Dennis West Wins The 2021 Allett International Creative Lawn Stripes Competition
The past two years have been tough for us all; some more than others. We have seen a huge rise in the number of people taking to their gardens with more time at home and more disposable income to spend on their garden. The competition is in its ninth year with all entries welcome regardless of how big or small your lawn is or where you are in the world. We encourage homeowners to use their lawns to design the most creative, eye catching designs that truly show off the craftsmanship and dedication that goes into grass maintenance.
The standard of this year's entries has again been incredible and keeps on getting better year after year. This year's competition saw top six entries from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the USA. This year's judge was Andy Wain (Head Gardener at Euridge Manor) and last year's 2020 champion. An internal vote was done by a specialist Allett panel with the top 6 entries being forwarded to Andy to pick his overall winner.
Sammy Graham from Northern Ireland
Judge comments ‘’This is a beautifully maintained lawn.
It is obvious that a great deal of work has gone into creating this design.
Professionally I’m plasterer, but having grown up with farming I’ve always had a passion for the earth. Soil conditions grass quality being a big factor in farming, It came natural to want to look after my own patch of land. Most of all I enjoy the mow, anyone reading this will agree, the smell of a fresh cut lush lawn in the air is bliss on a summer evening after work, I craved it I wanted more of it, I needed an excuse to be in the lawn more and to be able to cut more, hence my healthy lawn obsession. A couple years ago I stumbled on the Allett Instagram and YouTube channels and always admired the mowers and the content on the channel and that’s where I learned of the competition. It was at the beginning of this year I decided I was going to enter the competition and so work began on a lawn renovation in the spring. I started to plough the lawn with a spade, I let dry for couple weeks then rotavated the lawn. I added two tons of screws top soil fetched my plastering floor edges and began to level the lawn. Once like a sheet of glass I got out my Johnson’s grass seed fescue blend. (The same seed as old Trafford stadium) and threw ‘er down. Once the grass began to establish and with fescue being a slow to establish grass I noticed the lawn not as level as I would like with settling and walking occurring. So I added more soil to level out those areas with a home made lawn level, added more seed and I had the lawn I wanted. Now it was time to start to think of a design, well by the time the lawn was fully established it was late June and July was around the corner. July being a time of celebration here in Northern Ireland when we celebrate out heritage I thought I would use the Union Jack flag as a pattern and it would also be nice for the celebration.I measured the lawn with out and found my centre to begin from there. Next I got the dimensions and a picture from the internet of the flag. Measure out where my cuts would be and placed pegs for reference. The lawn is cut at two heights first at a height of three inches with my John Deere r47s, and around one inch with my Suffolk punch 14s cylinder mower (I have three of these mowers, one I keep a scarifier cartridge in) for the small stripe, I measured out where it was to be and placed a plank to use as a guide to keep it straight and cut it with a pair of hand shears, time consuming but worth it to complete the look.
Dave Boyd Scotland
Judges comments: ''This pattern fits the shape of the lawn perfectly. A great eye catching design that takes a lot of skill to pull off. Beautiful work''
4th PLACE Tito Triana from East Sussex
Judges comments ‘’This is a cool design. I really like the raised discs and the variation in patterns on them. The little triangles add great detail to a great lawn.
Beautiful work! ‘’.
Dale Buchanan-Murtagh, Scotland
''This is a beautiful pattern.
I can appreciate the work that has gone into creating this design, so many layers to it. Beautiful work on a beautiful lawn’’
I'm Dale Buchanan-Murtagh, 29 years old, from West Lothian in Scotland. I'm a Train Driver by day and a lawn nut every other waken second haha. Newly married to my beautiful wife Kerrie ( although she insists she's the other woman to the lawn) and our big puppers Akira completes the family.
I think my passion for lawn-care started when me and my now wife moved into our first home, the same in which we are in now. The lawn wasn't in two bad a condition when we moved in but it definitely struggled with some of the usual weed/thatch issues that the majority of residential lawns probably do. My father-in-law has always loved his own lawn and taken really good care of it so I started taking advice from him in order to start making some small improvements. These started with just simple things like dethatching and over-seeding, moss and weed killing and then some basic fertiliser applications and regular mowing. As time went by, I started wanting better and better which ended in countless YouTube rabbit holes watching the likes of Ryan Knorr and then trying to implement some of my new found knowledge into my own lawn. From there it has spiralled from enthusiasm to obsession, and I now try to use my Instagram platform to share my experience with other enthusiasts alike.
I first heard about the competition after beginning my search for what cylinder mowers were available in the UK. Inevitably I came across Allett and at around that time you were just announcing the opening of the 2020 competition. I had hoped to get an entry in that season but for various reasons I didn't manage to do so but committed myself to making sure I was in the mix for this year's competition.
My lawn is a rather awkward shape and I regularly refer to it as my obstacle course, so I knew that I needed to come up with that would not only suit its shape but also that I could mow without ruining the pattern whilst having to transverse over it at some point. The lawn has always looked best with triple wide stripes or some diagonals, so I decided that some sort of combination of the two was going to be the way to go. With a little bit of trial and error, eventually I came up with this design.
I mow with a Allett Kensington 20k which I picked up second hand at the start of the season. I absolutely love the clean finish and bold lines that it produces with every mow. The final design took me a good few attempts to get right with the diagonals proving to be the most problematic. I knew precision was key to making this work and I was focused on making all the lines intersect as best as possible. My lawn isn't quite as flat as I would like it so keeping everything dead straight was the hardest part. The diagonals eventually lined up on the 3rd attempt and then one final mow to burn everything in was all that was required. As you can see in the time-lapse of me mowing this pattern, I wanted to make sure that the diagonals really stood out against the vertical triples so made sure the do a good 3 or 4 passes on each of these.
It was such a mixed bag of emotions when I heard I was third. At first I was shocked, I never imagined I'd make it anywhere near the finalists! Then came the agonising thought of being so close to winning however once the final two and eventual winner were revealed, I was content with my achievement of finishing in 3rd place.
The journey I have been on with my first and current lawn will very shortly be coming to an end as we are moving into a new build property in time for the new year. I'm excited by the new challenges that lay ahead and at the idea of beginning with a completely blank canvas on which I can utilise all my experience gained so far to establish a new and better canvas for future entries. I will be continuing to share my journey through my social media platforms and I welcome everyone to follow and engage with this community as it continues to grow. Thank you again for the opportunity to participate in this year's competition and I am ever more determined to come back stronger next year.
Tim Sanken USA
Judges comments ‘’This is such a cool pattern. These hypnotic swirls make the lawn look like it is being sucked into the earth - very cool. I can appreciate how much effort went into creating this design - Beautiful work’’
I'm Tim from Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the US. I'm an amateur lawn enthusiast who works full time as a safety professional for a local wholesale and distribution company. I've always enjoyed mowing and maintaining a nicely manicured lawn. In 2019 I decided to try some different designs besides the standard straight lines. I shared some of the designs on my personal social media and received a surprising level of positive responses. This inspired me to try different designs and challenge myself by increasing their complexity. A small following developed and between mid-May and September I post a new design every one to two weeks. I'm about to wrap up season 3 of what I refer to as "Grassterpiece Theater."
I first learned of Allett's Creative Stripes Competition this past July and showed a couple of people to see if they thought I should enter. The vast majority of past entries are on exquisitely manicured turf that more closely resemble putting greens than an average homeowner's lawn. But with their encouragement I decided I had nothing to lose and got to work on my entry. The spiral design, or the "Pinwheel" as I titled it, was something I had mowed once before in 2020. It got a pretty good response and it was something I felt was unique and different from most geometric designs, so at least it would stand out to the judges. I've received many questions about "how"to do this design. It is easier to do than it is to describe, but essentially I visually identified the centre of my yard and mowed an elongated "S" stripe from edge to edge that passed through the centre. Each successive stripe starts on the edge of the last pass, gradually tapering toward the centre when you cross over and begin tapering out to the other side. Keep repeating this method around the design. This is hard on the very centre because you make so many passes over that same spot, so you need a healthy turf to start. But even then a little post-mow light raking to un-mat some of the grass, plus a little water and it does okay. This year I battled a combination of abnormal heat, extended periods of little to no rain, and surprisingly a fungus nearing my final cut before photos. I almost didn't enter this year.
Although, for the competition I maintained this pattern for the month of August, I normally mow a new design in one session on the weekend and do not repeat or "burn" it in. I'll mow once or twice during the week, and then on to a new design. Two weeks after submitting my entry, I mowed the overlapping arcs, and the following week was the tribute to the 20th Anniversary of 9/11. As for time, a normal mow of my entire yard (12,000 sq ft, or about 1,100 sq m) is roughly 45 minutes. The Pinwheel design only adds about 10 minutes, but some of my designs have taken upward of 4 hours.
My yard is a blend of Kentucky Bluegrass and Fescues that I maintain at roughly 3.5 inches (89mm) during the summer and I use a Honda HRX rotary mower with a Checkmate striping kit from Big League Lawns to create my patterns. On some of my more detailed designs I will use some garden tools for the fine details that are narrower than the width of my mower, but that is fairly rare.
I was shocked when I found out my design placed 2nd in the 2021 competition. When I saw the 4th, 5th, and 6th place finishers I'd assumed all finalists had been contacted and I'd just need to try again next year. I'm truly blown away and inspired by the other finalist's designs from this and past years, and am honoured to have my design considered among them. Who knows what 2022 will bring. I'm considering a renovation of my yard to get more consistency with my grass type, but we'll see. It is not a small undertaking, but I'll have all winter to contemplate and plan. Either way, I'll give it my best for next year's competition and we'll see what happens.
Dennis West USA
Judges comments ‘’This is a really clever design. The way the pattern flows around the house is fantastic - Incorporating both stripes and different cutting heights has come together to create a really outstanding piece of art. Congratulations! Beautiful’’
My name is Dennis West and I live in Provo, Utah, USA. I work from home as an instructional designer for a telecommunications company headquartered in Maryland. I’ve worked as a graphic designer for many years in my professional life and have a BFA in Animation and an MS in Instructional Psychology and Technology.
A little over three years ago we moved into a new construction house that didn’t have any landscaping. Over the next two years I worked to install sprinklers and manage the hydroseeded lawn as it filled in. I watched many YouTube videos on DIY lawncare and became more and more impressed by what I saw could be accomplished in a lawn. Eventually, I saw Keith Smith’s design that he won the 2018 Allett Creative Stripes Competition, and I was inspired to take the plunge and try to enter the competition myself!
In March of 2020 I purchased my Allett Kensington 20H and began raking, sand levelling, and conditioning my lawn to grow at a shorter length. In August of that year I entered and came in 6th place that year. I was happy to have made it as a finalist in my first try.
For this year’s competition, I was determined to do something different than my first entry. My first attempt a Celtic braid design that I had first designed on the computer.
After mowing it in for a couple weeks I just didn’t feel like it was good enough. Initially, I had tried to avoid another pattern that had waves in it but when I saw some Zen garden patterns online, I felt like that would be a good place to start.
To design the pattern, I measured out my lawn and drew an outline of it in Adobe Illustrator. Accurate measurements were key so I could scale down the lawn accurately to make 20-point wide lines equal the 20-inch width of cut on my mower.
To get the pattern on the lawn I began to measure and draw it out on the lawn using a string and stakes to make the curves, marking them with dye in my backpack sprayer. As I was drawing it out, however, I decided to make the lines from each set of circles curved instead of the straight lines in my plan. I liked how the centre of where the lines came together on the sides looked like an eye.
I established the pattern over a few weeks using different heights of cut as I had the previous year, but I felt like it was still lacking something. I experimented with adding directional strips to the design, but they obstructed the main design.
The solution that brought it all together for me was to “erase” the directional stripes from the main design and outline it using my mower’s brush cartridge, which helped the design to stand out as if it was above the directional stripes. My final picture was taken August 30th.
I experienced a couple of challenges along the way that included the nesting of some barn swallows on our porch. I was worried about poisoning the baby birds with pesticides, so I didn’t spray my lawn like I should have. Because of this, grubs killed some patches in my lawn along the street. Fortunately, I was able to just not include those parts of the lawn in the design.
A regional challenge to this type of mowing is that Utah is a high elevation desert, and we are experiencing a drought. Accurately measuring and adjusting my water so that I’m not using more than the grass needed was very important, as well as watering at night and keeping my sprinklers in good operating condition so that they were efficient in getting the water into the right places.
The final challenge was the fact that I crashed my drone right before I took my entry photo and breaking the camera gimbal. The drone would still fly, and the camera still worked, but it was stuck at an awkward angle.
The only way I could get a picture was to fly it very high and then accelerate forward so the drone would angle downward and then snap the picture when it was moving. Then I straightened and cropped the image for the submission.
I was very impressed with this year’s 6-4 winners as they were announced and I began to worry about my chances, knowing that the submissions would only get better from there. The day of the final three reveal, I was on pins and needles. Then the YouTube video announcing the winners began. As Austin revealed number three and it wasn’t me, me heart leapt. Then he revealed number two and it wasn’t me I was ready to burst. I knew that either I won or hadn’t made the cut at all. And then the Champion was revealed, and it was me! I was beyond ecstatic!
I am so honoured and humbled by being chosen as the winner this year. So many great entries were finalists, I really had some great competition. My family, friends, and neighbours are all so supportive and pleased by this honour that has been given, it’s really a great pleasure!
I have so much respect for Andrew Wain and what he has accomplished in his work and for Keith Smith who inspired me to start this journey. I hope to travel to the UK and meet in person all my new friends someday soon!
Over the past couple of years, I’ve dabbled in creating videos for my YouTube channel, but in not wanting to reveal what I’ve been doing for the competition I’ve been pretty silent as of late. Going forward I plan on continuing to do designs in my lawn and sharing more how-to videos in hopes of helping future creative stripes competitors''
Dennis now becomes the proud owner of an Allett Liberty 43 battery powered cylinder mower alongside the ALLETT Complete Lawn Care System of six interchangeable cartridges consisting of an aerator, a scarifier, a lawn brush, a dethatcher, a verticutter and a 10 –blade cartridge together with two cartridge stands.
We look forward to seeing the 2022 entries. Congratulations to ALL of our TOP 6 especially Dennis who is this year's CHAMPION. Thank-you to everyone else who sent in their entries and were part of another amazing year.