When I moved into my house four years ago the lawn was impeccable. Each blade of grass tended: golf green rich and lush. There was not one intertwined weed, front or back. It was “home and garden” perfect. Some would have envied the outcome of the hours of labour to attain such a masterpiece. I was already tired of the relentless work it took to maintain and had little satisfaction with the result.
Where on Earth did this tradition of killing all the natural plants and replacing them with one form of greenery become an expectation for those of us who live in suburbia? A quick look in Wikipedia reveals that the “…lawn was a symbol of status of the aristocracy and gentry” in seventeenth century Britain. These lush green acreages were so labour intensive that no one but the rich could afford to maintain the luxury; everyone else was too busy growing fruits and vegetables for survival. So the drive to have the perfect lawn today is based on the idea, consciously or unconsciously, that if one has the time, money and ability to groom a lawn, it will display status of the upper class.
The second year in my house, I held fast to the tradition: I limed to get rid of the moss; I aerated and over seeded; I even spent considerable time manually removing the dandy lions. The outcome was not as ideal as when I moved in, but, I had to admit, the lawn retained most of the aristocratic look of the year before. Was the work really worth my time?
I came to question the value of the manicured look. When the moss began to creep into the front yard, a little voice arose inside me. You see, I love moss. I love the look, the feel and the smell of every kind of moss. Perhaps it comes from years of romping through the forest as a young child — rolling down moss covered hills; being silly as the soft, forgiving blanket of natural lichen broke the sporadic but eventual falls; and then getting up again, laughing as I morphed into a witch or sea hag with long strands of moss knitted into my hair.
I decided to refute the idea of a perfect lawn and let nature take its course. I felt at home with the diversity of moss that began to grow in my yard. I even transplanted a couple of varieties from local forests. I invited other plants to grow and soon daisies covered parts of the back, interspersed with beautiful, tiny purple flowers I have yet to name. Buttercups now take a front row amongst the natural flora many people call weeds. I don’t water my lawn any longer. The natural species fair well through the summer heat and even if the dryness overcomes my verdant display I am content in knowing that, with the fall and winter rains, all will come back as nature intended.
So the idea, which started centuries ago and was handed down through the generations, that a perfect lawn is a way to declare status, ends in my yard. As my daughter and I roll and play with our dog on the moss and wild flower covered property, she learns to favour what naturally occurs. Sometimes I do mow the cacophony of plants that grow here because the left over grass needs a little trim but not nearly as often as I used to. More often, I look forward to the day when moss and flowers completely take over and I am left with a luxurious bed to frolic in.
Amy Hanson is a Bodywork Therapist romping through the forests near her Shawnigan Lake home.