Out With the Lawn, In With the Paving

There are those who may have read the title of this post with such distaste that they can’t be bothered to continue reading. Out with the perfectly manicured, immaculately English, striped, luminously green and family friendly lawn? Replacing it with paving and paths and non-expansive areas? You must be balmy. Yet, I wonder how many gardeners can look out of their window and actually see this thriving, green and perfect strip of  lawn?

More often that not my clients have huge and extensive lawns in their urban gardens. Of course, I don’t expect anything less – the lawn is an established part of the British garden. However, it’s probably one of the most expensive wastes of space in all of the garden environment. Millions of pounds are spent each year on lawn maintenance, from mowers to edgers, to fertilisers and bods like me who will come along and look after your lawn for you for a reasonable price. Grass isn’t that drought tolerant, leading to the brown dessication of lawns at the onset of summer months. The need for a perfectly clipped lawn has turned these green slabs into a pollination free barren landscape devoid of insect wildlife because daisy, clover © Geoff Wakeling 2012and dandelion flowers are cut off in their prime. The family pets and children run riot, causing damage wherever they go.  And the carbon footprint from actually maintaining this piece of ‘garden’, is far from neutral. Frankly, the lawn is a piece of garden that we could all do without.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has already said that they are expecting an especially dry summer in 2012, with the Environment saying that it could be the driest year for 90 years. This causes a problem for those wanting to keep their lawns green, especially if hose-pipe bans occur. Then we’ll just have a nation of barren brown gardens which could have been put to alternative use.

I’m not advocating that every garden, estate, National Trust home et al in Britain do away with areas of lawn..actually, perhaps I am. Replacing such expanses with huge flowerbeds and vegetable patches isn’t always practical, but replacing some lawn with borders and paving is worthwhile. And by paving, I am in no way talking of poured concrete or paving slabs here. I’m talking about creating entertainment areas and paths. Of developing free draining areas with gravel, or reclaimed bricks and slate. Such areas can be inter-planted to keep them green, will require little in the way of maintanence and all those hours that you tirelessly spend every weekend mowing can be spent doing actual gardening jobs that you want to do. Front gardens in particular are an area which are filled with needless lawns, and you only need to take a look at the RHS Front Garden Scheme to see that you can have complimentary parking and planting so that everyone’s happy.

Gravel and reclaimed brick or stone paths are not only free draining but they offer the possibility to plant within the cracks. Saxifrages, succulents, thyme and camomile could all be perfect for planting in cracks. Instead of having the rectangular lawn with miniscule borders, you can put more land over to growing plants and veggies. And, by avoiding grassed expanses of family ruined, weed infested, chemically sprayed and heftily mowed lawns, perhaps we can reclaim some time, save some money and save the planet by kicking this need for the perfect lawn in the head and instead concentrating on some worthwhile plant growing.

2 Responses to Out With the Lawn, In With the Paving

  • Johanna says:

    Hi Geoff,

    I love this garden and would like to recreate something similar in a small square of lawn in my new house in Northern Ireland. Is there any chance you could give me a steer on the plants you used – I’m a bit of a novice

    • Geoff says:

      Hi Johanna,

      Sure. This is actually a garden from the Hampton Court Palace garden show. From what I can see, they’ve used a couple of varieties of sedum, echinacea and grasses. These are great perennial plants to create the basic structure, and then you can add in some additional planting to give more impact during the year – all depending on what you like!

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I'm Geoff, and I'm a plant hoarder.

Like magpies collect bright shiny things, I can't resist plants. An exquisite flower, soft ferny foliage or a beautiful majestic tree - I love them all!

Here, I'll indulge in all things flora and share my passion. Join me as I develop my garden and hoard more plants without apology.