Community Education on Environment and Development

What is a Beautiful Lawn?

Fashion in gardens, like those in clothes and cars, began with the need to meet a utilitarian objective and then became the object for trend-setters to embellish.

It is likely that the precursors of our lawns began in Africa where land around communities was cleared so people could see whether someone or something approaching was friend or foe. Grasses grew on this cleared land and was kept short by animals or through human effort. This practice was transported to Europe and England where eventually garden and landscape design became a more formal statement of the relationship between art and nature.

Andre Le Notre designed the gardens at the palace at Versailles; he may have created the first LAWNS when he used imported grasses from Asia in large expanses of tapis vert or green carpet. Using exotic grasses made an important statement: Louis XIV was very wealthy and could afford anything he wanted. The French king became a trend-setter because other people wanted to "keep up with the Jones's".

English gardens had traditionally been places in which beauty was combined with use, pleasure with profit and work with contemplation. In the mid 1700's, the famous Lancelot "Capability" Brown's work was praised for its modern style and its lack of formality and seclusion. (His nickname came from his frequent remarks about the gardens of country estates having great 'capability' for improvement). He used not only ground but also wood, water, rocks, buildings in his 'natural pictures'. As fashion ebbs and flows, however, by the end of the 1800's brambles and briars had become attractive, and his once-praised work was now described as being too formal, stiff and artificial.

As the less wealthy became land owners, they imitated the gardens of the aristocracy by planting lawns and enjoying the pleasure of gardening in front of their houses, thus showing others that they didn't need to work their land to provide food for themselves.

Today, modern gardeners can follow the trend setters of several centuries ago and feature green carpets in their gardens or they can create uniquely beautiful pictures by using different colours, textures, shapes and sizes of plants in arrangements that consider their own needs, comfort and tastes.

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