Lawn Alternatives: A Garden Designers Round Table Post

| August 22, 2011 | 21 Comments

‘An englishman’s home is his castle’.

And a sacred element of his domain

is the shed which contains the mower to cut the lawn.

These three are the holy trinity.

And to have a ride-on is truly a penis-extension of the first order!

Now, as a student I had to work out the costs of looking after different types of garden space. And I clearly remember shrubs being the cheapest  and fine turf the most expensive.

So British gardeners might think about this when they lay out their gardens. The time involved in mowing, even with a ride-on is another consideration.

You could of course also be honourably thinking carbon and water. Though truth to tell most british lawns are less controversial in terms of their need for water than those in some of the drier parts of USA.

But we certainly do think of all these issues when designing and so share with you a project currently on our books.

Our clients JL and E L , hereafter the Ls, live in a detached house in rural north east Somerset.

There are expansive views to the south, west and north:

There is however very little level ground.

And like many other properties around here this house has the air of being perched on the top of a slope:

As you can see the L’s mow their grass closely.

But their reward after their labours is to sit on a rather uneven, and in places pokey, terrace:

which does little justice to the views you perceive from it.

So lawns and terraces were very much part of our brief for this garden.

In the larger country gardens we are now often suggesting leaving grass to meadow length, throughout the summer as here:

So in our design for the Ls we would certainly be thinking of this rather than their closely mown turf.

Our partnership practice is to show clients a pencil sketch stage of our proposed design in order that they can feed into the process and nudge us in a different direction if they choose.  We are apt to colour in roughly the various areas as we talk about them to the client.

Which has the merit of gradually unfolding the design and clarifying it.

So bravely we share that sketch with you:

Aside from widening their drive, delineating which trees to keep, fell and replant, providing a turning circle in front of the house and creating a level lawn suitable for a marquee to the North (!!)we are also going to create a raised curving terrace which laps the south, west and north sides of the house:

It will contain paving, planting and lawn:

Several different paved seating areas allow you to move with the sun and the the wind. They are linked by stepping stones in grass. One area,the floral pavement, will contain as much planting as paving through which you weave your way. Tightly mown turf sweeps between all of them, but elsewhere, such as on the banks of the terrace, the grass will mostly be meadow length.

The L’s liked this design and with refinements it is being drawn up at the moment.

However we still slightly hanker after the one that got away:

Here the terrace is completely paved with linear borders packed with wafting perennials and grases through which you see the western sun descend.

We imagined swathes of lavender, nepeta, verbena and perovskia. Stipa gigantea would be back lit. Clusters of box cubes would give structural contrast. The paving would have been stuffed with thyme and penny royal.

It even has a secluded hot tub.

Shame that one got away!

Now folks, lawns really are a hot topic in the States.

So do check in with our esteemed fellow Round Tablers and members of the equally august Lawn Reform Coalition to feast on their views about lawns and lawn alternatives!


Susan Harris : Garden Rant : Takoma Park, MD

Susan Harris : Gardner Susan’s Blog : Takoma Park, MD

Billy Goodnick : Cool Green Gardens : Santa Barbara, CA

Evelyn Hadden : Lawn Reform.Org : Saint Paul, MN

Saxon Holt : Gardening Gone Wild : Novato, CA

Ginny Stibolt : Florida Native Plant Society : Green Cove Springs, FL

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA

Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Pam Penick : Diggin : Austin, TX

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Laura Liven Good Schaub : Interleafings : San Jose, CA

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT



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Category: Design Bites, Project Updates

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Comments (21)

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  1. […] Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK […]

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  5. Genevieve says:

    Lovely, Robert! Not only did I love reading the commentary on why you made the design suggestions you did, but I also loved the look into your design process and the view of your beautiful sketches…

  6. How exciting to let us peek over your shoulders and watch you work! Great solutions, both, but the “one that got away” would have been stunning. Thanks for sharing your process!

  7. debsgarden says:

    The Ls have such a fabulous setting! Any hope you will post photos of the completed project? Meanwhile, I’m going to read about lawn alternatives. I like my lawn very much, but I keep an open mind.

  8. What a gorgeous, gorgeous plan (both the one that got away and the one that you’ll be implementing) – hope to see pictures of the progress! I especially love the smaller patio set away from the main patio. I’m a huge fan of having many different seating areas in a garden. Bravo!

  9. It’s all about re-interpreting and moving forward, isn’t it?
    Looks like the L’s missed out on a pretty sweet garden.

  10. Pam/Digging says:

    Oh yes, indeed, the one that got away is incredible! But much more expensive, and I assume that’s partly why it got away? The one they chose is lovely too. I’m not familiar with the term “marquee” as you’ve used it. Can you explain? I’m curious!

  11. Thanks for the sharing your design process. I love the sketches. I think we’ve all had ‘the one that got away’ and look back and wonder if the owners ever wonder if they made the wrong decision.

  12. The one that got away lingers in my mind with its blue-purple, backlit inflorescences. And I love the poetry of having several seating areas to “allow you to move with the sun and the wind.” Quality of life is obviously key in your designs.

  13. Robert says:

    Hi there Genevieve, thanks so much for your generous comments. I think we can all learn so much from each other and shortly I want to use our group facebook scene to discuss some things and see whether we brits can pick your sassy US brains and learn how to improve what we do!
    Thanks so much for reading.

  14. Robert says:

    Hi, Jocelyn, thanks for your comments. It is always worth listening to what others have to say about how they work, I think. I am hoping to open up a discussion with you guys to see whther we need to change what we do!

    I think the clients have chosen the design which is going to work for them, and that is after all what it is all about, however much we loved the other one – tho truth to tell we loved both. They now have the final colour version, which I will post up a piccy of at some point. The job went out to tender yesterday!

    Best wishes to you!

  15. Robert says:

    Hi deborah, very belatedly, we have been so busy you would not imagine and now I am catching up with comments. Yes we will certainly post up the story as it unrolls. The tender process began yesterday and we will keep a close eye on proceedings.
    Thanks so much for your interest!

  16. Robert says:

    Hi Rebecca, thanks so much for your encouragement! We liked both really, in different ways and will certainly post the story on an ongoing basis. Yes it is good to have different perspectives for rest, and in that garden I think the sun and the wind will decide where they sit.
    Thanks so much for your interest!

  17. Robert says:

    Hi Susan,
    Yes, I think they want to do less and rest, socialize and travel more and this is what this new story is about. The pretty version would have needed more help gardening, love it tho I did. Too bad. One for the still to do file!
    Thanks for your comments.

  18. Robert says:

    Yes, I think cost, labour in gardening and simplicity won the day. Still hanker for my sea of wafting backlit perennials tho! Marquee is a big tent such as you might use for large social functions. Usually hired for the event. Either for bar and dancefloor and casual seating, or formal dining, or both if large enough!
    Thanks for your interest and supportive comments. Praise from peers is always special.
    Sorry I unintentionally misled you by the way! Lesley says it was my punctuation!

  19. Robert says:

    Hi Debbie,
    Thanks so much for your comments. Yes I think they feel they have chose right and one has to hope they have. They took time to think about the choice between and that therefore feels a reasoned decision.
    Nice too to have ideas up your sleeve for another occasion!

  20. Robert says:

    Dear Evelyn,
    Thankyou for taking the time to comment. It is much appreciated. Know what you mean. I hope to always see what I design in my mind. It would be stupid otherwise. but the one
    that got away, I feel with a kind of longing to have it myself! As to quality of life I think its the Thomas Church type attitude with us. Gardens are for people and all that!
    Best Wishes