August 14, 2006

Lush lawn : scenes from a croquet game

Note: This post was edited on Jan. 20, 2007. Hotlinked image(s) were removed. Follow the link(s) to the image location(s).
Anyone who has every played croquet or soccer on it or laid a blanket over it to listen to a summer concert or watch fireworks has no need to ask why Americans love the lawn. Redesigning the American Lawn, Bormann, Balmori, Geballe, 2001, p. 8. The lawn is a very fine place for croquet. The game of croquet originated in France and was popularized in Britain. Like many things British, croquet has been embraced by Americans; see the United States Croquet Association. But, Bormann et al. point out that the industrial lawn has numerous environmental and physiological costs. Also, the fiscal costs to the individual household is substantial. From a North Carolina lawn care survey, the authors estimate that on average, a North Carolina household spends $407 annually, which is two times the national average. Bormann, Balmori, and Geballe identify three types of lawn : industrial (ongoing maintenance of a weed-free, low-cut, monoculture greensward), freedom (tolerant of air-born seeds of dandelion, brown-eyed Susan, clovers, and numerous herbs, shrubs, and trees but uses mowing to maintain a single layer), meadow (openly permissive of air-born plant species and does not purposefully cultivate traditional grass species). The meadow is thus a more complex, diverse ecosystem with the least hydrological, social, and management costs. Can you play croquet on a meadow? The Tennis Party (Sir John Lavery 1885) is illustrative of the relationship between lawn games and middle-class suburban life. Suburban landscapes are also intimately tied to the lawn, especially the industrial lawn. But, the lawn in the painting looks like a meadow to me. The game being played is tennis but perhaps it is possible to play croquet. I'll let you know.

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