When it Comes to Lawns, This Texan Gets It

Here’s some of the things I really like about Texas (its politics aside): Willie Nelson, the San Antonio River Walk, Austin City Limits, Galveston, Roy Orbison, bluebonnets, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, the novel “Lonesome Dove” and, finally, Neil Sperry.Neil Sperry? If you’re a Texan and you’re into gardening or landscaping you recognize the name Neil Sperry. But being a Buckeye, I wanted to know more about Sperry after reading one of his recent columns in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. The column is about lawns and their place in Texas landscapes even as the state struggles through yet another of its interminable droughts. The state is big, right? One region or another is seemingly always under water emergencies and considering measures to limit landscape irrigation (we can do that) or replace lawns with rocks or cacti (not such a good idea). Sperry, in the column, takes what I describe as a pragmatically Texas approach to the issue of lawns and droughts. See if the first two paragraphs of his column A “Turfgrass on Trial” don’t make you a Neil Sperry fan, too. Writes Sperry: Lawns seem to have become the eye of a firestorm. As water resources become more and more limited our lawns are being cast as bad guys that need to be corralled. But hang onto that lasso, Bubba. Before you tighten that noose and reduce or eliminate the lawn in your life, you may want to consider a few facts. From there, Sperry shares the many environmental and life-enhancing benefits that lawns provide our society. Those of us in the landscape/lawn service trade should be able to recite these at the crack of a whip, but they are probably news to a lot of Sperry’s readers. So, who is Neil Sperry? I discovered that he grew up in College Station, Texas,attended Texas A&M University there, but earned B.S. and M.S. degrees at The Ohio State University (there’s the Buckeye connection I was hoping for). He now lives in McKinney, Texas, has authored several well-respected books on gardening and plants, publishes Gardens magazine and hosts “Texas Gardening” Sunday mornings on WBAP AM/FM. In perusing his website I also discovered that he makes homemade pens out of “rare and beautiful” woods, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Serenity High in McKinney. Serenity High is thought to be the longest-running sober high school (public or private) in America and, possibly, the only public recovery high school in the United States. Obviously, I’m glad to have stumbled onto his column, “Turfgrass on Trial,” in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, which prompted me to learn more about him and about the Texas landscape scene.