A lawn controversy that will not go quietly


Truly—I did NOT expect to see any more press on Jean’s garden, so I was pleasantly surprised when I read Buffalo News nature writer Gerry Rising’s column this am. Here’s an excerpt:

I must insert here that I hate lawns. They represent the worst of monocultures with all their attendant problems and they have taken over our lives — or in my family, my wife’s life. Consider just one aspect of our overdevotion to them: How many billions of tax dollars would we save if, instead of maintaining those extensive expressway lawns, we quit mowing them, only bushhogging once or twice a year to control shrubbery growth?

You go, Gerry. Rising is a nature expert whose columns are archived on the University at Buffalo’s website; I go to them often to research wild plants and birds and I read his columns on wilderness areas and other nature-related topics with pleasure every week. Rising actually drove up and down Jean’s street after he heard about this and couldn’t figure out what garden might be a problem—they all looked “normal” to him.

Unlike the News’s reporters, he kindly mentions Garden Rant and me in his columm. Because, I THINK, I am editor of another local print publication that, I suppose, competes for advertising, the other articles only referred obliquely to “blogs” if they said anything at all. But the main reason I like Rising’s take is that he focuses on the politics of lawns and not local politicians, which, unfortunately, took too much of the spotlight in the other coverage.

Thank you, Gerry!

P.S.: Sorry guys, he does refer to me as running GR alone. Yikes.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. “instead of maintaining those extensive expressway lawns, we quit mowing them, only bushhogging once or twice a year to control shrubbery growth?” This will probably happen as gas prices continue to rise and taxes don’t so state and local governments are going to have to cut costs somewhere. Not mowing will save on labor costs, too, course, what do the guys who plow snow do in the summer but mow grass?

    “I must insert here that I hate lawns.”

    I am not a card carrying lawn lover or lawn hater. I am always confused as to how lawn costs more than a flower bed or shrub border in terms of time and cash. My home had an established lawn when we bought it. Maybe since we are not aiming for a putting green is why our lawn is way less time and dollars than the flower beds, the ground cover, the shrubs and trees. Husband mows and now that he has a gas powered edger, he edges. Lawn takes 30 to 45 minutes to mow. Once late summer hits, about every 10 days. He alternates between mulching it and dumping clippings on my compost pile. Meanwhile, I spend as many hours as I can squeeze in on the rest of the garden to keep it weeded, deadheaded, edged pruned, and tweaked. Which I like, ok love doing. Lots of folks do not like this type of work. I get filthy dirty. Spouse breaks a sweat mowing, but does not have twigs in his hair, dirt grimed hands, scratches ets.

    For people who are not gardners, grass is less maintenance and less inexpensive (again unless they want the putting green) than other types of plantings. Can we focus on getting people to like a blended lawn, a longer lawn instead of the all lawn or no lawn? At least in the part of the country where grass is a natural occuring plant.

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