Written by Gene Caballero on February 17, 2016
The History of Lawns in a brief article...
As we begin the year 2016 many folks face strange perhaps even unique circumstances in their lives. One of the biggest challenges to those in drought areas like California, Arizona, Nevada and other parts of America as well as the rest of the world, is water. And basically, you can only get it two ways; rain and a ground well. No, you can't use ocean water due to the salt content. What this means is that plants, trees and especially lawns will be, or already are, on many "hit lists." That said, when you stop to think about it, the question before the house of common sense is why do we need lawns and where did it initially come from?
Well, some scientists firmly believe that in early days of this world; think tens of thousands of years ago, in Africa our ancestors stayed fit and healthy by chasing and being chased by huge wild animals. Yet, even in that time frame era, the grass was so tall and large that hunters could easily hide from their prey from a long distance without being discovered in order to sneak up on the animals. On the other hand, some historians have the belief that the desire for lawns was so intense, that in the 17th century in Europe, the ruling class flaunted their personal wealth by merely surrounding themselves with lawns. Cleverly, these green as grass lawns were perfect for showing off castles and manor homes that could be used as a playground, rather than a source of food. Ergo, the lawn became one of the first status symbols.
In the early days prior to 1650 many countries, including America, were flooded with immigrants from Northern Europe and guess what they brought with them? Yep, GRASS SEEDS! This product was so valuable they were hand-carried and wrapped in small bundles or put in crates along with other imported goods they needed. Actually, in the eastern parts of America, it wasn't long before golf and other outdoor games could be played on grass. Games like lawn bowling or bowls, once popular in England and Scotland where Robin Hood hung his hat and originally invented in the fourteenth century, became a smash hit in this country. Lawn greens were cultivated in Virginia and Boston around the 16th century where it became fashionable to name a town or city by inserting the word "green" - like the city of Bowling Green.
Here in the United States, many of the early colonists were far too busy with fighting wars and other problems to be bothered with something as time-consuming as a useless green lawn. They chose to use their lawns as a cottage garden with edible plants and medicinal plants. But at some period in the 1800s, Americans began to wise-up about the benefits of grass and lawns after looking at newspaper pictures in Europe suggesting what a simple green lawn could provide to a beautiful home. Of course, at first only the wealthy could afford the labor it took to maintain a lawn. But once the push lawn-mower was invented n 1870, all of a sudden most any property owner with a home wanted a green lawn.
Due to the fact that many parts of America and the world have problems with drought the evolution of turfgrass entered the "lawn" picture. After some lengthy trial-and-error approaches, the development of turfgrass became a valuable and functional asset for sports, recreational, and ornamental uses. However, back in the 12th and 13th centuries the word turf or turfgrass was unknown. That is until some bright farmer came up with the word itself after viewing his sheep and other livestock grazing on a daily basis. Yes, the hand scythes worked like a charm, but you can thank this farmer for coming up with the turfgrass scenario.
Note: In paintings from the European Renaissance period from the 15th century you can easily see turfgrass within the private ornamental lawns and public park spaces back in those days. If nothing else, the lawn and beautiful grasses we see around us day in and day out, have effectively functioned in protecting our environment and will probably continue on for many centuries.
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