April showers usually bring May flowers – and lawns that sport a nice green sheen.

Not so anymore in some parts of America, where a combination of drought and icier than normal winters has left lawns pocked with stale hues of brown and yellow. It has forced some homeowners to resort to a relatively inexpensive way to keep up appearances: green paint.

But where did this impulse to have the perfect green lawn come from?

Historian Ted Steinberg tells the story of this distinctly American phenomenon, one that emerged in the decades after World War II. Soon thereafter, an entire industry devoted to selling concoctions of grass-growing chemicals sprouted up.

Yet nowadays, he writes, “The ideal of a resource-intensive perfect lawn is an ecological conceit that the country may no longer be able to afford.”

Also today:

Nick Lehr

Arts + Culture Editor

Americans – especially those living in areas affected by drought – are turning to paint to give their grass that perfect green sheen. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Why more and more Americans are painting their lawns

Ted Steinberg, Case Western Reserve University

The ideal of perfect turf – a weed-free, supergreen monoculture – is a relatively recent phenomenon.


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