BOOK REVIEW: Lawn Gone!

Peni_Lawn Gone I LOVE THIS BOOK, but not because I needed convincing that the American lawn habit is an environmental disaster — a $40 billion dollar industry, writes Pam Penick, an Austin, Texas-based garden designer and blogger in Lawn Gone! Low Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard (Ten Speed Press). American lawns consume 300 million gallons of gas annually, and 70 million pounds of chemicals that do no favors for our water supplies. And it’s pretty much all for “show” (who uses their lawns, especially front lawns, anyway?)

No, the main reason I love this book is that the projects in it look accessible. Most garden books are so ‘aspirational’ they cause me to despair, along the lines of ‘I could never do/afford that!‘ Not so here. Check out the home-made patchwork path, below. I see  that photo and think, “Yeah! I could do something like that…this weekend!” It’s creative and casual, as are many of the gardens shown in the book.

LAWN patchwork path image p 92_Pam Penick

Photo: Pam Penick

There are other, more personal reasons for my lawn aversion, and that’s the maintenance involved. I don’t have a mower, or a partner to wield one, and I’m not a fan of loud noise (memories of having to clap our hands over our ears while Dad mowed our quarter-acre on a Saturday afternoon). Also, I recently bought a property on Long Island where a lawn would never grow — it’s wooded and shady, filled with tree roots, and the terrain is uneven. So why bother? Not gonna.

LAWN Moss Garden image p 39

Photo: Moss and Stone Gardens

Penick suggests practical, easy-care plants to substitute for lawn in all parts of the country. Though many of the photos seem to be from Texas and California, the concepts travel — ornamental grasses, ground covers in various colors and textures, expanses of mulch and gravel in lieu of plantings. And there is a hefty section of regional plant recommendations. The book even suggests ways of dealing with homeowner’s association rules and skeptical neighbors, who still regard a greensward plus foundation plantings as the way to go.

LAWN Opening photo chapter 5 p 48

Photo: Michelle Dervis

Yay for Lawn Gone!, a book for people who want more than a monoculture.

Photos reprinted with permission from Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard by Pam Penick (Ten Speed Press, © 2013)

About cara

I blog for fun here at casaCARA, and write about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites. My recently published posts and articles can be found here: https://casacara.wordpress.com/recent-articles/
This entry was posted in BOOK REVIEW, GARDENS & GARDENING, LANDSCAPING and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to BOOK REVIEW: Lawn Gone!

  1. Mary-Liz says:

    Had to laugh/cry when I received this. I am helping a friend whose house is for sale & not selling in part because a large portion of it is woods and wetland (with a pond) and people want GRASS so their kids can play and where they can put up a swing set. Where I grew up playing in the woods was the most fun!!

    xxx

    Mary-Liz

    Mary-Liz Campbell Landscape Design http://www.marylizcampbell.com

  2. cara says:

    True, ML, that’s who uses lawns: people with kids. And yes, playing in the woods was more fun than running around on the lawn.

  3. stephinny says:

    I’d like that, but how would I begin to transition an acre into a simpler, healthier piece of land? The thought overwhelms me. But now I’m thinking about all the money I’d save by not mowing, fertilizing and irrigating. I’d be rich.

  4. cara says:

    S, I love your lawn. Your lawn is a work of art. I forgot about your lawn when I was saying mean things about lawns.

  5. DianeEH-NC-EH says:

    Hey Cara, Thanks for another helpful review. I enjoy receiving all of your messages! Re. this one: curious as to why you made an exception when it comes to “stephinny’s” lawn. Is it one you’ve seen and “loved”, or are you being facetious?

  6. cara says:

    Not being facetious, Diane. Stephanie’s back lawn in East Hampton, surrounded by perennial beds and studded with towering trees, is a thing of great beauty. Not low-maintenance though ;-)

  7. Pam/Digging says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful review of my book, Cara. I’m so glad you found inspiration in it! I wanted to respond to the comment thread about kids needing a lawn. I just wrote a guest post at Garden Rant about how kids actually love non-lawn yards and gardens waaaay more than lawn. Many commenters shared their own childhood memories of play, of playing in woods, on rocks, in meadows, splashing in little ponds, etc. No one had fond memories of lawn! If you or your readers are interested, here’s the link: http://gardenrant.com/2013/08/want-your-kids-to-play-outside-rip-out-the-lawn.html . Thanks again!

  8. cara says:

    Pam, great to hear from you! Brilliant rant! I’ll make sure the woman who thinks her house isn’t selling because it has no lawn sees this link– maybe she can print it out and give it to prospective buyers! Seems to be a fond fantasy of parents that a flat patch of green will make kids to go out and play, when they’re more likely to glance at it, yawn, and turn back to the computer.

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