British lawns are rapidly reducing, with homeowners opting to deck or pave their gardens instead. So what’s the reason behind the disappearance – lack of knowledge, time – or just plain laziness?
A couple of weeks ago I was invited around to a friend’s new garden flat in south London.
I was rather surprised to find that the ‘garden’ was entirely made up of some slippery decking with gravel around its edge. There wasn’t a plant in sight.
Gardens turn from green to grey
If a recent survey is anything to go by, my friend’s new garden is not unusual. The London Wildlife Trust has revealed that London is slowly turning from green to grey. Hard surfacing in gardens – including decking and paving – has increased by over 25% over eight years. That’s an equivalent of two-and-a-half Hyde Parks per year.
And it looks like this trend isn’t confined to London. According to the lawn care company, Green Thumb, an estimated half a million lawns have been lost in the UK in the last 25 years to make way for decking and for off-street parking for cars.
The London Wildlife Trust says that gardens are essential for wildlife and urban drainage, and the importance of gardens is something that even the government recognises. Since 2008 anyone wanting to pave over more than five square meters of their front garden must get planning permission, unless they use permeable materials such as gravel or porous asphalt.
Are we too lazy to look after our lawns?
Is it because decking is still perceived as being contemporary and trendy – a hangover from the Ground Force days in the Nineties? Or is it because we just can’t be bothered to garden, and paving and decking are the ultimate low-maintenance options?
A clue may be found in the Horticultural Trades Association’s 2011 Garden Intentions survey. It found that many younger consumers claim that they ‘don’t have enough time to spend looking after their gardens’ despite their aspirations to use them more for socialising and entertaining.
This is a point that Colin Crosbie, Curator of RHS Garden Wisley, spoke about on Radio 4’s Today programme this week:
‘Lawns are an important part of the garden. We need them to be able to sit somewhere and enjoy our flowers and barbeques. And they needn’t be as high maintenance as people think. We are concerned with the trend to pave over lawns. We need to look at this development very carefully.’
And I think Alan Titchmarsh has a point too. He recently told Amateur Gardening magazine that he thinks some people are a ‘bit scared’ of their gardens and believe there is a ‘mystique’ around the growing of plants. So maybe that’s why they’re slowly disappearing?