With new laws limiting water consumption in many places, it shouldn't be a surprise that drought-tolerant and native landscaping is continuing to flourish, replacing expansive and expensive lawns. But what might come as a shock is that when a garden does call for grass, some designers are embracing a revised version of artificial turf.
Far from the crunchy plastic texture of the original Astroturf which was patented in 1965 and developed as an alternative to real grass in professional sports fields, new synthetic grasses are lush, soft and not always easy to spot. Of course they come with a stigma, which designers like Judy Kameon are trying to shake.
Kameon, the landscape designer behind the Parker Hotel in Palm Springs, has been designing drought-tolerant gardens that include soy-based synthetic grass, even installing a patch of it in her own backyard as a spot for her toddler to play amidst the native plantings of her hillside garden, a place where regular grass would be something of a nightmare to maintain. With recent scares across the U.S. over lead and other neurotoxins coating the turf that lines public parks and athletic fields, it's even more important to find alternatives not only to real grass, but to the artificial products that threaten the health of people and animals.
Synthetic grass never needs to be watered or mowed, doesn't require toxic fertilizers, and stays green. Plus, brands like New Grass are 100% recyclable and made with soy and post-consumer plastic. While it might be more eco-friendly than a traditional lawn, synthetic grass won't add to the environment in the way that say, ripping out your lawn in favor of a vegetable garden might. Long term, we need to rethink the prestige of the suburban lawn and replace it with a more responsible approach to gardening that not only spares damage to the environment but contributes to its health.
For a graphic designer's take on Atroturf, check out George Simkin's Astrotype Project.