Splendors in the grass

"Lawnscapes: Mowing Patterns To Make Your Yard a Work of Art" by David Parfitt (Quirk, 2007, $14.95).

If you think the most fun aspect of this neat little 79-page book is its tufty green front cover, you are only partly right.

Inside, illustrations show an impressive variety of fancy patterns, ranging from regimented stripes to complex intertwined curves, that could be traced across your very own patch of greensward. They make the book entrancing armchair reading.

That leaves the question: Do you actually want to get out of your armchair? Making your lawn into art calls for planning, puzzling and a fair amount of physical labor. Is it worth it?

Clearly, Parfitt's answer is yes, and he has no history of lawn expertise. "As much as I would love to say that I come from a long line of groundsmen at Wimbledon, I can't," he said in an exchange of e-mails.

Parfitt, who lives in Brighton, England, describes himself as a sculptor, "with a particular interest in unconventional materials, and creative approaches to commonplace activities." He's worked with stone and ice, water and light. He did a previous book about unconventional treehouses; lawnscaping seemed "an amazingly simple opportunity to create unexpected effects in a familiar setting. I couldn't resist it."

His projects are concerned with public space in its widest sense, while inviting people to think of creativity as a process they have every right to. "Both art and the environment make so much more sense as a participant rather than a consumer," he said encouragingly.

And so to practicing art on your own lawn.

How exactly does it work?

Directional mowing makes the patterns. Parfitt made clear that the act of cutting itself makes absolutely no difference — it's the flattening that matters. "The part of the mower that makes the most noticeable stripes is the roller. A roller by itself makes as good a stripe as a mower," he said.

Most lawns are fairly large expanses, Parfitt pointed out, so a machine is a good way of covering large areas.

"For absolute control and precision perhaps the best tool is a broom, but to do a whole lawn with a broom would be similar to cutting the grass with toenail clippers; save it for the detail."

David Parfitt's Web site:


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