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Let it Grow: The Rise of Natural Lawns

natural lawns, michael cunningham landscape design

As more homeowners opt for natural lawns, the days of high-maintenance, meticulously groomed lawns are fading. Tasks like mowing, weeding, and chemical treatments can be time-consuming and raise questions about the value of traditional lawn care. The rising popularity of natural lawns mirrors a larger movement in landscaping toward sustainability, biodiversity, and resilience, embracing the innate beauty of nature. Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design (MCLD) showcases numerous striking examples of natural lawns and environmentally friendly landscaping, highlighting their aesthetic appeal and ecological benefits.

Front Ridge

In Downeast Maine, a rural hillside home serves as a beacon for the revival of fragmented native plant communities and the repair of compromised site systems. Thoughtful land management strategies boost the homeowners’ efforts in rejuvenating vast expanses of mowed lawn. 

Front Ridge, Matthew Cunningham, Natural Lawns

Front Ridge, Matthew Cunningham, Natural Lawns

Nestled within the terrain, carefully crafted spaces offer breathtaking panoramic views, while newly introduced flora delineate boundaries and entryways. Along meticulously groomed pathways, seasonal splendor unfolds amidst a diverse array of native meadow, weaving a captivating tapestry of natural beauty.

Front Ridge, Matthew Cunningham, Natural Lawns

Herrick Woods

Situated along the western edge of Mary Herrick Forest in Boxford, Massachusetts, this two-acre residential property features a serene forest of mature oak, maple, birch, and pine trees.

Herrick Woods, Natural Lawns, Matthew Cunningham

Adjacent vernal pools and wetlands buzz with wildlife, enriching every corner of the landscape. A subtle reshaping of the terrain, accompanied by a board-formed concrete retaining wall, enhances scenic vistas of the surrounding woods. Native ferns blanket newly formed land contours, while an antique fieldstone farm wall anchors the property's edge.

Herrick Woods, Natural Lawns, Matthew CunninghamCarefully positioned to preserve majestic canopy trees, a new swimming pool and hot tub complement terraces and pathways crafted from reclaimed granite slabs. Colonies of native plants like serviceberry, bayberry, and sweetfern provide seasonal interest and enclosure, while nitrogen-fixing micro-clover turf reduces lawn maintenance.

Herrick Woods, Natural Lawns, Matthew Cunningham

Minimal irrigation and zero chemical fertilizers support a thriving ecosystem, with wildlife sounds, including gray tree frogs and peepers, enhancing the forest ambiance. Balanced with nature, this woodland haven invites visitors to immerse themselves in its tranquil setting.

Herrick Woods, Natural Lawns, Matthew Cunningham

Collaborators: Gardenform Landscape Construction, Custom Quality Pools, Stone Curators, Freshwater Stone and Brick, Select Horticulture, Harrison McPhee, Cicoria Tree, David Gross (natural sods), and Laura Broderick Fine Gardening

Folly Fields

Boston's North Shore is revered for its historic equestrian estates framed by lush fields and iconic fieldstone walls, and for preserving its rural charm amidst sprawling wetlands. Interconnecting this landscape are public horseback riding trails, linking communities with nature.

Folly Fields, Natural Lawns, Matthew Cunningham

On this North Shore property, the polo-enthusiast homeowners envisioned their dream home amid post-agricultural overgrowth. Through meticulous planning, a quarter-mile tree-lined drive now leads to renovated farm buildings and a new timber-framed barn. Gracious entry piers welcome visitors to a transformed landscape, where invasive-filled fields give way to a private polo field bordered by native trees and pollinator meadows.

Folly Farms, Natural Lawns, Matthew Cunningham

Preserving mature trees, managing invasives, and enhancing woodland edges, the property reflects a harmonious blend of past and present. Thermal granite terraces offer serene outdoor spaces with panoramic farm views. Vibrant gardens flourish with classic New England flora, while native sods stabilize graded land. Amidst the rhythmic gallop of horses, the property emerges as a timeless sanctuary, embodying the essence of its storied surroundings.

Folly Fields, Natural Lawns, Matthew Cunningham

(Collaborators: Albert, Righter & Tittman Architects, O’Neil Fine Builder, Holly Gagne Interior Design, Sculptured Earth Landscape Construction, Corliss Brothers, TM Landscaping, Select Horticulture)




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