Lawn is a noun and means an area of short, mown grass. ‘Lawned,’ an adjective, is a gloriously interesting derivative. Pity, I think, it is not a verb. When grass is mown down by blade, animals, heat, or human intent it invariably rises back to being green and grassy all over again. As such the verb ‘lawned’ could mean rising up in defiance to restore what is lost. It has a cheerful robustness about it as a concept.
Not unexpectedly, the four lawns at the Dunn periodically demonstrate the process of being ‘lawned.’ Last year I wandered around the Tennis Lawn in winter and wonderment. It was brown, scuffed up, and looked like the back end of bad luck. Zsolt, our head grounds man bemoaned its appearance along with me. “Squirrels,” he said with a sigh. With sun and some care it is back to lushness. It is a favorite venue for weddings since the rectangle of lawn defines an enchanting garden room offset in spring with flowering cherry trees. (‘Prunus’ Mt. Fuji.)
This winter Zsolt inflicted a man made insult by digging up the Great Lawn to upgrade the irrigation system. He wanted to ensure the grass and adjacent beds will receive enough water, and no more than needed, during the hot months. The sods are now back in place over the irrigation pipes and they are now energetically taking root once again, rising to the challenge of restoring themselves.
Perhaps Walt Whitman was right when he remarked with wonder about the basic unit of a lawn.
'I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.
Stars or not, it goes without saying we are thankful when the lawns achieve robustness after a set back. Lawns, after all, are a basic infrastructure of the Gardens and their presence allows for delightful and satisfying experiences.
Over time many have enjoyed the Great Lawn beginning when the Dunn Gardens were an estate and hosted family parties. More recently visitors have celebrated vintage cars, lunches, dancers, storytellers, musicians, zucchini car races, 4th of July parties, and more on that grand expansive space.
The Croquet Lawn conjures up images of people thwacking balls even when there are none in sight. For some reason the Croquet Lawn gives more pleasure than it should when I look at it. In modern terms it punches above its weight. Perhaps this is because we have twice held a successful event at the Dunn called Mallets in Wonderland there. Alice, her cohorts, and visitors wandered about, avoiding a Red Queen anxious to cut of their heads while they played croquet. It is whimsical fun, with more promised this year at a return of Mallets, August 27th.
Perhaps, also, the Croquet Lawn pleases because croquet was one of the few, if not first, games in the mid 1800’s where women could play a game outdoors with men. It thus feels like a welcome, forward-looking space.
Mostly lawns are considered in the context of green or not green to which I would now add, squirrel infested or less squirrel infested. But sometimes, like the generosity of the Croquet lawn, they surprise and awaken something soft inside you.
Ed’s Lawn, next to the classroom, can claim this mantle. Our curators, Charles Price and Glenn Withy, rolled up the grass about ten years ago in a swirling circle akin to a Celtic symbol. In the soil revealed below they planted crocus bulbs. The grass was returned to its place and took root along with the bulbs. Crocus now peek out each spring, in ever increasing numbers, wearing University of Washington colors. The place is a carpet of gold and purple come February. The blooms stand tall, offering a cheeky welcome and visitors have to walk on designated paths to protect the show.
I, for one, am glad for the journey-work of the stars. Also, I find myself partial to the fictitious verb as well. Be ‘lawned’ and prosper.