Real Gardens

Roy Blount, Jr. asks “Is Grass Still Green?”

Royblount Remember when we all laughed at the new magazine Garden&Gun?  Then it turned out to be darn good and I confessed I'd done them wrong. 

Well, in this month's issue the wonderful Roy Blount speaks up "In defense of the "good old-fashioned lawn".  My favorite bits:  "I can't see a bit of lawn as a rapacious, la-di-da indulgence."  And: "I know.  A lawn isn't natural.  Neither is a house." 

He goes on to recall the joys of lying on "Middle Georgia grass" when he was a boy.  He remembers mowing, of course, and ends with this potshot at the new political correctness:  "But it was a lot less trouble than growing vegetables."

Posted by on June 18, 2009 at 1:58 pm, in the category Real Gardens.
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13 responses to “Roy Blount, Jr. asks “Is Grass Still Green?””

  1. Yay! I agree with him. I liked growing veg, but for me, it got to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Meanwhile, we’re still mowing: it’s the only way to keep rapacious weeds like Canada thistle and sow thistle down when you’ve got an acreage.

  2. I like both mowing and growing vegetables

  3. Well I love him on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, so I’m not surprised I enjoyed the article. Thanks for sharing, I never would have found that!

  4. Oh, how the pendulum swings. I’d like to see all the lawns be turned under for native plant gardens, then live to see the neo-lawn movement.

  5. Karen says:

    I am trying to put in a postage stamp sized lawn here in Seattle and am feeling really guilty. I have a kid, I want her to not grow up on gravel, so sue me. I grow veggies and drought-tolerant plantings and herbs and natives elsewhere, just want 20 ft. of green. I know it’s a lot of work and evil chemicals are not going to happen here (I will just tolerate weeds) but also don’t want the PC police knocking on my door! I belong to a Sustainability group and I’m scared they’ll find out and kick me out!

  6. cloverann says:

    I think Karen should NOT feel guilty at all. As much as I abhor front lawns west of the 100th Meridian, I have no problem with 20′ of backyard lawn for children/pets. If you want to take a little heat off about it, plant some low water grass like Blue Gramma or check out High Country Gardens low water lawn pages.

  7. Debbie says:

    Interesting article in what appears to be a very interesting magazine. As a gardener who has always lived in New England, I agree with Roy that there is nothing like the feel of grass on barefeet. My theory on lawns, like many other things, is everything in moderation.

  8. greg draiss says:

    AHA!!!! The Rant gets some support from the neo-lawn crowd.

    Where was this support when I got lynched last year????

    Ah just call me the blugrass martyr!

    The TROLL

  9. Michele Owens says:

    I like a big sweeping lawn myself and have one in the country.

    Other than paying to have it mowed, I don’t do anything to it.

    But vegetable gardens, while they represent an intense commitment for a month or so in spring, are NOT more work for the rest of the summer than a lawn, which needs mowing every week.

  10. Tibs says:

    I think lawns became popular in this country not just for status but because they also served a utilitarian purpose. When I look at historic pictures of farm houses they are usually set in the middle of dirt. No grass. No ground cover. No paving material. Maybe a few flowers by the porch, maybe a bush here or there, but bare ground. This would mean major work for the women. When it was dry, blowing dust in the house. Screens were not invented yet. Constant sweeping out of the house. Your clean laundry on the line would be dusty. The bottom of your long skirt would be dusty. When it rained you had mud. More cleaning. This is before electricity and running water. A lawn around the house would cut down this dust and mud. Keep your kids cleaner when they played outside. If your clothes line got knocked down by the said kids it didn’t need all washed again if it fell in grass.

  11. Grass lawns — like every other subject — have a history. They are not natural any more than a native plant garden is. Both are man made constructs, as is any garden. The American obsession with lawns began in the 19th century with designer Andrew Jackson Downing as an antidote to slovenly farmyards (quote from The New Yorker 6/21/08):

    “Essential to any Perfect garden, he held, was an expanse of ‘grass mown into a softness like velvet.’ As an example of what he had in mind, Downing pointed to the Livingston estate, near Hudson, New York. (Privately, in a letter to a friend, he noted that maintaining the grounds of the Livingston estate required the labors of ten men.) ‘No expenditure in ornamental gardening is, to our mind, productive of so much beauty as that incurred in producing a well kept lawn,’ he wrote.”

    I have a half-acre urban garden with every ground cover known to woman, including native Pachysandra and grass. There are some areas where grass is the best solution (no chemicals or fertilizers used). Nothing beats bare feet on grass unless it’s bare feet on my moss garden which is really labor intensive.

    The more strident we are in our crusade about getting rid of grass, the more we alienate potential converts and allies. The problem is more about monocultures and the need for diversity. Usually, once people began to garden (any kind, any size) they start to rethink grass. And our own gardens can be the best examples to convert folks.

  12. naomi says:

    I remember lying in the liriope, hidden from my siblings and friends. Sometimes the cat would find me there and we’d hide together, he curling up by me. A breeze would blow, and I’d pretend I was on the ocean, the small waves moving up and down, until I fell asleep. Much better than the lawn by the house, even with afternoon traffic zooming by on the street below.

  13. I’ve always believed that a small lawn sets off a garden beautifully. But an endless, mindless expanse of turf is just not sound. It is not attractive and does not feel good under bare feet from the end of July to the middle of August, when it generally turns brown and crunchy. At that point, the Prairie Dropseed and the Little Bluestem are still fresh looking and colorful. As with most things, lawns are best in moderation.

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