The Mow Down: Choosing A Lawnmower Suitable For Ornamental Grasses

When purchasing a lawnmower for use on an ordinary lawn, most of us will opt for the most efficient mower at the most reasonable price and leave it at that. However, delicate ornamental lawns populated with fragile grasses or turfs require a more delicate instrument to keep them trim. Not every lawnmower model out there is suitable for use on these specialised lawns, with some models doing more harm than good to fragile grasses — as such, you should keep the following questions in mind when shopping around for a new mower:

Should you choose a rotary or cylinder lawnmower?

All lawnmowers use one of two blade configurations; rotary blades, which rotate on a horizontal axis like the blades of a helicopter, and cylinder blades, which rotate on a vertical axis and function like the blades of a combine harvester.

For ornamental lawns, cylinder blades are generally preferred, as the blades pass much closer to the ground and cut your grass to a much shorter level as a result. Because they create less downdraft, they also do not push down blades of individual grass as they pass overhead like some powerful rotary blades can, so cylinder blades also tend to give a more even, uniform cut. However, to make effective use of a cylinder blade lawnmower you will need to keep well on top of your lawn mowing duties, as the closely-grouped blades are poor at cutting long grass and tend to get tangled.

Should you opt for a hover mower?

If you intend to cut fragile grasses that don't handle foot traffic well, your first instinct may be to choose a hover mower. These lawnmowers do not have wheels and are instead suspended on a cushion of air so they can be pushed across your lawn with great ease.

The main advantage of using these mowers on ornamental lawns is that they place no weight on the grass itself. As such, hover mowers do not leave unsightly wheel marks in your lawn, even when loaded down with a full bucket of grass clippings. In addition, hover mowers can be moved in any direction without the need to rotate, making them very handy for compact lawns or ornamental lawns with shrubs and flowerbeds around their edges.

Unfortunately, limitations of the hover mower design mean that all hover mowers use rotary blades, and therefore cannot achieve the close, even cut of a cylinder mower. Weight limitations also require hover mowers to use electric rather than petrol-powered motors, which usually necessitates a restrictive power cable. However, some top-of-the-line hover mowers are fitted with powerful batteries.

Are you looking for the striped look?

The distinctive 'stripes' of grass often found on sports fields and professionally-tended ornamental lawns can be quite desirable and can be achieved on your own ornamental lawn if you so desire. To achieve this distinctive look quickly and easily, however, you will need a lawnmower with the following features:

  • Cylinder blades — as rotary blades tend to make stripes with more ragged and uneven edges.
  • A grass collector — to prevent grass clippings left behind from rotting and discolouring your stripes.
  • A rear roller — which flattens the grass slightly with each pass to create varying shades in alternate stripes.