Grass is such a well established feature of gardens that it can often be almost invisible – overlooked, except when it becomes necessary to roll out the lawn-mower for its regular cut. The type of grass and the way in which it is used within the overall landscaping scheme makes its own important contribution to the feel of the whole plot – and there are more options to consider than the traditional square of close cropped turf.
The Mown Lawn
An attractive, well mown lawn is an almost inseparable part of the garden, but all neatly manicured lawns are not the same and it is essential to choose the right kind for its intended purpose. When it is to be largely ornamental or only required to take minimal traffic, high quality grass seed or turf allows for the best possible appearance, while “utility” grass offers a good compromise between good looks and durability.
Producing the perfect lawn is almost a science in its own right, having inspired innumerable books on the subject and around as many specialised lawn feeds, tools and gadgets to help you achieve it. While tending bowling-green quality turf is almost certainly a job best left to the professionals, with a little care, and a fair bit of effort, most gardens can come to have a lawn to be proud of – but it’s not something to be hurried!
Your Own Grassland
The rising popularity of wildlife gardening has thrust developing your own spot of grassland into the spotlight and won many converts to this style of cultivation, especially for out of the way spots or areas where other types of growing prove difficult. For areas of the garden such as these, allowing grass to grow in a more natural way, without constant mowing and clipping, has a number of advantages.
Its suitability as a way to encourage birds and provide a good habitat for other wild animals is one, but just as importantly for the gardener, it demands remarkably low maintenance to look good. For larger gardens especially, this can be a major bonus, since the sort of areas which do best under this kind of approach seldom repay the amount of effort involved in keeping them conventionally mown.
In addition, where the soil is relatively low in nutrients, in addition to the range of interesting species of grasses themselves, it is common to find many wildflowers also becoming established – providing a very colourful reward for doing little more than simply leaving the land alone!
Any garden can benefit from having both a neat lawn and a patch of rougher grass, but the larger the plot, the greater the possibilities to exploit these different looks within the overall design. A well cared for lawn beside the house offers maximum enjoyment, both from its appearance and its ease of access, while areas where the grass has been allowed to grow taller and more wild add textural interest and help provide the space with a soft, but clear, framework.
One way to make very effective use of this idea is to have closely mown grass paths running through the wilder grassland – making it quite clear where you expect your visitors to walk, while providing them with an interesting scene of differing textures, heights and colours. Couple this with an informal planting arrangement of trees, shrubs and wildflowers and you can bring the feel of woodland walks to any good sized suburban garden.
Few aspects of the garden achieve such versatility – and with so few species contributing – as grass, from the smallest pocket-handkerchief of a lawn, to the largest expanse of rough grassland. Whether it forms the main feature itself, provides a setting for colourful surrounding borders or doubles as play area or unofficial football pitch for the children, the obligatory patch of grass can be both functional and attractive.
Often seen as little more than an outdoor floor covering, grass plays an important role in defining the shape of the garden and unifying the overall design. However it fits into your own landscaping scheme – as closely mown turf or a wildflower and wildlife haven – it can certainly be relied on to make its own very special contribution.