In praise of artificial lawns

The English love their lawns. Maroooned in a faraway fantasy that has more to do with the Brideshead Revisited and Downton Abbey than Belsize Park or Dagenham, they dream of swathes of manicured lawns sweeping between magnificent herbaceous borders off into the horizon.

All well and good if you’re lucky enough to have the time and the will to cut and feed and scarify and weed them. Or the budget to pay someone to keep them looking groomed for you.

In schools and public spaces, where heavy footfall and lack of regular maintenance will quickly turn new lawns into mud-wrestling arenas, artificial grass can be a boon.

And when private clients with sunless, north-facing gardens, or time-poor parents with armies of small children kicking balls about tell me they really, really want a lawn, I often recommend artificial ones instead.

They cost a lot more to install, but a lot less to maintain. Once they are in, that’s pretty much it. And aesthetically they’ve come a long way from the lurid, scratchy, specimens of a few years ago.

These days, fake lawns can look pretty natural and come in a range of different lengths and textures. I’ve even used them in wildlife gardens (see pictures of the School Wildlife Garden in the Portfolio menu) and softened the effect with ornamental grasses and frothy edging plants.

That might seem like a contradiction in terms, but a clipped lawn is a monoculture; it doesn’t support much wildlife. Far better to encourage biodiversity with the plants, which provide homes and hiding places for all sorts of insects and small mammals.

Anyway, for me it’s far more rewarding to use precious time spent in the garden making those herbaceous borders look magnificent than trudging up and down with a mower in pursuit of perfect stripes.

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