Not long ago, people used their land to produce food: to grow crops and graze livestock. In the 1800s, European aristocrats began amassing enough land that they could produce all that was needed for their households and still have space left over. In order to make the extra land – and, by extension, their wealth and status – more visible, they began devoting portions of their property to mown grass.
Mown grass, and its associations with wealth and status, was brought to the United States in the 1950s as a landscaping choice for the newly-developed suburbs, where it was also used as a means of enforcing conformity. Many people today still choose to maintain much of their property as turf grass.
Over the past decades, an increasing number of people have chosen to give up the image of status in favor of having a natural yard, that is, landscaping that resembles, and functions like, a natural area. This choice may be based on an awareness of the environmental and health benefits of natural landscapes, or the homeowner may simply prefer the aesthetics of a yard that changes with the seasons.
It is easy to think of reasons – especially negative reasons – why someone might be doing something we wouldn’t do ourselves, but the only way to know the real reason is to ask. Most people, whatever their landscaping practice, are proud of their yard and happy to talk about it.
This video series – about thirty minutes in total – provides a fair and accessible overview of the history of landscaping choices, the little-known risks associated with turf grass, and the myths regarding hazards posed by natural yards. Takeaway: Neighbors are free to dislike each other’s landscaping choices, but there is no grounds to force a neighbor to abandon their practice.