Life in gardens: sowing

Gardeners at the 1936 White Hse., Library of Congress“Grounds workers at White House, Washington, D.C.,” March 1936, by Harris & Ewing, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. (You can click on the photo to enlarge it.)

The National Park Service has maintained the White House gardens since 1933.

. . . [W]hile lawns are cultural (in the sense that they are meaning-laden), they are not the product of some pre-existing “culture,” and are instead the meaningful expression of political and economic forces. . . . Lawns are propelled into the landscape both by economic imperatives (e.g., real estate growth) and also by intentional and thoughtful efforts to produce certain kinds of subjects. Lawns are a strategy, therefore, both for capital accumulation and making docile and responsible citizens.

— Paul Robbins, from Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are (p. 32)

2 thoughts on “Life in gardens: sowing

  1. I never thought of lawns this way before, but if you consider the way tidy suburban people freak out when their neighbors don’t keep their lawns mowed (or the way I myself bristle when people leave rusting machinery in their hedgerows), it begins to sound true. I just finished reading Charles Mann’s 1493, in which he mentions the giant lawns around southern US plantation houses as a tool to keep malaria- and yellow-fever-ridden mosquitos out of the family quarters, which adds an interesting pragmatic element to the lawn-as-instrument-of-the-dominant-culture argument.

    1. Sometimes grass just is the best solution — especially if you allow for a less than perfect look that doesn’t need chemical support.

      1493 looks very interesting. It’s on my “to read” list.

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