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lawn thoughts
"I think we should question the lawn's central role, in small and urban gardens in particular, and ask whether we should go to the trouble of maintaining such a biologically sterile and resource-hungry feature."
        - Noel Kingsbury, Natural Gardening in Small Spaces

"Ecologists consider many of today's urban and rural landscapes to be biologically sterile, while landscape architects consider them to be aesthetically impoverished. The heavy use of exotic species for ornament has resulted in a sameness in traditional American landscapes across broad regions."
        - Gary Hightshoe, Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America

"Other arguments aside -- noise, pollution, wasted water, too much work -- lawns are so boring. What if everybody dressed the same? Why should yards wear uniforms?"
        - Sara Stein, Planting Noah's Garden, page 19

"It's quite striking how one garden in a neighborhood starts a floral echo. This is usually due to the generosity of the gardener and to the curiosity of the neighbors."
        - Lauren Springer and Rob Proctor, Passionate Gardening, page 227

"The 'literary' gardening book - the kind that relies on good writing rather than the flash and dazzle of photos and charts - seems to be an endangered species these days."
        - Carleen Madigan Perkins, "Summer Reading" in Horticulture (July/Aug 2003), page 71

"I sometimes believe that acknowledging a consciousness and a conscience within nature actually holds the last best hope for a humanity seemingly bent on destroying this fair Earth."
        - Jim Nollman, Why We Garden: Cultivating a Sense of Place

"Pick adaptable natives and you will be on a path toward a beautiful and varied landscape that makes comparatively few demands."
        - Sternberg and Wilson, Landscaping with Native Trees

"We can recognize the arrival of spring in the suburbs of America by the smell in the air. No, it's not the scent of blooming bulbs or cherry blossoms, but the acrid, nose-twitching odor of lawn fertilizer being spread by the ton from one end of town to the other."
        - Warren Schulz, A Man's Turf: The Perfect Lawn

"...mowed lawns, sheared shrubs, and neatly raked beds fail as wildlife magnets; most are inhospitable deserts to birds and butterflies."
-- Jim Wilson, Landscaping with Wildflowers: An Environmental Approach to Gardening

"From the point of view of any woody plant, the ideal is to have ground blanketed with some organic material at least as wide as the above-ground spread of the branches... Lawn grass is a viable option [but] will eventually disappear beneath any tree or large shrub that casts deep shade, a characteristic for which Norway maples, for example, are notorious."
        -- Lee Reich, Weedless Gardening

"The rule is simple: work in the spirit of Nature with the invisible hand of Art."
        -- William Wordsworth, quoted in "Formal Gardens," Gardens of the World video series

"Maintenance problems often arise simply because of plants which need too much molly-coddling or which outgrow and swamp their neighbors. Even the most knowledgeable plantsman makes mistakes and for the rest of us, there is no knowing how a plant will behave until we have tried it. It is probably better, therefore, not to be restrictive on what we introduce into the garden -- the last thing we want is to miss good plant opportunities -- but to keep new introductions under the closest observation until they have settled down and we know exactly how they will behave."
        -- Nigel Colborn, Shortcuts to Great Gardens: Timesaving Strategies for Instant Effects

"What if your car needed an oil change every month, a tune-up every 500 miles, and the front end realigned every two weeks? You'd call it a lemon and get rid of it--fast. Now, what if your home landscape required watering two or three times a week throughout the growing season; mowing once or twice a week; periodic edging and pruning; lots of weeding, raking, and bagging; and ongoing applications of herbicides, pesticides, and artificial fertilizers?"
        -- Andy Wasowski, "Dawn of a New Lawn", Audubon, May-June 2001

"Native plant landscaping, to my mind, is going to have as profoundly positive an effect on our gardens and our environment as our new and enlightened ideas on nutrition are having on our health. Using native plants is far more than just another way to make your garden look pretty -- it actually has the potential to change the world for the better. And how many things can you say that about these days?"
        -- Sally Wasowski, Requiem for a Lawnmower

"If you have only a very small garden there is much to be said in favour of paving all areas except where you want spaces for trees, shrubs and flowers. On the whole, this is a far more satisfactory treatment of a small site than the pocket handkerchief lawn, which will not stand up well to wear."
        -- Roy Strong, A Small Garden Designer's Handbook

"In Shinto, there is no Hereafter. A person's soul, however, does not simply disappear, but merges with Nature. And as life is wholly of this world, one desires to endow even the most commonplace things with so much beauty that the living can experience as much joy as possible in this world."
        -- from "Japanese Gardens" program, "Gardens of the World" video series with Audrey Hepburn, 1993

"...gardens that are modeled after nature's landscapes, like the models themselves, can be delicate or powerful, serene or exciting. They can be as abstract and formal as a Japanese courtyard garden, or as direct and informal as a woodland garden. They can be as spare and understated as a Zen Buddhist stone garden, or as crammed with variety as an alpine rockgarden."
        -- Jerome and Seth Malitz, Reflecting Nature: Garden Designs from Wild Landscapes

"Trees have the potential to create various kinds of social places: an umbrella -- where a single, low-sprawling tree like an oak defines an outdoor room; a pair -- where two trees form a gateway; a grove -- where several trees cluster together; a square -- where they enclose an open space; and an avenue -- where a double row of trees, their crowns touching, line a path or street. It is only when a tree's potential to form places is realized that the real presence and meaning of the tree is felt."
        -- Christopher Alexander et al., A Pattern Language: Towns - Buildings - Construction

"I can't resist a pretty plant. When I see it, I want it, I buy it, take it home, and plant it where ever I can find a place. If I had a similar moral code when it comes to romance, I would be divorced several times over by now. That is the reason I grow a cottage garden. I can stick everything in with complete abandon and no discrimination whatsoever."
        -- Cassandra Danz, Mrs. Greenthumbs Plows Ahead: Five Steps to the Drop-Dead Gorgeous Garden of Your Dreams

"...we have tended to use turf as the default planting -- if nothing else comes to mind, we reflexively sow grass. In consequence, we have already turfed over an area of the United States greater than the whole state of Virginia."
        -- Thomas Christopher, Water-Wise Gardening: America's Backyard Revolution

"A garden growing wild is healthier, more capable of stable growth, than the more clipped and artificial garden. The garden can be left alone, it will not go to ruin in one or two seasons. And for the people too, the garden growing wild creates a more profound experience. The gardener is in the position of a good doctor, watching nature take its course, occasionally taking action, pruning, pulling out some species, only to give the garden more room to grow and become itself. By contrast, the gardens that have to be tended obsessively, enslave a person to them; you cannot learn from them in quite the same way."
        -- Christopher Alexander et al., A Pattern Language: Towns - Buildings - Construction

"Americans are gradually becoming more conscious of the need for enclosure, a concept prevalent in other, often older cultures, who for centuries have lived in close proximity to each other."
        -- Julie Moir Messervy, The Inward Garden: Creating a Place of Beauty and Meaning

"The endless nature of this cycle is clearly evident: water and nutrients promote growth; rapid growth requires frequent mowing; pesticides inhibit not only grass predators but also organisms that decompose clippings; to achieve the desired appearance, clippings require removal; the removal of clippings requires fertilizers to replace lost nutrients. ... The more we work to make the lawn beautiful by watering, spraying, and mowing, the more we remove it from the natural ecosystem that would exist if we had not interfered."
        -- F. Herbert Bormann, Diana Balmori, and Gordon T. Geballe, Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental Harmony

"Ecological knowledge brings us face to face with the underlying paradox of our place on Earth today: understanding the marvelous intricacy, variety, and beauty of life gives us endless delight, but coupled with this joy comes the pain of seeing how grievously destructive to the web of life are our industrial, agricultural, and personal activities as we now practice them."
        -- Ernest Callenbach, Ecology: A Pocket Guide

"The floor space, or level area between features, is the most frequently used part of any garden."
        -- Nigel Colborn, The Garden Floor

"The size of our lawns, once limited by our time, energy and patience for pushing a mower, has grown in direct relation to the horsepower of our lawn tractors."
        -- Stephen Morris, President of Chelsea Green Publishing Company, in "Lose Your Lawn: The Backyard Revolution is Coming", p.51, Mother Earth News (Dec/Jan 2002)

"As many people have discovered, their prairie meadow offers them a far more exciting landscape than their lawn, and at a fraction of the long-term cost."
        -- Neil Diboll, "Prairie Plants and Their Uses in the Landscape"

"In our adult dreams, our lawns are wide, long, green, and spotless. They're like putting greens, Astroturf outfields, pool tables."
        -- Warren Schultz, A Man's Turf: The Perfect Lawn

"Your lawn does not want to be mowed. It would prefer to keep growing straight up, to mature and set seeds. In this regard, the wishes of the lawn and the lawn owner are at odds. ...The art of mowing involves striking a delicate balance between an attractive lawn and a healthy lawn."
        -- Warren Schultz, The Chemical-Free Lawn : The Newest Varieties and Techniques to Grow Lush, Hardy Grass

"I certainly do not advocate the use of herbicides of any sort on the plant community we have come to call a lawn. Frankly, I find a diverse lawn with a mixture of grasses, clovers, ground-ivy and other green, living plants (regardless of their origins) to be both aesthetically pleasing and easily maintained by periodic mowing. The added benefit is that when a dry spell eventually occurs, there is always something green that survives."
        -- Henry Art, "To Spray or Not to Spray: That is the Question!" in Invasive Plants: Weeds of the Global Garden

"People know that they are biologically and physiologically the products of natural evolution; yet their great technological accomplishments lead them to feel that they are above, beyond, or outside nature, that they have conquered and dominated the wilderness and have it now within their power to remake the world. Every work of garden and landscape design reflects one or the other of these conflicting attitudes."
        -- Garrett Eckbo, "garden and landscape design" Encyclopędia Britannica [Accessed October 25, 2001]

"The upkeep of green spaces required intensive labor, and early suburbanites depended on hired labor or on sheep or deer to keep things tidy. The advent of lawn as the common people's art form would be made possible by technology; in 1830, the Englishman Edwin Budding invented the lawn mower... "
        -- F. Herbert Bormann, Diana Balmori, and Gordon T. Geballe, Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental Harmony

"...English lawns in the days of their glory were cared for in ways beyond the imagination of the American householder. I have seen men on their knees plucking at (invisible) weeds with the care women devote to their eyebrows; and I have read of sod dug up piece by piece and taken to a greenhouse for grooming, weeding, fertilizing--everything but a fine-tooth comb applied to it before it was relaid in the garden."
        -- Eleanor Perenyi, Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden

"The biggest enemy of wildlife is the obsessively tidy gardener."
        -- Nigel Colborn, The Garden Floor : From gravel gardens to camomile lawns

"There are few greater garden pleasures than the contemplation of a perfectly kept lawn, but it must be someone else's and not your own, otherwise you are only too painfully involved in the work of upkeep."
        -- Christopher Lloyd, The Well-Tempered Garden: Wisdom & Advice from a Legendary Gardener

"In the days when men could live their lives out on their own acres, they built and modified their gardens with another rhythm of awareness, with perceptions and impressions which they accumulated and absorbed gradually. Now the habits and patterns of our civilization impose a staccato and more shallow comprehension. There seems to be time only to look, note and look away. Outside pressures distract; nourishment for our mind and feelings becomes ever more meagre. It is a gardener's pleasure... to break this crazy rhythm, to change and break the rush of time, and make the garden a quiet island in which a moment has a new meaning."
        -- Russell Page, The Education of a Gardener

"The wildest place on earth, it is here, in the human heart."
        -- John Hanson Mitchell quoting a Roman priest in The Wildest Place of Earth: Italian Gardens and the Invention of Wilderness

"My lawn, how nice,
It spreads afar.
The weeds are few and foreign.
Some work, I know,
To keep it so
In pleasing green decorum.

Vigilance is
Else weeds will make it cruder.
But dig and pull
And rake and mow
Will conqer the intruder.

Grass, crab and quack,
Some Lamb's Ear, too.
Maybe oats and barley.
But the one I fear
The most of all
Is swiftly Creeping Charlie..."
        -- John C. Streed, excerpt from "Creeping Charlie", Garden Revisions: Poems for Gardeners True & Honest

"In starting a garden, the first question, of course, is where to plant. If you are a beginner in the art, and the place is new and large, go to a good landscape gardener and let him give advice and make you a plan. But don't follow it, at least not at once, nor all at one time. Live there for a while, until you yourself begin to feel what you want, and where you want it."
        -- Mrs. Helena Rutherford Ely, 1903, quoted in The Virago Book of Women Gardeners

"Small lawns or areas of grass can be troublesome to look after and may contribute less to your garden than an alternative surface such as gravel or paving."
        -- Nigel Colborn, Shortcuts to Great Gardens

"Departing from more conventional landscaping practices, we may want to reduce lawn space by planting one or more small islands in the middle of the lawn. This would be a good place to use some of our largely neglected native small trees and shrubs. ...But for added effectiveness in supplying food and cover for wildlife, the ground below should be allowed to grow up into tall grasses, asters, goldenrod, and other forbs. The wildlife gardener may also want to circle the outside perimeter with spring bulbs. The end result may be a small oasis in the lawn that sparkles with beauty and holds an unusually large quota of wildlife species."
        -- John V. Dennis, The Wildlife Gardener

"The point is there's no imagination in the open, democratic yards of America. There's no possibility, no hope of danger, or encounter, or surprise. What you see from the road is what you get--mainly a smooth green lawn."
        -- John Hanson Mitchell, The Wildest Place On Earth

"You must not, any of you, be surprised if you have moments in your gardening life of such profound depression and disappointment that you will almost wish you had been content to leave everything alone and have no garden at all."
        -- Mrs. C.W. Earle, 1897, quoted in The Virago Book of Women Gardeners

"Homeowners learned how to alter the environment to maintain their lawns, through the application of water, fertilizer and lime, replacement of the topsoil, or removal of shade. To make a success of their lawns, they were told to pay close attention to horticultural writers and advertisers and to use all the latest lawn-care products... The standard held up for lawns that requires the grass to be of a single color, texture, and size was unrealistic even for the most devoted gardener; however, it enabled manufacturers to sell more weapons to homeowners in their battle against nature."
        -- Virginia Scott Jenkins, "The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession"

"Lawns exist today for several reasons. First, lawns serve as a physical and psychological 'moat' between the homeowner and the outside world. Second, it is theorized that humans are genetically predisposed to favor open grass-type landscapes as an artifact of our species' development on the savannas and grasslands of East Africa. ... [Finally,] a premium is placed on neatness and conformity both of which are promoted by mono-turf yards."
        -- Bret Rappaport, "As natural landscaping takes root we must weed out the bad laws"

"This is a huge, magnificent continent. We have mountains, seacoasts, northern plains, and subtropical river deltas. But everywhere you go--everywhere, even in the desert city of Phoenix, Arizona--there they are, those same accursed suburban lawns, maintained by millions of gallons of water, petrochemical fertilizers, and gasoline. It's strange and frightening, like being followed by someone and seeing him over and over again, thousands of miles apart."
        -- Cassandra Danz, Mrs. Greenthumbs: How I Turned a Boring Yard into a Glorious Garden and How You Can, Too

"The roar of a lawnmower starting up on a Saturday morning cuts off the birdsong, the rustling grass, the gurgle of water in the brook. At best the noise simply intrudes on breakfast table talk; at worst all conversation ceases. It seems exceedingly ironic that so much of gardening, an activity that is often described as an attempt to create an earthly paradise, has become dependent on making such a din."
        -- Roger Swain, Groundwork: A Gardener's Ecology

"Why do experts go on so about lawns? What all that time over the air or in print on the minutiae of worm casts and moss? What is the spell and fascination of spending such a disproportionate amount of time on this one gardening subject when so many others have more allure?"
        -- Mirabel Osler, A Gentle Plea for Chaos

"So, naturalizing [the golf course 'rough' areas] has added a new challenge to our golfers' game, and they're happy. We have much more habitat for wildlife, and they're happy. We spend a lot less time mowing rough, and I'm very happy. Talk about a win-win situation."
        -- Peter Salineiti, "Naturalizing: A Superintendent's Perspective", USGA Green Section Record 35 (6): 16-17.

"Lawns were not flawless a couple of generations ago. They were full of clover, coarse grasses as well as fine, and they were lush only in spring and fall. If we match this easygoing attitude with some up-to-date know-how, we can have practical lawns--and recognize where lawns are unaffordable."
        -- Thomas Christopher, Water-Wise Gardening

"Naturalistic gardening is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. ... Reacting against the pervasive use of chemicals in the landscape and the incessant howl of lawnmowers, people have sought an alternative to the manicured carpet of lawn that was mandated by a century-old unspoken social compact."
        -- Neil Diboll, "Transcending the Garden: The American Prairie Experience"

"...a garden one can wander through is always more thrilling than a garden one must simply stand before and stare at."
        -- Joe Eck, Elements of Garden Design

"Gardening... is a painstaking exploration of place; everything that happens in my garden--the thriving and dying of particular plants, the maraudings of various insects and other pests--teaches me to know this patch of land more intimately, its geology and microclimate, the particular ecology of its local weeds and animals and insects. ... Lawns work on the opposite principle. They depend for their success on the overcoming of local conditions."
        -- Michael Pollan, Second Nature

"Nothing is sadder in the gardening world than the homogeneity of North American landscapes. Each region has its own history, style, flavor and natural landscape. Why these haven't inspired more gardens is a mystery. It must be lack of horticultural confidence. A nation of bold pioneers and innovators withers when it comes to adventurous gardening and plants the same few dozen plants in the same few dozen ways, from sea to shining sea. Aside from being unsound from a practical and ecological perspective, this sameness is as stultifying as the ubiquitous American commercial strip, replete with fast food joints and gas stations."
        -- Lauren Springer, Undaunted Gardens


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