The Origin of Green Grass


While grassy glades, savannas and meadows have always existed, green grass turf is relatively recent. The "green green grass of home" refers to the rolling prairie grasses abundant until the 19th and 20th centuries when they were plowed for cropland. Green grass areas used for recreation and decoration in parks, playing fields and homes became popular in Europe in the 1700s.

Green Grass Roofs

Buildings in Scandinavia have had grass roofs for centuries and American sodbusters were known for the green grass roofs on their mud and wattle homesteads. The origin of green grass roofs goes back to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Modern green grass roofs range from the Vancouver Exhibition Centre to Hobbit-like homes in Wales, green-terraced roofs in Japan and the Hundertwasser apartment building in Vienna.


Green grassy areas near estates became popular with royalty and wealthy landowners in Northern Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries. The greenswards were used for playing fields and recreation areas. The climate was favorable for grass growth without supplemental water or fertilizers, and the green grass was kept short by cattle, horses, sheep or rabbits. Regular grazing created short dense grassy areas called lawns.

English Green Grass

The Tudors and Elizabethans refined lawns into areas with pathways and social areas, and the 17th century saw extensive gardens incorporated into the grassy fields by landscape architects like Lancelot "Capability" Brown. Lawns were manicured and cut low as a symbol of status, their height maintained by a staff of gardeners wielding scythes or hand shears.

Formal Lawns

In the 19th and 20th centuries, lawns and gardens were linked and landscaping became popular. New grasses were added to old mixes to produce the greenest and lushest lawns among gentry. The lawn mower was invented in 1827 and the lawn sprinkler in 1897, leading to a century of lawn popularity that spread to the masses in North America. Mixtures of Kentucky bluegrass and fescues and rye produced a deep green, thick grass lawn for homes.

Types of Green Grass

Native Sons Nursery in Central California offers some three-dozen varieties of green grasses for lawns, xeriscaping and landscaping. Native Mediterranean plants like sweet flag grows in bogs, feather reed grass likes heavy clay soils in full sun, shade-loving sedges and red tussock for sandy soils are popular species of grass. The trend is moving away from manicured, high-maintenance green grass lawns toward native green grasses like fescues and rye that grow without extra water or care.

Keywords: green grass history, origin of lawns, development of landscaping

About this Author

TS Owen spent her career in journalism, winning the national Koop science writer award and penning articles in "Newsweek" and the "San Francisco Chronicle." She also served as an editor for a variety of publications in the San Francisco Bay Area and Banff, Alberta. Owen has a master's degree in English education.