Using lawn in design

Most yards have some lawn space. This is usually what is left over after several borders for shrubs and flowers, possibly vegetables, have been carved off. The remainder looks like just what it is: an area that hasn’t been transformed. We are so used to seeing lawn as a default groundcover that we don’t see it clearly as an element in the space we have surrounding us. To make the most of your lawn area, the first step is to try to see it, itself, just as it is, distinct from the other elements of your outdoor space. Then ask if it is successful aesthetically, apart from the obvious functions that it serves in the yard. Is it a pleasing shape? Does it have clear boundaries? These things are not difficult to adjust. Boundaries can be given more definition simply by edging using a straight spade or an edging tool. Neighbouring beds can be widened slightly or alternatively allowed to shrink by encouraging the encroachment of the grass into the bed. A more permanent change might involve installing an edging material, such as brick or paving stones. Plastic edging, while relatively simple to install, always looks like exactly what it is, namely a piece of plastic inserted into the garden. The rewards of permanent edging will become evident over the years you experience your garden. The beauty of natural materials like wood, brick and stone will be there year-round and is especially pleasing in the winter months when little else is on show. Using an edging that is installed flush with the ground also makes mowing the edge of the lawn easier, without the need of a weed-whacker, since the lawn mower wheels can roll on the paving without intruding into the bordering beds. Permanent edging using brick or stone pavers provides a frame to set off the area of lawn and give it an emphasis proportional to the area it occupies. The choice of materials depends on the situation: it could echo the material of a patio, a walkway, or the facade of the house. In any case, these permanent edges should be installed on a bed of compacted gravel, to provide stability, drainage and prevent heaving. Lawn has been much maligned in recent years; the ecological arguments against lawns should make us consider more seriously our use of stretches of mown grass. Giving them the attention they deserve, as luxury choices with distinctive visual qualities and functional benefits, is one way to acknowlege the ecological realities.