Lawnless and Liberated

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Digging up my back lawn has been completely liberating – more liberating than I could possibly imagine.  No longer do I have the tedium of trying to mow a sloping lawn but what I hadn’t really anticipated was how the dynamics of the garden have completely changed.

Looking back its as though the garden hadn’t really come into its own, the lawn was holding it back like a parent trying to stop its child leaving the nest.  The garden just didn’t work.  There was no sense of journey, no mystery, no discovery. The whole garden could be seen laid out before you.  There was no excitement.  As the garden is relatively small and dominated by two large trees adding screens or hedges to create rooms or vistas wasn’t to  my mind an option.  With the lawn gone I have a large border and through planting a couple of shrubs I feel that I have managed to obstruct the view in places and create zones or compartments.  The paths through the garden now have a sense of purpose and I feel that you are encouraged to explore.  I hope that as the shrubs and other plantings grow then this will increase.

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I really enjoy being in the garden now.  I now longer feel constrained by the size of the borders, causing me to feel I can’t have shrubs or trees or other large plants.  I can create discreet areas better and allow my plants to stretch their leaves with more space around them.  You can almost hear the garden breathing out.  If I was being whimsical I would say it was like a 19th century lady taking her corset off. The garden feels more secluded, it feels more like my garden rather than a garden based on other people’s ideas.

I find myself wondering why we are so hung up on lawns.  It seems to me to be something that is deep within our English psyche. The pundits and supporters of the RHS Chelsea flower show and its sister shows: Hampton Court and Tatton Court argue that they are influential and dictate fashion.  However, when was the last time there was a proper lawn in one of these show gardens?  The majority of show gardens feature hard landscaping with planting but how many people follow this lead and get rid of their lawn.  Of course many people need their lawn space for the children, pets or because they like to use it as a social space.  From the magazines I read it seems that more and more city gardens particularly in London have gone the route of no lawn but here in the suburbs it causes raised eyebrows.

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I have to admit to dithering about taking this route I was so brainwashed.  It was the book Beautiful No Mow Yards which pushed me into taking action and I am really glad I was sent a copy to review.  Yes there is still a grass path and this isn’t because  I am trying to hold onto some grass but because we really don’t have the time to put in hard landscaping here at the moment due to the workshop going in.  I do like the appearance of the grass path but it isn’t that practical to maintain.  I tried to mow it this weekend and the camber of the path is so steep that you are constantly battling with the mower.  We are going to see how strimming works but I suspect that by this time next year it will have been replaced with gravel.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who persuaded, cajoled and dared me into digging up the lawn- you have given me so much more planting space

My garden this weekend – 5th May 2013

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I probably should be waiting until tomorrow to write this post as we have a three-day weekend but I am a creature of habit and Sunday evenings have now become the time I review the garden over the last week.

For someone who is naturally self-effacing I find it hard to say that I am quite proud of the garden at the moment but it is true.  There was a moment this afternoon as the sun shone down through the branches of the Prunus, highlighting the blossom and glancing off the narcissus below  when I was thrilled with the effect.  After the last few years of just seeing what is wrong with the garden this was quite a revelation.

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We have made huge progress on both the major projects this weekend and my body is certainly making me aware of the effort that has been made.  The projects are interlinked and one is dependant on another.  I have to admit that agreeing to my eldest having a workshop in the garden has had the unexpected benefit of him being keen to help me lift the back lawn.  I need somewhere to move all the plants from the workshop site and so the majority are moving into the new bed – when its dug.  The head turf lifter and border digger has worked very hard and we, should I say he, has lifted three-quarters of the turf.  I have followed behind and second dug adding green waste compost.  I have to admit to having a real wobble on Thursday evening when the work started.  I don’t do mess very well and I felt quite overwhelmed by the impending chaos but we sat down and worked out a plan and it has been great.  Working systematically across the back lawn as made it more mentally manageable for me and I have already moved the viburnum and rose (with its accompanying obelisk) that needed moving as well as some other plants.2013_05050022

I have to admit that the weather isn’t ideal for plant moving and the ground is a bit dry but we have rain forecast later in the week so hopefully if I can cosset them over the next few days they will pull through OK.  There was no real alternative as they have to move and we didn’t want to wait until Autumn to put the workshop in.  You can see in the photo above that we have left a grass path.  There is still the bit of lawn that runs down the garden to be lifted, although my son tried to convince me we should leave it as it was just the right size for sun-bathing – he even demonstrated!!  However, he agrees that we need to lift it all so that may get done tomorrow.  My job tomorrow will be working through the slope removing plants I don’t want and then moving those from the slope part of the workshop site across.  The workshop will mean that my daisy slope will be halved but I am content with that as I have gained so much more border to play with.

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After this weekend I should be able to concentrate on normal gardening as the majority of the heavy plant moving will have been done.  My son has declared that he is going to finish clearing the workshop site so I don’t need to worry about that which is a relief.  I also managed to find a bit of time to stake the Delphinium which is a first as they normally get staked once they are too tall and it is all a bit closing the door after the horse has bolted.

I think this is the first year when I have really enjoyed working in the garden.  I am more confident with following my instinct and more aware of what is around me and what needs doing.  The word ‘bench’ has been mentioned a lot today as we need to have another one further up the garden.  It will be incorporated into the workshop site and it will be wonderful to have somewhere to sit, aside from the steps, to enjoy the garden.