Will civic center be as popular as Astroturf? We can only hope.


Silverspring astroturf
There once was a half city block in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland that was everyone's favorite place to hang out with the family.  Toddlers ran around, teenagers flirted loudly.  All that, and no danger of grass stains or those annoying insects – coz it was covered with artificial turf. 

And its very popularity annoyed the crap out of actual landscape architects, as evidenced by the long and numerous stories about the dire situation in Landscape Architecture Magazine.  Lots of regular gardeners were annoyed too, and horrified by the public's loudly proclaimed preference for the fake. 

The gathering spot came to be called the "Silver Spring Lawn" and its popularity grew til it was abruptly turned into a construction site – for the city's new Civic Center, a rendering of which you see here.  The outdoor space will be a skating rink that'll be used for concerts the rest of the year, plus lots of seating and unspecified landscaping around it all, with plants that will presumably be real. 

I learned all about the civic center – indoors and out – because it was my assigned subject for a film production workshop I enrolled in over the winter.  (The back story about the workshop and my attempts to do videos is all here.) Each film team was also assigned an interviewee, and ours was a county employee in charge of promoting the project.  Film students and filmgoers, just imagine our eagerness to film a blizzard-battered construction site and a bureaucrat.  But with access to photos of the cool spots in Chicago, New York, Toronto that inspired the architect for this project, and infectious music found by my very cool co-director, we were happy with the result.  And boy howdy, so was our interviewee, who's now using our three minutes of video to build excitement for the project's grand opening.  All good, but I still want to see the landscape design, which doesn't exist yet.  Hope it wasn't a victim of "value engineering".   

To see the video and a photo of the film production class and our teachers, click here.

The State of Gardening Videos Today

As much fun as the production workshop was, it wasn't cheap and the goal was to improve my garden and gardening videos, which up til now have been amateurish in the extreme (though about average for garden videos, I'd say).  But that's my mini-rant; what do YOU think of gardening videos you're suddenly seeing everywhere?  And what would you LIKE to see that isn't now available?

Next up for me is filming the first of hopefully many short tours of DC's awesome public gardens.  Maybe I'll wait til after all the spring hoopla is over, though, because everyone already knows we have blooms now.  Wowing people with DC's gardens in August would be much more fun.

Astroturf photo by M.
V. Jantzen


  1. I like to see beautiful gardens. Not how-tos, just plant porn and flower porn with soft bird twitters in the back ground. I miss ‘Gardener’s Diary’, which for all it’s flaws delivered on the sense and feeling of what it was like to be in this or that gorgeous garden.

    So sad about the loss of the fake lawn. A fake lawn that is used and loved is a far better community resource than a real one that sits behind a fence.

  2. Astro grass works as the next best carpet under garden furniture that is outside without a weed & feed lawn. Cool options.

  3. I guess it all depends on the installation but I remember seeing a report of weeds growing up through the fake turf in some of those upscale home designs. You ain’t weeded til you pull nutsedge up through multi layers of plastic. Goes to show that nothing is the cure-all that it seems to be and that nothing is sacred – you know, the pulling out the beloved park and building a civic center instead thingy.

  4. Artificial turf gets very hot. In a publi area natural lawns are the way to go. They filter rain runoff better than the stupid rain garden trend currently making the rounds.

    As for the videos….it’s okay to be hokey as long as the idea is true. Unlike the moronic video saying babay diapers in the bottom of a planter make for a good self watering device


  5. Hey Troll, I agree with you about natural lawns composed of grasses and other plants filter water better than astro turf, but rain gardens or bioswales are constructed to collect water and do absorb water more effectively than a flat lawn. Look at the physics of it.
    Sequestering more rainwater on our propterties reduces water pollution.

  6. I like the videos of beautiful gardens, too. The best I’ve seen is the Gardens Of The World series hosted by Audrey Hepburn. It’s also cool to see interviews with rock star gardeners like Rosemary Verey and Piet Oudolf. I don’t care as much about practical advice. I just watch the videos during the winter to tide me over until spring.

  7. To Ginny:
    i am sure rain gardens function well. The problem is they are being passed off as if evryone should build one instead of using rain barrels. They are awesome i areas where storm water collects from large parking lots etc. But for the average back yard? Not in my opinion. We have people in our property owners association wanting to build rain gardens everywhere. Even in places where there is no significant runoff.

    The TROLL

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