had a small strip of lawn where on warm summer nights we would put some folding chairs and sit watching the sun go down, lawns you see are for contemplating, resting your eye's whilst planning next years changes, they give a sense of peace, let you wind down, so Bob although you are getting your wish, with three or four cars most front lawns are now gone and bricked or concreted over, one gas guzzler is being replaced with more, keep your lawns get rid of the gas guzzlers. I rest my case.
Very well put, Frank. I admire a lot of what Bob Flowerdew does but he's not the Oracle! Actually I have no lawn to enjoy out the back as half is a hen ranging area and half is veg followed by wildish. I'm with you 100% on regretting the turning of front lawns into car-parks. As you say, how can that be less 'gas-guzzling' than grass!
Well said, Frank.
I wonder if Bob Flowerdew was being provocative?
My 'lawn' is actually a mixture of grass, bugle, primroses, dandelions, plantains, you name it. It has 'evolved' from the meadow it used to be before our little estate was built in the 90s, and the meadow over the other side of the fence supplies it with plenty of weed seeds, if ever I run out!
It is steeply sloping in some parts, and lumpy and undulating in others. I take the mower over it when it starts to look really untidy and I dig out a few dandelions and plantains when I get the urge to, but it never gets watered and it seems to survive. The bees and hoverflies love it, as do our 2 dogs.
The amount of 'gas' that my grass guzzles is probably about a third of a can per session. If I were to lay the whole lot to gravel (what a horrible thought), the diesel used by the lorries which would have to bring it here would doubtless be the equivalent of a whole lifetime's worth of petrol mower outings.
I live next door to the "gas guzzler' lawn, it is aerated, sprayed, primped and preened, It is all done by outside contractors and the owner has watered it regularly all summer With all the insectcide/pesticide/chemicals used I cannot believe any wildlife exists next door.
I'm not familiar with Bob Flowerdew's arguments.Though I believe that one the show gardens at Chelsea had 'get rid of the lawn' as a theme. I certainly agree with the views expressed by its designer - that grass is one of the most labour intensive forms of gardening, and it's value is very questionable. I can understand the desire to have a small area of grass for relaxation, which can easily be maintained using a small hand-mower.But to have a large area of grass, which has to be mowed using a petrol, or even worse, a ride-on mower, seems to me to be utterly ridiculous. Frank is correct in saying that a garden tells you a lot about the gardener. I draw my own conclusions about people who have large areas of shaved grass.You might say that a large area of grass would at least have some value if converted to a wildflower meadow, but that in itself requires a considerable amount of effort.The movement to get rid of lawns is very strong in the US, where watering is necessary, and water is scarce.
This is the website of the Lawn Reform Coalition: http://www.lawnreform.org/
I heard that interview (with Bunny Guiness arguing in favour of lawns) and thought that what Bob said made little sense. He alleged that lawns required a lot of maintenance and heavy machinery, which isn't always the case. He did say he wasn't advocating concrete, and then suggested that people might instead install a fruit cage, or a pond, or a shrub border. He didn't explain how you get maintenance-free ponds or fruit bushes, or how you even walk across the garden if it's packed with features like that. And isn't the point of a shrub border that it usually goes round the edge of ... a lawn? You can't pack your room wall-to-wall with furniture, or your garden fence-to-fence with busy features that you can't get past. Threre's got to be some open ground, and grass is what will tend to grow there.
I don't think he's thought it through. He was either being provocative or lazy in his ideas.
Palaisglide, when I were a lass (up where Carol Klein comes from) we had a small front garden next to the (short) drive which had a standard rose in the middle, a little circular path around that and annual and perennial flowers, sedums etc. in the borders around it. That was the bit "for show", but no lawn.
In the back, we had a York stone paved back yard next to the house, a small border against the brick wall between us and next door, and behind the house was a long narrow lawn (with washing line). When we were kids we had a swing on the lawn.
The rest of the garden was privet hedges fronted by borders filled with dahlias, a Conference pear tree and plum trees, and a greenhouse at the bottom with lots of tomato plants in summer. My mum used to fill Kilner jars full of bottled tomatoes and pears.
When a local factory closed down my dad got the chance to buy some panels from the greenhouses they had in the grounds, so about 50% of the lawn was turned into greenhouse! But by that time us kids had grown up and didn't need the space to run around in any more.
Green Magpie I agree with you, you need a bit of open ground so that you can stand back and admire your borders etc. The only alternatives to lawns, as I see it, are gravel (which needs spraying with chemicals), decking (expensive to fit and also requires maintenance) or paving. Or you could live in an Italian mansion with stepped terraces affording a panoramic view over your immaculately manicured trees and shrubs!
Gary, as I said we are a diverse lot as gardeners, one mans garden another mans jungle or woman come to that.I have a large front lawn, open from the house to the pavement with some trees on it, because I am on a corner with the road falling away the south end is nearly twice as long as the north end, that is east facing. I replaced a messy plot to the south side of the house with a lawn a year or so back 1) because as you get older the work gets harder if there is a lot of it 2) the front and side lawns are cut once a fortnight, never to bowling green length and the whole job takes one hour from start to clean up, good exercise, fill your lungs with good salty air, and nothing wasted it all goes to green waste and comes back as free bags of compost, we have a good council.The back is garden a complete contrast to the front and that is the way I like it as over the years with many and very different gardens I found what pleases me and there is only me to please these days.I have views Gary from the front across the valley to the Cleveland Hills, to the east I can see across the woods out to the coastal weather front to the back across open gardens too see the planes almost onto the runway at the local airport, from my house I am onto country lanes open fields and vista's into the Vale of York.I love Carol to bits and like nosing round her garden on TV but could not live with it, too cluttered and she has screened the views with trees. MD's garden looks nice although the only open bit appears to be the cricket pitch which was fairly closed in, it is OK but I would be opening up areas in no time if I took it over.Some of us love space others to be closed in, they wrap the garden around themselves like a blanket I throw the blanket off, give me open space.The wild life here flourishes without too much help because it is open country, I empty a lot of seed from the feeders into the bin as I refresh them they get used but more so in winter than summer. As I said in the first post we are all different with differing needs and I love my lawns which are fed feed and weed in spring when it is going to rain or actually raining and winter feed and weed in Autumn along with a good raking and some aerating, that is good for the lawn fitness and mine. The front has never had a hose on it but I confess to watering the side lawn once when we had a heat wave but then I was also watering everything else in the garden, no shortage of water around here we even export it.Lawns are restful lets face it every bit of gardening is hard work no matter what you do with it, it is also often heartbreaking hence some of the questions on these forums, we find our level and stick with it, gas guzzling lawns? a new one on me, it will be gas guzzling tomato's next, you can buy them cheaper than growing them, but you cannot buy the taste.
Interesting to look at the history of the' lawn'. Partly (outside of the Monasteries) it was a statement of wealth. "Look at me I can afford to have this amount of land and NOT grow food on it. " Also until the invention of the lawn mower it was very labour intensive to keep it cut short.
I would love Mr. Flowerbum to come and remove two of our grassed areas and put them into cultivation. the top lawn has about an inch of soil over the big gravel used in road construction. You cannot get a fork into it anywhere to spike it even, never mind dig it up. The other area is probably full of the remains of a tudor house and three Georgian properties which were bulldozed across the land in the 60's. Again where ever one puts in a fork, one hits brick. Since we have already removed over 30 tons of rubbish from the land, I think I will pass on removing them.
In some ways I agree. We did not have a lawn in our previous small garden as we used all the soil for growing things. And they certainly do consume a large amount of petrol just to keep them short.
As I recall from previous appearances on GW, Bob Flowerdew thinks gardens are productive places for growing food and keeping hens. He is not too bothered with aesthetics and thinks nothing of filling his garden with od fridges and freezers and piles of tyres inorder to make cold frames and water reservoirs.
Clearly, for him, a lawn is a waste of space.
I can see that a lawn may be an uphill task in dry places where they go brown every summer and sitting and relaxing areas are better served with a terrace and table, chairs and lounger or hard to keep well in poorly drained and northerly aspects where they just grow moss but for most of the UK there is an adequate supply of rain to make a span of grass, even one that's mostly green from clover and other weeds, a thing of beauty that is easy to maintain, sets off the borders to perfection and provides a safe playing surface for children, pets and doddery relatives as well as a place to lie and enjoy the sun, read a book or just relax with family and friends.
I have a large garden with large borders, a veggie patch and a terrace and we need a sit on to cut our grass but it consumes at most 5 litres a month of petrol and gets a weed and feed maybe every 2 years so isn't an ecological disaster. It will get smaller when the next phase of house renovation starts but will still be an essential feature of our garden.
i rememeber carol klein saying to get rid of lawns.. they are out of date on one programme last year.. and i was outraged by it.. i love a green lush looking lawn..although the way mine is looking at mo i am inclined to agree with her..
I got rid of our front lawn early this year, it was a pain to cut and wasn't used for anything (and a rather small patch too). It now has an attempt at a wild flower garden on it, I haven't been amazed by how well it's come up, but I think it's ok and a lot more interesting than having an unused patch of lawn.
I do like having a lawn out the back though.
Don't know who Bob Flowerdew is or what he is trying to say? Is he putting the arguement forward that those who have big lawns and use a ride on mower / or use mowers are some how "gas guzzlers" and therefore destroying the planet?
Interesting reading though........
For me it all depends on the size of the garden you have, nothing can be better than green rolling lawns with deep tall packed borders of flowers alive with insects.
I've got rid of most of my lawn,if you could call it that. I now have loads of deep, wide beds to plant into. I'm now using my garden in a way that I never could have last year.
I've still kept some green though but it takes no time at all to strim.
We got rid of the one small area of grass at the back of our house because it just too shady and always full of moss no matter how much attention we gave it. We replaced it with gravel and made several features with reclaimed terracotta tiles, a small patio, and a raised bed at the back with an ornamental hedge, so that the gravel doesn't dominate.. The gravel hardly takes any looking after as anything that seeds is easily pulled up or transplanted we do not use weedkiller . In another part of the garden we have retained a small lawn which is fed and weeded Spring and Autumn. Because it gets adequate light and water it looks good. Mown about once a week. Bob Flowerdew is an organic gardener who uses all sorts of reclaimed things in his garden,old tyres, wash tubs etc. I wouldn't want that in my garden, but each to his or her own. My small lawn stays.
Does nobody else have children? I'm as eco-friendly as the next person, but as a mum one of my garden's main roles is to provide a safe and interesting environment for two small boys to play in. They're out there rain or shine and are fast becoming little biologists - forever dibbling in the wildife pond, grubbing for interesting bugs and learning about the plants (they're fascinated by the way things are alive and change week to week). I don't water my lawns and use an electric mower as infrequently as possible (because I can't be faffed), but I'd never be without grass entirely. I do think front lawns are generally a bit pointless - every one I've had I've removed in favour of weed membrane and stone chips (cat's don't poo in it, unlike gravel). Then I plant decent beds of tough, low maintenance plants (though not necessarily boring), and perhaps some hedging for extra green. That way I get a pretty frontage but no watering and little maintenance, which I resent doing on an area I only see to pass through especially as taps tend to be round the back!
Without my lawn where would the green woodpeckers go to rootle about for ant larvae?
Hah, I say rootle as well! Thought I was the only one. I call insects and all things leggy grobies. You?
@lovetogarden.. i hve one side of the garden like that.. i have made a woodland garden and this autum will cover the grass or moss as it is in the winter and most of the year with bark.. for a natural looking path through..
i have a 6 year old auntie betty and he using back lawn.. but filled with climbing frame and trampoline mainly.. he loves the garden and digging in the veg plot with his diggers and helping sow seeds and veg.. he has become very good at dead heading my flowers now.. after some few weeks of lessons and is a dab hand at filling pots and watering.. he also loves watching and messing about with the insects and bugs.. he loves watching the butterflies (thou not had many this year) and watching hte birds on the feeders.. last week he found a huge white larvae bug thing under the lawn with a brown head and 6 legs on it..dunno what is was..
santa got him a childrens bug microscope for xmas and it it is brilliant.. put it on the tray and it magnifies very big and you can see top and underneath.. me not so keen to look at them they very large. its called a" creature peeper" the over and under insect magnifier.. it is great got it on amazon i think.
if they love bugs this is a must have..and not expensive either..