The lawn is a gift of the English garden tradition from the eighteenth century. Early…
Now that I am cutting the lawn more because of days of rain, my thoughts seem to drift to how we inherited the lawn in the first place.
Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan wrote in his magazine Gardener’s Monthly in December of 1870: “Those of our citizens who have visited Europe and particularly those who have visited rural and suburban England, understand how very far our best lawns are from being what they may be made, and how much a fine lawn contributes to the beauty of any residence, and what many such do for a neighborhood.”
English garden style, particularly in middle class suburbs, provided the model for what American lawns should look like.
In his book The American Family Home, 1800-1960 historian Clifford Edward Clark adds another reason when he writes: “By the 1860s and 1870s, a large front lawn had become an important symbol of status for the well-to-do middle class family.”
I am mowing a lawn that connects my landscape with the history of American gardening, dating back to the nineteenth century, as promoted in seed and nursery catalogs as in the 1889 Henderson Seed Company catalog cover above. At that time the English garden provided the model for America’s lawn.
How often do you hear people taking pride in a well kept lawn.
Perhaps Clark’s idea of the lawn as a symbol of status, and I would add pride, is not far from the mark.
But the lawn is still a lot of work. Why is that so?