The Green Grass Of Home – The Lawn As A Garden Design Tool by Nicki Jackson

Pretty much every garden we design has a lawn in it. Other than the patio, the lawn tends to be the constant of the Great British domestic garden. Not many garden owners feel brave enough to lose their lawn even though the vast majority of people we meet tend to be also pining for a low maintenance garden, but of all the elements in a garden the lawn is usually right up there when it comes to demanding maintenance regimes.

Maintenance requirements aside though, once the decision has been made by a client to incorporate one, a lawn offers many opportunities when it comes to garden design and executed well, the lawn can be a powerful and versatile design tool.

For the client the lawn is usually about function; it’s a soft, useful surface; you can sit on it, lie on it, play on it, walk on it, look at it, and more, but for the garden designer the lawn can additionally play a number of different roles within a design and provide solutions to a number of garden challenges.

For a start, along with the patio, the lawn can be a lynchpin for the whole garden design. At its heart, good design is arguably all about how you arrange the space in the garden, and a good shaped and positioned lawn can be crucial to getting this right. The shape of the lawn can influence how we perceive and interact with a garden, for instance a circular lawn tends to act as a focal point, a centre around which the rest of the garden is perceived, so if you have an awkward shaped garden a circular lawn can help disguise it. Curved edges to a lawn on the other hand can create screening and reveals along the way which can create a feeling of curiosity and adventure along with a need to explore; while the sharp edges of squares and rectangles often bring with it a sense of formality and definition.

Often a designer will use the lawn to bring harmony and ‘flow’ to a design – the different elements around and within it are all linked by the lawn so it brings cohesion, and often intent, to those elements. The smooth lawn surface acts as a foil for busy textural planting, while the monochromatic greenness of the lawn can act as a counterbalance to a riot of colourful borders and other elements too.

When compared to many other elements often included in a design, lawns are a cost-effective choice for a garden. When budgets are limited awkward level changes can sometimes be accommodated with a sloping lawn for a fraction of the cost of expensive paving alternatives and a varying level, undulating lawn can sometimes enhance the three-dimensionality of the garden bringing an extra dynamic to the design too. Mown pathways can also offer a cost-effective option for creating ‘the journey’ through a garden bringing with it a softer, more natural look than can be achieved with ‘hard’ landscaped options like paving and gravel.

Once in place the lawn can continue to contribute to the design through its maintenance regime; for instance, intricate mowing patterns can turn the lawn into a temporary centrepiece work of art while regimented tack sharp lawn stripes bring orderliness and precision to a space. Hover and rotary mown grass create a unified block of colour while grass cut at different heights can make design statements all of their own! All in all a lawn isn’t just an area of grass, it has potential to be a versatile and powerful design tool – what might you do with yours?

© Nicki Jackson, Blue Daisy Gardens 2021