I’m not thoroughly anti-lawn, unlike some of my Lawn Reform comrades, especially the ones who live in desert climates. My beefs with turfgrass here on the Wet Coast are that it does virtually nothing for wildlife and that when it’s cared for in a certain way – the Scotts ideal of perfection and uniformity – it pollutes the Chesapeake Bay and other waterways I’m fond of. I also personally find it boring, but admit that’s a matter of taste.
So about that matter of taste, I recently got an email from my friend Jan describing her next-door neighbor Lucy’s love for her Scotts-perfect lawn. Jan expressed amazement at the amount of pleasure Lucy gets from her lawn, about which she raves at length: “How beautiful it is, how much it costs her to get it that way, how much she loves her lawn service people, how beautiful it is, how she worked with them for years to get the perfect look, how beautiful it is, how she reads over the list of chemicals they apply, and again, how beautiful it is.”
I’ve never heard such passion for turfgrass expressed before, and would have been as agog at it as Jan was, but if that sheet of mown sod gives someone that much pleasure, I say go for it! I hate to see land be wasted on people who don’t appreciate anything that’s growing on it, so this passion for turfgrass is better that than never noticing the yard at all, right?
Well, maybe not – there’s all those chemicals she referred to benignly, though the chemicals surely aren’t. Seems that Lucy is recommending her lawn service company to neighbors, and the neighborhood is becoming quite a chemical hub. And besides the effect on waterways, these homes are pretty close together and Jan’s veg garden is just inches away from the end of that perfect, chemically treated lawn. Yum!
Jan takes heart in the recent passage of restrictions on products that can be used on lawns, which will go into effect later this year. The law will limit the amount and types of fertilizer that can be dumped on lawn, which should help restore the Bay and its inhabitants to good health. But pesticides are still allowed – apparently anything goes. The lawn-care company, whose name I’m withholding for good neighborly relations, brags about its environmental stewardship – who doesn’t these days? – and about the owner’s degree in “Physical Geography/Environmental Science,” and even goes so far as to list all the products it uses. The fertilizers are slow-release, as required by the new law, but look at the pesticides it uses, which come with plenty of warnings, especially about keeping grazing animals off the lawn. But those warnings from the EPA don’t mention not using them near veg gardens – and shouldn’t they? Yikes!
So readers, what would you do or say to your neighbor if you were Jan? Anything?
Really just a matter of Taste
Now here’s another example of a difference in taste and this time it’s my own neighbor. Her yard, a detail of which is shown above, holds spring-blooming bulbs and dozens of azaleas and hostas interspersed with over 100 chotchkas. My own gardening style does not include figurines, especially en masse; I prefer natural products, like plants, wood and stone. But hey, what harm do chotchkas do? Not a whit.
And just as importantly, my neighbor loves her garden – possibly more than Lucy loves her lawn. Now in her 80s, she’s still adding plants to her garden (recently, another dozen azaleas) and she spends hours a day in her garden just admiring it. When I was taking these photos I complimented her on her garden and she complimented me back, saying I’d done nice things to my yard. So I asked, “Do you think you’d ever have a garden like mine?” and she didn’t hesitate: “Oh, no,” shaking her head vigorously. She added that unlike other neighbors, she didn’t mind what I was doing to my yard, and the important thing is that I enjoy it. On that point, we’re in total agreement.Posted by Susan Harris on May 30, 2013 at 7:04 pm, in the category Everybody's a Critic, Real Gardens.