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A Viable Alternative to Conventional Lawn? Cornell May Have Found One

The New York TImes: “It’s a grail of contemporary horticulture, a subject of inquiry for scientists and landscape designers alike: how to reinvent the estimated 40 million acres of lawn in the United States, shifting the emphasis toward native plants. The promise? Less environmental damage and more biodiversity. Because traditional lawn care is, at its essence, a perpetual fight against biodiversity, a war conducted with mower blades and chemicals. All of the numbers — the gallons of water wasted, the tons of pollution generated — tell us to stop. But what should replace all of that mowed grass? The answer is not easy…At Cornell Botanic Gardens, in Ithaca, N.Y., Todd Bittner, a plant ecologist, and his colleagues took up the question almost 15 years ago, in a quarter-acre research project known as the native lawn demonstration area. The goal is to identify species that provide “acceptable aesthetics” and can “tolerate moderate trampling,” Mr. Bittner said, but that, in every other way, differ from the various fescues, perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass that have been the mainstays of conventional lawns…” [Lawns have been replaced, on large, medium and small scales, by residents around the country. I have had no lawn for over 13 years, in a shade environment. Full sun affords more options. But overall, no pesticides, more wildlife, insects, birds and bees, a greater connection to the ground are just some of the benefits. Another is the opportunity to have a variety of plants that bloom throughout the course of a year in a range of zones. I never thought I could grow fig trees, pawpaw trees, and dozens of hydrangea, along with sedge, large and small trees and native shrubs, and dig and sustain a small pond [the goldfish were donated to me and the frogs joined them. They all hibernate together in the leaves.]

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