Lawns in the landscape have undergone many transformations over the centuries, each change being influenced by the affluence or austerity of the time, movements of cultures around the globe and technological and biological developments.

Each development also conjures up images. Whether it be the romantic scene of a couple wandering through a meadow grass field; children rolling on a lush lawn with their puppy; or tough footballers tackling each other for procession and dominance of a game: the lawn is part of most Australians experience.

A lawn is a practical solution to many issues faced by a property owner. It provides an aesthetically pleasing form of erosion control, trapping silt and other water borne particles while improving the quality of run off water. At the same time it allows for absorption of rainwater into the soil, reducing run off.

Lawns are considerably cooler than other landscaping surfaces and when used in conjunction with shrub and tree planting, can reduce the overall temperature around the home.

Of course, lawns are very pleasant to walk, play and lay on. They have a calming effect, something many of us seek. Lawns can provide a buffer zone between garden beds and many other amenities in the garden such as driveways, buildings, and swimming pools.

With the right selection of grass types, lawns can be relatively easy to maintain. Earlier lawn grasses, mostly derived from the cooler, moister regions of the world provided us with a soft, emerald wonderland at the expense of a heavy watering schedule. This has lead to the belief that a healthy lawn requires high water use.

Research and breeding programs have developed cultivars which require less frequent mowing and no or minimal additional water while still remaining green during normal dry periods. Even after extended dry periods, certain species spring back to life rapidly.

For a new take on lawns in the landscape, synthetic turf has enjoyed renewed popularity due to the recent drought and certainly has its place. Modern synthetic turf comes in a variety of grass styles with varying leaf colour and sizes to give a natural look. It is great around pools and in small courtyards where mowing is too messy or impractical. While it is expensive to establish, it does have the benefit of requiring minimal maintenance. Synthetic turf, however, provides a hotter surface than natural turf and can require watering on hot days to offset this.

In my next article, I will discuss some of the practical aspects of lawn maintenance and turf selection.