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Gardening: Down to Earth with designer Robert Barker

To many of us, lawns are very important. There is something about a

lush sward 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 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!

I am frequently asked to design either new-build gardens or gardens for families and, more often than not, a lawn for children to play on is a top priority. I have children of my own, so 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 panelists on Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time explaining that he had studied and recorded the amount of time his children actually played in the garden. The results showed they actually used it for only a few months a year: when they really wanted to play ball games or ride their bicycles, they would go to the park.

gardens (13107731)
gardens (13107731)

It is also worth noting that the idea that lawns are low maintenance is a myth! A decent lawn needs lots of attention - not to mention cutting.

I’m not for one minute trying to start a movement to dig up lawns; I’m certainly anti-artificial and have a medium-size lawn in my own garden which, actually, my children use a fair bit, mainly because they are still small. Indeed, we have a garden full of trampolines, basketball nets and sandpits. Not exactly what you’d expect from an award-winning designer.

As well as having a lot of unattractive kit to distract the children, though, we also have lots of plants they 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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