Monday 10 October 2011


Lawns have featured in Persian, Roman and Greek gardens for thousands of years.  The first detailed documentation dates back to 1300 AD from the continental manuscripts. All documentation from this time is derived from continental sources as British records do not exist. Italy and France lead the way with their grand gardens.

Details the medieval lawn are outlined in these manuscripts. To create a lawn, the site was cleared of all weeds and boiling water applied to the soil to sterilise the ground.  Turves were cut from good grassland and tamped down on level earth. Medieval lawns did not  solely consist of grass species but were interwoven with pinks, periwinkles, primroses and other plants to create a flowery mead.

The English lawn started within the walls of a castle, designed to provide a seating area where people could meet. The area included games such as bowls and pell-mell.  Outside the castle walls, Monastery gardens featured lawns within the cloisters.

During Tudor times the garden was a placed to be admired and adored.  Long grassy pathways were constructed and plats creates for bowls and other games.

The Jacobean age in 1610 featured the close cut lawn we associate with British gardens today.  Books advising on lawn maintenance appeared. 

British lawns during the 17th century were cut twice a month, rather than twice a year as carried out overseas.  This meant that the short, British lawns were the envy of foreign visitors.

During the 18th century the landscape garden was created, with Capability Brown leading the way.  Lawns were rolled and scythed regularly, trees planted and lakes created. 

The Victorian lawn in the 19th century belonged to the smaller villa gardens.  Gardens were filled with beds, terraces and statues.

Lawns required specialist maintenance and were expensive to maintain and so had no place in ordinary peoples gardens. They were maintained by methods such as scything, grazing by animals or beating down to suppress growth. Scything was hard work which required a dedicated team.  The lawn was rolled a few days prior to scything, a team was required to scythe the grass together and after cutting the clippings were gathered up and disposed.

The cylinder mower was invented in 1830 by Edwin Budding and Ransoms' went into production with this mower in 1832.  Suddenly, keeping grass short was a much quicker and less skilled task.  The first horse drawn mower appeared in 1842 and the steam mower in 1893. Petrol mowers were in use in the 20th century, followed by electric mowers in the 1960s.

Research into grass species, chemical use and machinery production continue and innovations are still evolving. The British are still very proud of their lawns, whatever size, and I don’t think that will cease for a while yet.

For related articles click onto:
Feeding plants
Garden sheds

Grass maintenance - laying turf
Grass maintenance - sowing a lawn from seed
History of the lawn

How to build a cold frame
How to make compost

How to propagate using division
How to grow a lawn from seed
Non-grass lawns
Paths - Brick paving
Preparing a seed bed

Lawn care
Laying concrete

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