Grass Inspiration – It’s not all bad!

I recently read a post by Kathryn of Diary of a Smart Chick over at Houzz.  She created an inspiring if a little un-PC – at least in the landscape design world –  post that featured lawns (kind of celebrating them more than is considered acceptable in the current water-wise and resource protective world that we live in).  The Idea book is worth checking out though because there are some interesting and perhaps inspiring shots.  While many of the examples are what I would encourage clients NOT to do, I think that, in the landscape industry, grass is perhaps getting a bit of a bum wrap.

Her post got me thinking about all the great fun ways to play with grass and lawns to make something much more interesting than just a big flat green space.  I also started thinking about how really, lawns and grass are the best design solution in some places and that perhaps it is overuse and ubiquity that is getting us.  It inspired me to have a peruse through Flickr to find some interesting lawn images that perhaps could help me make a case for lawns not being completely evil.

grass chair in front of the hotel de ville in paris france

Grass can grow in a lot of strange places, it is really interesting to think about all the possible grass covered garden features.  This picture was taken by Mister Rad outside the Hotel de Ville in Paris.

lumpy grass garden

I am not sure what it would take to successfully create a grass feature like this one, but now I think I might need to figure it out… image by Marachka

imperata rubra with creeping thyme and boxwood

This mix of creeping thyme and Imperata Rubra (Japanese blood grass) is really striking.  While I would be concerned about the inevitability of the grass escaping the confines of the design, I think that this is a great water wise idea for the no-mans land between the sidewalk and the road.  A great design by jacki-dee

 

grass garden paver bloedel reserve

Grassy lawny or not, I really just love this.  It’s a completely cool mix of modern design with traditional Japanese garden design. According to lao_ren100 (Loren) , the grass and paver pattern is similar to that of the Tofuku-ji hojo in Kyoto as designed by Mirei Shigemori. This was taken at thhe Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, Washington and was designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana of the University of California, and the main section by Fujitaro Kubota.

grass grid westonbrit gardens

This image was taken by archidave at the now defunct Westonbirt Festival of Gardens. It’s a lawn, but in a completely re-imagined way.

grass and stone driveway

This design, created by Sandeep_8 is one of the prettiest most inviting driveways I have seen.  To me, cars are an  annoying necessity of most American lives.  All the accessories that go along with them (like car parks, driveways and mechanics) are things I would rather not have to live with.  So disguising access to your garage with an interesting and green design is certainly appealing.

picture-125

I like this image of an alternative to a fire lane by Richard Reynolds.– “Reinforced concrete grass surrounds the tower blocks of Rowstock Gardens in Camden, so that fire engines don’t sink into the mud if attending an emergency in the buildings. ”

path through iris garden in japanese garden

I include this, because while it is not actually grass, it is certainly seems inspired by it.  It is a  path through the iris garden at the Kyoto Botanical Gardens and was taken by apc33.

 

powis court 300 year old grass lawn

To me, a perfect lawn is a complete triumph over nature that in order to achieve, requires an effort and constant struggle that I would rather not involve myself with.  This lawn at Powerscourt Gardens however, was created some 300 years ago and is so perfect that it is considered one of the best in the world.  When I consider the fact that the horticultural effort required to achieve this is similar to that of an ancient bonsai tree, I can certainly justify it’s maintenance and historical preservation.

Image by cryomedic

castle garden gourdon france

Similarly this garden at the The Castle of Gourdon in Provence, France is a historical masterpiece.  The perfectly shaped shrubs combine with the perfect lawn to allow for the creation of crisp shadows.  The geometric perfection is completely serene. This garden was designed by Le Notre, Louix XIV’s gardener who also did Versailles park.

Image by Feuillu.

grass flower garden

In this garden by HelgaB the grass seems to replace a small garden pond.  The shape weaves softly and rather than being the central point of the garden it is a gracious path, a foil for the flowers and it provides a backbone of structure to the space.

torono music garden

The Toronto Music Garden by hogan3774 is the type of grass garden my children dream of.  They see pictures like this and imagine walking through the forest of grass always seeking what is around the next un-viewable corner.  Grass like this (unlike lawns) moves and changes with the season and provides an opportunity to create vertical interest.

grass garden

This image taken by tina_manthorpe at Easton Gardens is an image of my own personal ideal lawn.  My perfect lawn in comprised of grass that looks as beautiful when not mowed as it does sheared.  It can create a beautiful flowy grass meadow.  When I feel like it, I can mow a simple path through it and create something entirely new.  My perfect lawn always is less than perfect.  I like a little clover, some small flowers here and there (maybe even purposely under-planted with some snowdrops or early crocus) and a bit of weedy naturalness.

lawn garden

This picture by annkelliott of Jim Coutts’ amazing homestead garden, near Nanton, in southern Alberta, is an inspiring shot of lawn taking on another use, like pathway to create one of the mose peaceful country gardens I can imagine.

Are you convinced?  I mean, provided you don’t have to water it like crazy and you can live with chemical free imperfections, I think that lawns have a continued place in garden design.

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rochelle greayer

Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.

11 Comments

  1. Scott Hokunson on September 13, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Rochelle,

    Very thoughtful and timely piece. Lawns have become synonymous with chemicals and water waste. I agree with you that lawns will always and should always have a place in the garden, provided we free our minds of what a lawn is. When thought of as a large boring monoculture, ripe for the next disease or pest to invade, and needing synthetic fetilizers and chemicals to survive, I vote no. But when thought of as a diverse ecological community comprised of many grass species and flowering plants such as violet, clover and ajuga, growing in a healthy organic soil, I say that now we have a beautiful addition to any garden. One that can be safely enjoyed by nature and humans alike.

    Thanks for writing about a topic that seems to have become Taboo in our community.

    Scott

  2. Sprout on September 13, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    I might have enjoyed my semester in turf at college, had it included anything even remotley like what you showed in your post!

  3. michelle d. on September 13, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Thank you for a beautifully rendered and articulated post.
    So much more thought provoking than the hysterical anti-lawn nut jobs who are often found posting on The Garden Rant.

  4. Susan aka Miss R on September 14, 2009 at 7:30 am

    I find that there is a mounting hysteria in garden and landscape design that is evidenced by Michelle’s comment. Grass/turf/lawn is not the enemy–it, like anything else in the designed environment should have thoughtful use no more no less. I have said here and elsewhere that as long as there are bare feet, a need for play space or a just place to lie down and look up at the sky and stars then we will have a place for lawn.

  5. Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" on September 14, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    I see the “choir is here” and I’m with you. Lawns are not the enemy, people’s irresponsible behavior is! Love the design ideas Rochelle.

    Shirley Bovshow “EdenMaker”

  6. Matt M. on September 14, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Very nice piece of work. I’m with Scott & a couple others here. Lawns & grasses definitely have a place in our yards, gardens & parks. Thoughtful planning and proper management are the difference between a balanced, environmentally beneficial area and one that sucks resources and pollutes with relative abandon. Love that shot from the Castle of Gourdon by the way. Thanks for the great post.

  7. Dawn Isaac on September 14, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Hi Rochelle – v. interesting post and great collection of shots. With kids, I could not be without the lawn, but I have tried to add some interest by mass planting crocus bulbs and then allowing the circle shapes of longer grass to stay there for a few weeks after the flowers have finished. http://littlegreenfingers.typepad.com/little_green_fingers/2009/03/belated-fairy-rings-or-what-to-do-with-1800-crocus-bulbs.html

    I do feel lawns give huge opportunites for interesting designs – and when they are such good value to create, I couldn’t imagine designing without them.

    I would love to create some grass covered furniture but the topography of it just creates a nightmare for maintenance. I am quite interested in the lawn mixes they now create with micro-clover, allowing lawns to be have the essence of green in a drought without needing to water them.

  8. Vytas on September 15, 2009 at 5:41 am

    Beautiful

  9. Carolina Eclectic on September 15, 2009 at 9:51 am

    These are my kind of gardens! Love the amazing details.
    P.S. thanks for posting my photos on your amazing blog:)

  10. private on May 8, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Lovely collection of pictures.
    The movement of taller grasses is a marvelous special effect.
    I have a lovely dainty clumping unidentified volunteer grass under my tulip poplars. It’s growing very well since I removed the leaves last year. I also have nasty invasive can’t be stopped thug grass between my veggie beds out front. That part needs to be gravel. Or maybe creeping jenny or something tamer. Gardening is about round pegs in round holes, or every place has a perfect plantscape.

  11. Isabelle on October 5, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    What’s the name for the second image’s grass? Is there something you need to do to make it lumpy like such or does it grow that way on its own?

    Thank you

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