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Green lawns, but no sheep, please


In addition to providing good advice for taking care of your lawn, the Barrister at Maggie's Farm made the eccentric observation that "The American lawn is more-or-less designed to imitate the smooth effect of a sheep-grazed pasture on an English country estate".

English garden design did influence America's big and wonderful public parks and some estates. I doubt they were thinking of sheep, though, because any lawn where sheep grazed would have been loaded with sheep droppings, as I once learned to my chagrin. (No ha-ha there!) It was Edwin Budding who was the real inspiration and creator of English and American lawns.

Budding was a textile engineer working around the time that Michael Faraday was inventing the electric generator and George Green was developing the innovative mathematical theories that would prove vital to modern industry. Budding, however, had less grand ideas in mind. Eleanor Perenyi says that he “noted a resemblance, which might only have occurred to an Englishman, between the pile on fabric and the velvety pile of grass."

Up to this time, grass was grazed or allowed to grow feet tall before being scythed. In 1831 Budding invented the reel mower to cut grass so it looked like velvet.

Pushed by hand, Budding's lawn mower put the grass lawn into play. The seductive sward attracted nets, hoops, racquets and mallets - and men and women playing lawn tennis, badminton, and croquet.

The mower's lovely whirring was one of the sounds of summer.

Of course it won't work if the blades are dull, your grass gets any longer than 6 inches, or it's wet, but the mower is ecologically neutral, and it will always start. And that's something.

No vast lawns for me, just a small emerald lozenge that I can cut while drinking lemonade. . .