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The Lawn Takes Center Stage in the English Garden

It is spring time and time to think about the lawn.

Focusing on the lawn at this time means you want the grass to look healthy, so you may sprinkle compost to keep it green. You also want to make sure your lawnmower works so you can keep the grass cut at the height you like.  We certainly have things to worry about with the lawn.

We have the English to thank because we inherited the lawn from them.

When writing about the state of the English garden in the early eighteenth century, Richardson Wright says in his book The Story of Gardening: From the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the Hanging Gardens of New York, “For all the new vegetables and flowers and shrubs, the greatest glory of all was the English lawn.”

We see the lawn in this 1894 catalog cover from the Barlett and Dow Seed Company in Lowell, Mass. [below].

Notice the rural setting for the house, surrounded by a lawn that covers much of the area around the structure. Beds of flowers and shrubs dot the lawn. A stone wall in front provides a sense of boundary.

But it is the lawn that takes center stage.

In the June 1860  issue of his magazine Gardener’s Monthly Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan wrote: “If we carefully analyze the distinctions between a beautiful natural scene, and a well-kept garden, the most striking difference is in the lawn.” One year later in 1861, he wrote: “The management and care of the lawn is of first importance. It is to the lawn more than to any other part that we owe the highest pleasures of gardening.”

The lawn continues to be important to the American gardener. A reporter from the Boston Globe interviewed me for a story that appeared yesterday Sunday, May 9 with the title “Is the American Lawn Dying?” Simple answer: not yet.


Seed Catalog from 1894
Seed Catalog from 1894
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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Careful, Thomas, the PC police will get you for defending the lawn and its contribution to the beauty of our gardens…. 🙂 Lovely engraving! -Beth

    1. Beth, the landscapers here in New England I interviewed for a story on the lawn admitted homeowners still want the lawn. I think it will still be around, maybe smaller in space, but still part of our home landscape. Best.

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