Sunday, November 15, 2009


It was a lovely, mild afternoon so I went for a walk on Wandsworth Common today. To get to the common, you go down the street at the end of our road, turn right and then down a footpath that leads along the back of the very grand Victorian mansions that back on to the common itself.
These are imposing red-brick properties, costing millions, and bristling with turrets and twiddly bits. It's more or less impossible to walk past a row of prime London real-estate without seeing some sort of "improvement" going on, even during the credit crunch, so I wasn't too surprised when I saw the back gate to one of these houses was open, and a couple of men were laying a new lawn in the large garden.
I'd nearly walked past when, having given it a moment's thought, it struck me that it was an odd time of year to lay turf. I looked again and noticed that there were some offcuts of turf lying by the back gate. I took a third look and realised that the "turf" had what looked like a rubber backing.
Maybe they were laying a bit of fake turf in a very shady area, I thought. Maybe they were constructing a place to hide the rubbish bins and were using fake turf to disguise it. I carried on with my walk.
On the way back, I noticed the men were laying paving slabs as stepping stones through the lawn. I could see one of them mark out the area where a slab was going. Then he took a sharp knife and cut out a neat rectangle, throwing it on the discarded offcuts of artificial grass.
"I'm sorry to bother you," I said, "but are you laying fake turf?" He looked at me as if I was mad. "Yes," he said. "Over the whole garden?" I queried. "Yes, of course," he said, rolling his eyes at his mate, who shrugged in a kind of "there's always one" sort of way.
What happens when it rains? Is the rubber backing permeable? And how do you sweep up leaves? (With a blower, I'll bet.) Or do you have artificial trees as well? And doesn't it come as a huge disappointment to blackbirds and robins? And what happens if anyone drops a cigarette on it? Does anyone else think I'm mad to think this is a bonkers idea?


Julia said...

In my short-lived career as a gardener, one of my clients had a fake lawn. It also had two fixed football goals at either end, so had clearly been put down so Tarquin and Giles could play football without getting their expensive designer clothes muddy (although I suspect even the mud in Little Venice is posh).

And yes, we swept up leaves with a blower. It was miserable.

Ms B said...

Aah, but you don't even sweep up leaves with a blower, you just blow them out of your expensive oasis for the council to deal with!

Grace Peterson said...

Hi Victoria~~ You're hillarious. I have to admit there are times when I've toyed with the idea of fake grass or even spray paint to liven my pathetic attempts at turf management. But common sense always wins out, thank God. It's too bad the owners didn't have the wherewithal to replant the area with wildlife-loving shrubs and trees. But that wouldn't be "perfect" with those pesky leaves and birds and bugs--eeewww! I guess if perfect is what you're going for, a fake lawn is the right idea.

Lucy Corrander said...

Never having met a fake lawn before, questions of drainage and leaves have not troubled me. (Never thought about it!) Sound like good points though.

But after initial taken-abackness, I'm torn. I'm thinking I might prefer a pretend lawn, laid by people who know they wouldn't be able to look after it properly . . . to a badly laid turf lawn, all bumpy and lumpy and dieing in squares.

For non-gardeners to know their limitations may (perhaps?) be a virtue.


patientgardener said...

Presumably you would have a special fake law hoover for the leaves.

It is a sad day when people have fake lawns but I suppose it is their loss not ours

nancybond said...

I'm sure it does come as a disappointment to blackbirds and robins. :( I can't get my head around it -- fake grass, for the sake of perfecting the landscape? To each, his own, I guess. :)

Teza said...

Methinks this venture of theirs will turn into a book on low maintenance gardening! I simply cannot find the space in my brain to comprehend what they were possibly thinking!

Ryan said...

Hi Victoria!

It could be a lot worse! There is a house near to a client of mine, in quite a nice area, and they have slabbed their front garden. To make matters worse they have attempted to paint the slabs green in an attempt to create a fake lawn! Absolutely hideous!

I love the fact you were snubbed for asking such an obvious question as if you had completely lost your touch on reality.

Oh well, each to their own!


Rob said...

Wish I had a fake lawn - not that there's much of it left these days!

I was laying turf last week as it happens. I think you can lay turf at any time of year as long as it is not really frosty or hot and dry.

Susan Tomlinson said...

Um, yeah. I'm not getting the whole fake grass thing. Why have a lawn at all if it is plastic?

Gary said...

Hi Victoria,

I actually know someone who has put down a fake lawn, he lives in Milton Keynes so I suppose it can be grazed by the concrete cows. He told me it is very good and you can get it with stripes, I said yes very nice keep taking the tablets!

Darla said...

I find this dreadful!

petoskystone said...

it's a gross idea. wouldn't care to even walk on such a thing-if the drainage is poor, does this lead to mold problems? & what kind of fumes does a fake lawn give off in the heat?

Helen said...

While I would never do this myself, there's a small artificial (okay, fake) lawn in front of a house I walk by frequently, and you have to get very, very close before you notice it isn't real. For fanatics of the Perfect Lawn, I'd rather have them lay a green rug than slather it with pesticides and weed killer. But, as I said, IWNDTM.

Deborah Elliott said...

Bonkers, yes! I bet it will start to fade and show wear and soon will look terrible. I can see artificial grass on a putt-putt course, and that's about it.

Jim Groble said...

Hilarious. Maybe the leaves are fake , or at least glued on, so who's going to need to rake?

Joanne said...

Good for you speaking out.

When i go to Wisley there is a small garden with this laid down and I have to try and pretend not to see it. It does offend me so.

I never expected it to catch on but guess there's always someone sucked in.

Poor wildlife.

Randy Emmitt said...

Oh my gosh! Bet there are more fake lawns that we think there is.

People these days don't know what dirt is you know. Meg did the natural fort building seminar recently, one person had never been in the dirt before and she was in her 40s. The first day she was terrified, the second day she jumped right in.