So this was the front garden this morning. Regular readers will know that I have been procrastinating for some time, maybe years, about the front garden and getting rid of the lawn. I decided this year that it would go but instead of embracing it head on earlier in the year I have occupied myself with various other ‘essential’ tasks in the main garden. I suspect there was a small voice questioning whether I was making the right decision, and then there was all the work that would be involved lifting the turf and getting rid of it and really can I keep on top of the main garden so why do I want to make the front garden more work! However, the patio has been filling up with pots of plants for the front garden in anticipation of its make-over so either I donate them all to local plant fairs or I just get on with it.
Anyway I have completed all the jobs I had come up with that had to be done before I tackled the front garden and set my mind to starting work today. I have to admit that it was tough going especially as the turf needed to go to the far corner of the main garden up a considerable slope with two sets of steps and a garage in between. Luckily my youngest son popped round to help and my eldest joined in for the afternoon so between us we started to get a system going between us. We managed between us to lift about half of the lawn which is a good start and means that I can start to dig over the soil and add some compost. I have a couple of shrubs that I really want to get in the ground asap so that is the first priority. And the reason my final niggle was put to bed is because Noel Kingsbury, who visited yesterday with his wife Jo, within a very short time made the observation that the front garden just isn’t me – which I think is what I have been trying to say for a while.
Now, what to do with the turf? Yes, I should stack it neatly to rot down and make wonderful potting compost but I don’t really have space for a stacked lawn. Some of the mossy crumbly bits were placed on top of one of the compost bins to slowly rot down. Then in a demonstration of how not to lay turf I have started to turf the area in front of the compost bins – creating what my youngest has decided to call Hobbitland! It has a 50:50 chance; if the turf takes then it will stabilise the slope but if it doesn’t take then so be it. Even more amusing to my sons was that I turfed around the plants that have self-seeded on the slope – as I said a lesson in how not to turf!! If it takes then we will keep it in check with a strimmer but the intention is that it will be more wild than tidy and I would love to add crocus and other bulbs and maybe plant some primulas amongst the turf. There will be more turf to add when we lift the rest of the lawn and it needs tidying up once we have assessed whether it has taken or not – in the meantime the blackbirds are having a lovely evening looking for worms in the sodden turf and I am feeling very pleased.
My garden is smallish and with my plant addiction I need to prioritise plant space so good-bye lawn. Who needs a lawn anyway?
Some would argue that a lawn is a counterfoil to borders and sets them off; it’s somewhere to rest your eyes. This is true and I totally agree – if you have the space to create vistas and if you have so much planting that you need to rest your eyes.
I don’t have space for vistas, you can see all my garden from the house. It was more important for me to create some depth, to obscure some of the views, to give some mystery. A lawn was stopping me achieving this. But more importantly it takes up valuable space that I could use for plants and plants are my passion, my obsession, my reason to garden.
Removing the lawn was liberating and the best decision I have made for this garden. There have been no regrets at all. There is still some grass on the path between borders but instead of a place to rest the eyes my lawn defines the journey through the garden. There is little mowing or edging which makes me very happy.
Today’s Writing 101 assignment is to write something in a set word count
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.
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.
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
…..as to why you are spreading across my lawn in spite of lawn care treatments etc!!
They do look quite pretty though along with the clover and the dandelios and moss. My lawn is very damp – it is basically on clay and with the amount of rain we have had this spring up until this week it positively squelched. I put a moss and weed killer down last year and the ‘lawn’ was a very sorry state with the odd blade here and there amongst the dead weeds. The weeds seem to have come back even stronger this year. I have aerated, scarificied and feed to no avail. I dont suppose it has helped that I grew some Bellis daisies this year for spring colour. I think I was sold a dude pack of seeds as they didnt look like the picture at all. They were all white, single and remarkably like the diasies growing in my lawn – so maybe the Bellis daisies have self sown into the lawn!!! I have now some to the conclusion that if you cant fight it you might as well work with it so I (or my son) will cut the ‘lawn’ on a regular basis and in between we will enjoy the pretty flowers.