24 Feb The History of Lawns – Why Artificial Grass is the Obvious Next Step
Lawns Through The Ages: Is Artificial Grass The Next Stage?
Lawns are a firm fixture of English gardens, but is that really a sustainable reality as we look to lower our impact on the planet?
Although it may be hard for us to believe these days, lawns have not been around forever. These areas of soil-covered land that have been sown with grasses have become a staple of English gardens and estates, and much coveted by those who haven’t got an outside space that they can enjoy. But, where did it all start? And, what does the future hold for the baize-like British lawn?
It is thought that lawns first came into being in order to feed livestock held by villages and communities throughout Europe. Medieval settlements created areas designated for grazing and it is from there that the lawn was born, so to speak. The first usage of the word ‘laune’ – Celtic Brythonic for an enclosure – was in 1540.
The aristocracy of northern Europe started to popularise the lawn on their large estates throughout the continent from the Middle Ages, but the earliest examples were little more than pasture fields. Mowing machines didn’t come into existence until 1830, so scythes and shears were used whenever a lawn was not being grazed by the landowners’ livestock.
The Social Aspect
It wasn’t until later on in the 17th and 18th century that lawns began to take on the form that we now take for granted. Initially, lawns were introduced as walkways through gardens, before becoming the focal point for social gatherings of the English elite in their country piles.
Landscape gardening had just begun to blossom and the likes of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, Charles Bridgeman and William Kent were lauded for their creations on the estates of the wealthy landowners that they served.
Lawns for the Masses
Lawns remained very much the preserve of the elite up until the mechanical lawnmower hit the market. The labour intensive nature of keeping a lawn fit for purpose by hand meant that only the very rich could maintain one to any sort of standard, but the rise of the mower slowly began to change all that.
The consumer market for lawns really started to take off from around 1860 onwards. Sporting venues were the first to make use of the easier upkeep that the lawnmower provided, bringing neatly manicured grassy areas firmly into suburban life. When the 1930s rolled around, housing was beginning to change and four million new homes were built in England, putting the middleclass lawn on the map.
What Next for the Lawn?
Modern day living and the growing awareness over the impact that many of our choices are having on the environment look set to change the way we view the lawns of old for good. Despite bringing a bit of greenery into our backyards, lawns cannot be considered as ‘green’ at all. Many gardeners smother their lawns in harmful pesticides and herbicides creating a chemical runoff that enters the water system. They also use (some would say, waste) gallons of water, and consume energy whenever a mower is used. So, what’s up next for the lawn?
The natural progression seems to be the growing market for artificial grass. Lawns made from polyethylene negate the need for damaging and unhealthy chemicals, save untold water, reduce the amount of energy homeowner consumes and save them the time of maintaining a beautiful backyard. With all of these benefits, it’s surely just a matter of time before the conventional lawn as we know it simply withers and dies.