Wednesday, August 18, 2010

John Greenlee: The Lawn Is Dead

The lawn, as we know it, may be as dead as Dada.

For many in the Lawn Reform sphere (especially those with a flair for the dramatic) the traditional green lawn is now a form of "eco-terrorism." For Southern California and elsewhere, the classic period of the residential lawn
may've come to an end. Whatever your view of global warming, the fact is fresh water resources are dwindling. And as landscaping accounts for 60% of all residential water usage, you don't have to be a visionary to see where this is going.

Meadow landscaping, on the other hand, requires
no pesticides and only one quarter as much water. (The Los Angeles D.W.P. even has a program to pay homeowners $1 per square foot to rip out their lawns.)

At the vanguard of the kill the lawn movement, one of its
most avante leaders has been John Greenlee, otherwise known as the creator of the oldest specialty grass nursery on the West Coast, Greenlee Nursery. He is also a landscape designer, horticulturist, author of two bibles on ornamental grasses, and meadow visionary.

In his latest book, "The American Meadow Garden," Greenlee argues that despite our culture's love affair with lawns, meadows are sexier. Says he:
“Grasses are sensual. You can smell them and hear them and watch them move. Meadows are... just like lovers — they never stop changing, never ceasing to surprise.”

What is most definitely not sexy about the traditional lawn is its addictive dependency on labor, fossil fuels, water, and the synthetic chemicals required to keep it in its preferred unnatural state of lush greenitude. In fact, Greenlee implies our fetish for manicured lawns drives us to something akin to floral torture:
"[Lawns are] like grass topiary. You can never see the plant... By never allowing them to go to seed, turn brown in autumn, or die back in the face of heat, we've purged grass of sex, death, seasons, of life."

And just in case the message isn't clear yet: "There is no doubt that lawn culture is not good for the planet."

So much for John Greenlee the visionary/activist. On to John Greenlee the designer:

For an interview with John Greenlee, see here.

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