These days we quite frequently hear the term ‘a room outside’. This is because modern day living requires more space for family activities and entertaining. We seem to be spending more time outside in our gardens, come rain or shine – which is a good thing! We have always been a nation of garden lovers and if anything, gardening in general is becoming more and more popular… although I think a lot people would probably say they watch ‘Gardeners’ World’ purely for the handsome Nigel!
But, we do love our gardens, and being a Garden Designer means that I get to go out and see lots of different people. Each coming from a distinct background, living in very different areas with incredibly individual requirements for their garden plots. I have been visiting client’s gardens for over 12 years and I can honestly say that each client is very unique. Although I did feel that in the beginning there was a trend in clientele – they were mostly over 40 through to retirement age. I suppose that is mostly down to expendable budget, but I felt that age did have something to do with it. Younger people were not as interested in their gardens, or so I thought!
Being involved in the RHS Shows, we again get to meet a huge range of people and discuss their gardens, needs and requirements. This is when I started to realize that it was not just the more mature people that enjoyed being outside, but the younger generation were also very knowledgeable about plants and wanted to have a nice space to use. The surprising thing was that the younger people wanted a more traditional design, something similar to what they remember from their childhood… maybe similar to how Granddad had his garden? Normally a large lawn and borders round the outside; bearing in mind this is a Garden Designers worst nightmare – as there is so much more that we can do with our outdoor spaces, why not experiment a little.
I found that the older generations wanted something different, contemporary, unique and WOW! You can still have similar features, but by selecting different shapes and experimenting with them, you can achieve a much more interesting design. My very first garden included turf stepping-stones over a pond and turf armchairs in the middle of a rugby-ball shaped lawn. This was very popular at the show, because it was natural, green and different! So either way, young or old, the lawn was a feature that most clients wanted and enjoyed!
My job involves looking at the styles and themes that run through a family’s house, their hobbies and interests. I have to listen to all the little details that they say without realizing, then collate all that information and come up with a scheme that suits that particular family. These days I have a questionnaire that I ask the family to fill in, this includes some very obvious questions, or so you would think!!
“Do you want a lawn?” Well, this question causes some controversy between husband and wife, I can tell you!
Wife: “No!” And at the same time, Husband: “Yes!”
Wife: “You hate mowing the lawn!”
Husband: “I don’t!”
Wife: “You always moan, never want to do it, it is a burden to you!”
Husband: “You can’t beat the smell of freshly cut grass, and don’t forget my new mower…..”
This is when I promptly leave, and allow them to think about all the things we have discussed before I come up with a concept plan. Honestly, more people are asking for garden designs that don’t include a lawn. Although, these are generally families without children or once they have moved out. Sometimes retired families prefer to have solid surfaces for safety and also less maintenance. Personally, I always produce three concept plans for my clients, each different. Two tick all the boxes that they have specified, whilst the third is more of a ‘wild card’ design. Virtually all the designs that had no lawn where overlooked, and more often than not the lawn remains!
Like everything in life, there is a time and a place for it. Some smaller urban or city gardens simply don’t have the space or correct conditions for a lawn. That combined with maintenance time, and storage issues (no space for a lawn mower) of course I would advise on a lawn free design. Other than in those circumstances I would always push for a lawn. There are so many positives to having grass in the garden, including:
- Multi Function Space – Whether it’s children playing, garden furniture or simply standing room for a BBQ party, your lawn can withstand all you throw at it. Family space is so important - playing sports, having a picnic, even just sun bathing, the lawn is the central part of the garden.
- Emotional Value – Lawns make a garden look good, make people happy, stimulate the senses and give a true feeling of summer!
- Breaks Up A Harsh Space – No garden should be all hard landscaping. It may be easy to clean but we need the softness of plants, trees, hedges and grass to enhance the space. Soften it, make it feel more inviting, and beautiful.
- Easy & Cheap to Install – It is not hard to achieve a good looking lawn, and with the correct maintenance it can look good throughout the year!
- Green is a colour that complements all others, so what a background to all those stunning flowers you have in your garden.
- A real lawn can also be seen as a soft landing where children are involved and so safety can be an issue, making a real lawn a good choice.
These days we can do so much more than just a lawn. Turf is often used to create unusual shapes including special features to furniture. We can grow turf anywhere, and I am working with a team that are currently perfecting the process of growing turf on walls and this is something I have built into designs myself, because the idea of as much green as possible makes me happy!
In my opinion there is nothing better than a well maintained lawn and, let’s face it, we all know who to call!!