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More Take Home Lessons from Walt Disney World

My family and I enjoy Disney.

My friends would laugh out loud and tell you that’s an understatement. See, we go to Walt Disney World at least two, and usually three times a year. In fact, this very blog post is being crafted from the Saratoga Springs resort while my wife and I are attending Disney’s Flower and Garden Festival.

As I mentioned in an earlier post with a similar name, the landscapes at Disney can provide us with some object lessons we can apply to our own landscapes, if we dare to look beyond the ‘WOW’ effect.

Most folks who visit the parks don’t realize Disney has very little turf, or grass, inside the parks. The Magic Kingdom has a fair amount, but the younger parks have even less.  The newest, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, has virtually no turf inside the park. I’m quite sure Disney has decided, like I have, that turf grass is the most expensive part of the landscape. When you consider the cost of the mower, the gas for the mower, fertilizer, weed control chemicals, and the big one…your time, turf grass is a very expensive endeavor. That said, there is a benefit to having some turf.  It unifies the landscape design and is a foil for the coarser textures of nearby landscape shrubs. It’s kind of like ‘white space’ on a wall full of pictures.

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

Only a small amount of turf is used to tie these colorful beds together.

When you do have turf grass, use these rules as a guide:

Select the best type of grass for your whole garden. Having the same grass in front and back makes gardening much, much easier. You can plan on using the same fertilizer, weed controls, and even the same mowing height.  If you have more shade in one area, select the grass that is the most shade tolerant for the whole garden. Most grasses will do just fine in more sun.

Grow grass where it can be successful. Sometimes an area is too shady or too…whatever for grass to grow. If you don’t have the right conditions, it’s better to acquiesce to those conditions and do something other than grass. Ground covers, for instance, will usually do well where grass will not.  I get amused by people who want to negotiate with me when I tell them an area is too shady for grass. “Well, what if I promise to water it and love it and take care of it? Can I grow grass there then?”  It’s not really up to me, Lady.

Grow grass in sections large enough to matter. I have seen people try to grow grass in itty bitty narrow strips that aren’t even big enough to be mowed with one pass of a mower. Why??? Practically every time I’ve seen this, it would make more sense to completely do away with that section of grass and expand the shrub or flower bed adjacent to it. It is tricky to apply fertilizer and chemicals without being wasteful.  And irrigation for small areas, properly done, is quite expensive too.

At the risk of taking this idea too far, it’s important to remember to use trees, shrubs, and ground covers in a way that accentuates your house and how you want to use it. In a word: Minimize the grass, maximize the look.

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One Response

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  1. Todd Hurt, Training Coordinator, UGA Center for Urban Ag says

    Nice article Russell. I appreciate you pointing out the difference in artistic use and functionality of turf in narrow strips. From a practical stand point some experts recommend that turf areas be at least 8 feet wide. -Todd



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