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Garden Talk Don’t fake it!

With the hosepipe ban in place new planting had to be put on hold, grass will most probably turn into straw (although remember it will grow back), the garden will most probably not look as bright as we might like this Summer.

As a result some of you might get tempted to introduce Astroturf to their garden. No need for watering, weeding, mowing: The perfect solution! ... Or is it?

Some of my clients have entertained this option as they think it might provide the solution to all their problems:

Low maintenance, entice children into garden in all weathers, allow them to have a ‘lawn’ even in shady gardens, no need to be watered, looks green all year long…I would always invite them to carefully consider the impact of such option as I believe it’s not a decision to make lightly. Here are my arguments:

1) There is much life in the lawn. A lot of insects and butterflies lay their eggs there. Lying on the grass and observing insects constitute for most children their first experience and connection with the natural world. It would be a shame to deprive them from their first go at science! Ask yourself what would Darwin think of that?

2) The trend is for naturalistic planting. This trend has been developing for a while and is here to stay I’m convinced, one of the reasons being the legacy of the Olympic games park. We will this Summer be bombarded with images of wildflower meadows in the heart of the City. The choice of planting and the landscape design of the Olympic Park has been praised by many landscaper architects, urban designers and planners and will be a source of inspiration, for residential gardens for years to come. Astroturf doesn’t look pretty next to meadow-type planting. Fact.

3) It is true that a lawn can be high maintenance and it is true that a fake lawn doesn’t require any apart from sweeping leaves in the Autumn, brush and jetwash it every now and again (as it gathers dust(!) and moss).

However if a perfectly manicured lawn has always been a must for any self-respecting Englishman…a less trimmed look is acceptable now. Encouraging wildflowers within your lawn, naturalising it with bulbs, letting it get brown during hot spurts, leaving the grass long is alright really. Very Spring/Summer 2012.

If really you have to have your grass perfectly groomed, then borrow a teenager (if you don’t have one to hand

18 | SE21 - May 2012

at home) or look for

local labour on the East Dulwich Forum to give you a hand when you just don’t have the time to do the weekly mowing that’s required in the Summer months.

4) It’s not because you have some green plastic floor in your garden that your children are going to want to get out to play in the garden. If they feel like kicking the ball or running around you need a large garden. Indeed if you don’t have a minimum of 8M x 8m of free space, your children will feel constrained and will still ask to go to the park to kick a ball. If the weather is miserable, a perfectly green patch outside will not suffice to entice them into the garden.

3) You have a shady garden where real grass won’t grow.

Again don’t expect that faking grass will suddenly bring sun into your garden. If you have a sun deprived garden, it’s best to go with it and plant it with shade-loving plants, loads of white flowering perennials and shrubs. By giving it a woodlandy and mysterious feel, the garden will by far be more enticing than faking a sunny aspect.

I agree that fake grass has changed a lot. It’s not as obvious as it used to. It still looks fake though. I can spot it from a mile. Always looks out of place and glimmers in the sun the way only plastic does.

And anyway like everything else in life, if you’re faking it, it doesn’t really matter whether other people are duped or not, you know it’s fake and deep down will always end up feeling like a cheat… and longing for the real thing!

Barbara Samitier is a garden designer who lives in East Dulwich. @SamitierGardens

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