Monday, December 11, 2006

Urban vs. suburban and the politics of lawns

Here in the Buffalo blogosphere, there are a couple of flame wars still simmering on the subject of urban vs. suburban living. It’s become a common occurrence, ever since a passionate group of city-dwellers started posting on the site Buffalo Rising Online. In their paeans to the beauty of urban life, they have often been unable to resist a crack or two at the suburbanites’ expense. But many of the people who love Buffalo and read BRO happen to live in the suburbs—hence the flames.

And what does this have to do with gardening, you may ask? For me, one of the major aspects of suburban living is the maintenance of an emerald green lawn. Sure, city folks have them too, but they’re smaller and seem rather a perfunctory part of the domestic landscape. Most of my urban friends who have lawns treat them nuisances that receive occasional mowing and little else, as their perennial gardens take over more and more of what was once lawn space. And on Garden Walk, I constantly hear from suburbanites that I have way more perennials and annuals than they do. So I have to assume that—given their much larger acreage—instead of planted areas, they have lawns. (Or concrete, but grass seems more likely.)

I like the look of a big, well-kept lawn, though I don’t think I’d choose one for myself. I hate the look of a small, scraggly lawn, as the city lawns often are. I don’t condemn those who do whatever is necessary to maintain their lawns, though it may often involve chemicals, polluting powermowers, etc. That’s their choice. (I hope that events like Garden Walk demonstrate the other choices that are available.) But it’s only in the suburbs that you hear of pressure being brought to bear on neighbors who let their lawns go. (Years ago, a Kenmore man received death threats when he tried to grow a wildflower garden in his front yard. This past summer, a Tonawanda man was forced to cut down the sunflowers by his mailbox.) In the city, we look with pity upon neighbors trying desperately to keep their grass alive, but don’t really care much whether they succeed or not. Some of us mow the lawns of absentee landlords as a civic duty.

That’s my perception anyway. There is definitely an urban/suburban dichotomy in the world of gardening, some of it logical, some not so much.


Joe said...

Hey, just surfed in but thats an interesting article.

Nelumbo said...

Totally true that the "homeowners association" can encourage lack of creativity in the suburbs. One friend said she can't plan a tree without permission!

cityfarmer said...

We just took down a tree that will allow full sun in my once shady backyard...I simply cannot wait til spring...all I've been able to groa back there was hosta.