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Down to Earth: Lawns aren’t the be-all and end-all




Lawns are lovely, but they aren’t the be-all and end-all of a good garden design, even for families with children, as Cambridge’s Robert Barker reflects

Lawns are lovely, but they aren't the be-all and end-all of a good garden design says Robert Barker (57658960)
Lawns are lovely, but they aren't the be-all and end-all of a good garden design says Robert Barker (57658960)

To many of us garden lawns are very important. There is something about a lush green lawn that signifies a garden and for some acts as a statement ‘this is my land’.

There is of course nothing wrong with this, although interestingly I have noticed that men in particular are more precious over lawns than my female clients. I remember a client that I had very early on in my career who asked me to design flower beds around his home but was terrified that he was going to lose valuable lawn space even though the garden was nearly three acres in size - all covered in grass!

Lawns are lovely, but they aren't the be-all and end-all of a good garden design says Robert Barker (57658963)
Lawns are lovely, but they aren't the be-all and end-all of a good garden design says Robert Barker (57658963)

I am frequently asked to design either new-build gardens or gardens for families and more often than not the request for a lawn for children to play on is a top priority. I have children of my own so I am certainly not the type of designer to just dismiss a lawn, but I do think a question needs raising: how much do our children really benefit from a lawn in a small-to-medium garden?

I remember listening to one of the panellists on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time explaining that he had studied and recorded the amount of time his children actually played in the garden and the results were that they actually used it for only a few months a year. This was because when they really wanted to play ball games or ride their bicycles they would go to the park.

It is also worth noting that the thought that lawns are low maintenance is a myth; a decent lawn needs lots of attention and not to forget cutting!

Lawns are lovely, but they aren't the be-all and end-all of a good garden design says Robert Barker (57658965)
Lawns are lovely, but they aren't the be-all and end-all of a good garden design says Robert Barker (57658965)

I am not for one minute trying to start a movement to dig up lawns (I am anti-artificial lawns). I have a medium-size lawn in my own garden and actually my children use it a fair bit - but this is mainly because they are still small. We have a garden full of trampolines, basketball nets and sandpits - not exactly what you’d expect from an award winning designer - but as well as having a lot of unattractive kit to distract children we also have lots of plants that the children can interact with.

Children can be fascinated by nature, excited by picking their own fruit and veg and proud when growing their own plants. As well as being a place for fun, our gardens are one of the very best places to connect with nature and it seems to me we need that connection now more than ever.

See robertbarkerdesign.com for more.


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