Friday, June 29, 2012

The green stuff (and my new Bosch mower)

Esther, who is one of my favouritest bloggers, has just written a post about lawns. What is a lawn, she asks? How does it differ from a playing field or a tennis court?
Very good question, and it's a very thought-provoking post. I started to write a comment, and then thought that I might turn it into a post myself.
The subject of lawns is a fraught one. First, there are the environmental considerations - it seems mad to insist that people have lawns in dry regions, for example.

Conversely, if you have a very shady garden, you may find it difficult to sustain a healthy green sward because grass needs a certain amount of nice, warm sunshine in order to grow.
My grass gets a fair amount of sun, and it's pretty trouble-free - the two patches you can see in the picture above are where I left a couple of pots of eucomis for, erm, rather longer than I meant.
I don't bother to water, or weed and feed it (although I take out broad-leaved weeds such as dandelions and plantains by hand). I'm always chopping bits off it to make new planting areas. I have thought of getting rid of it altogether, but I like the sight of birds hopping about on it looking for worms.
I commented on Esther's blog that lawns are for doing nothing in particular. They are a restful space for the mind and the eye - you can feel both extending their length of focus as you gaze out across the grass. There has to be a contrast, however: acres of mown grass, or the sort of grass verges that you get in housing estates, aren't interesting at all because there's no focal point.
In my garden, I like the way the two-dimensionality of the lawn provides a contrast with the jungly plants. And I love the feel of it underfoot, that cool, refreshing dampness.
So far, so green. But I have a confession to make: I LOVE mowing. I don't know why - maybe I was a man in another life. I love it even more now that I have a brand-new lawnmower.
It's the first new lawnmower I've ever had, strangely enough. I've always inherited old ones from friends or family. So forgive me for getting a little overexcited about it.

It's a Bosch Rotak 37 LI Ergoflex, and it is truly wonderful. It wasn't free (though I did get a show discount, because I bought it at Chelsea), so this is an impartial, unsolicited review. The LI bit means that it is cordless, and the Ergoflex bit means that it is designed to be used by left-handed or right-handed people with equal ease. The figure 37 refers to the cutting width - there is good range of sizes.
The handles are designed a bit like one of those folding baby buggies, which makes it much easier to manoeuvre. And there are four power buttons, so you can hold the power on with whichever hand is easier. (Interestingly, I've found that's my left hand, because I use the right to steer.)
Compared with the old-fashioned straight bar arrangement, with the power on the right, it's much less strain on the back and the arms. For anyone with problems such as RSI, or back trouble, it is a joy to use.

The mower is powered by a 36V Lithium-Ion battery, which is housed on the front of the mower. It charges in only 90 minutes and the Lithium-Ion technology means that it doesn't lose its charge. Nor does it do it any harm to leave the battery on the charger, but I've found I can replace the battery, leave the mower in the shed for a week, and it still worked perfectly well.

The cutting height is adjusted with the red handle on the right-hand side. It moves all the wheels at once, so you don't have to faff about changing each one individually, or doing the front and the back. The handle folds down - you just undo the orange clips at each side - and there's a handy grab handle just above the battery which makes it easy to pick the whole thing up and sling it in the shed. It weighs 14kg, which is 28lbs in old money.

I dithered a lot about whether to get a cordless model. It's more expensive than the conventional electric mower, and initially I couldn't see the point of spending all that money just to get out of winding and unwinding the flex. We have a circuit breaker on the garden sockets, so safety wasn't so much of a concern.
However, I found it was really easy to decapitate plants, or pull over pots, with my old mower, and I was constantly performing a kind of rodeo show, trying to flip or loop the flex out of the way. So I'm very grateful to my friends Dominic and Stuart for persuading me that a cordless would be a good buy.
If you're thinking of buying a mower - or any gardening equipment - shows are a good place to look. It's a great opportunity to see the whole range, and have someone who knows the product really well explain it to you. (I got teased by my friend Pattie because the chap who was showing me how the mower worked, Bosch regional brand manager Joao Barufi, was incredibly good-looking.)
There's usually a show discount of some kind, which makes the prices more competitive. I couldn't find my model any cheaper on the internet - and my mower was delivered two days later free of charge.
I'm sure that lovely Esther did not intend for me to go off into a lawnmower review when she started writing about lawns. Sorry, Esther!