This muddy, brown yard is the ugliest lawn in Sweden

For many homeowners, a beautiful front lawn is a source of pride. But for some residents of Sweden’s largest island, lush, green grass might bring disappointment — especially if they were vying for the title of Sweden’s ugliest lawn.

In an effort to promote water conservation, the municipality of Gotland recently held a competition to find the ugliest lawn on the island. It followed irrigation bans that prevent residents from watering their lawns.

Mimmi Gibson, the acting marketing and brand manager at the Region Gotland municipality, helped select the winner, which belonged to Marcus Norström.

“It’s really brown, it’s gold, it’s really muddy and earthy, and it doesn’t really have any green grass on it,” she told As It Happens guest host Susan Bonner. “So it’s quite ugly.”

A close up of the “ugliest lawn” on the island of Gotland. (Marcus Norstrom)

She added that seeing ways to improve the lawn through more sustainable practices was also a factor in their decision.

The jury described Norström’s lawn as “a really lousy lawn that lives up to all our expectations of Gotland’s ugliest lawn and has good conditions for a more sustainable improvement,” according to The Guardian.

As a reward for his effort — or lack thereof — Norström will receive a personalized two-hour consultation with gardener and judge Sara Gistedt.

Gibson says they received a wide variety of entries. Some lawns were from the northern part of the island, where limestone rests underneath a thin layer of soil and many plants struggle to grow. In the more temperate areas, lawns that are usually lush and green turned gold and brown.

“We have a really delicate nature, but we are also one of the most [popular] tourist spots in Sweden. People love our island and we love them to come, of course,” she said. “But we had a record breaking number of visitors and residents last summer post-COVID and we realized we have to do something to get both living in Gotland, visiting Gotland, tourism in Gotland more sustainable.”

They found six areas of improvement, with water conservation the top priority. That’s when the idea for the ugliest lawn competition came in.

“We needed something that could, you know, start a conversation but not be too harsh,” Gibson said. “Maybe you could put a smile on your face but still have, like, a really serious core message.”

Historic droughts across Europe are drying up land, including in Loireauxence, France. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

While not everyone responded positively to the changes, Gibson maintains that this was an important step. given the historic droughts across Europe this summerwater supply has been a major issue, and Gibson said this is a way to be a part of the solution.

“It was just the right timing, I think, this year to do this,” she said. “People were more acceptable to the idea since they’re seeing all these droughts … [and these] big floods and everything throughout the whole of Europe. So I guess there was a sense of recognition.”

She hopes the competition also helps start a conversation about breaking away from traditional green lawns to considering other plants that are also beautiful but more resistant to climate change.

Although she used to have her own yard when she lived in the countryside, Gibson now lives in an apartment and doesn’t have a lawn of her own.

“But I used to have a really ugly lawn as well, so I feel proud of that,” she said.

Written by Aloysius Wong. Interview with Mimmi Gibson produced by Katie Geleff.

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