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How does a lawn obsession develop?

In the past few months, we have been wondering if we could use the expression “obsessed by lawns”. The question was, whether this expression evokes negative associations or not. What did we end up with?

Lawn obsession

Lawn enthusiast beginnings

I don’t know about you, but this is how my story went. I was probably around 10 years old, when Mr Halek, my neighbour, told me (while mowing the public lawn in our town): "The more often you mow the lawn, the thicker it will become". I was surprised, I’d thought it worked the exactly opposite way. Sadly, I had not seen any evidence, which made me keep doubting that statement for a long time.

Shortly after that, my friend Vilda and I decided that we need a top-class turf for our football trainings, so that the ball wouldn’t slow down in the tall grass. We decided to start mowing our grass patch regularly. Vilda brought a manual mower from his garage. If was some kind of a historic cylinder mower. We weren’t even able to push it properly. It was clear to us that there was no way we would be able to cut the tall grass with it and our efforts had failed soon.

First English lawn by 13

Shortly after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, my dad was getting rid of some crop beds, because he had no time to maintain them, and he started a lawn. Mowing it with an electrical string mower was my job. I’d remembered Mr Halek and I soon understood that there was something to the frequent mowing. I also found out that when I’d mowed the lawn more often, I was faster and the mower was not overwhelmed with tall grass. To make the mowing easier, I mounted a wheel to the string mower, which also helped me to maintain a constant height of cutting. Then I started creating stripes. When my older sister was getting married, the wedding guests were admiring the lawn and I heard the magic words for the first time: “This is just like the English lawn.” I was 13 years old.

I still wasn’t quite satisfied, so I would plough the lawn almost every year and start it again. Then we bought an electrical rotary mower with a basket in Mountfield. That was a progress. But I wanted stripes. I adjusted a roller to the rear wheels, and it ensured the desired stripes.

Little chemist in action

Another step forward was taken when my mother got me – through our neighbour, Ms Venclova – an unknown solution from the Department of Forage Crops. It was an iron-based liquid fertiliser with some other non-identifiable ingredients. I sprayed the lawn with this potion and it became alive again. Sadly, there was a problem with getting more doses of the liquid miracle.

There was nothing better left…

At the university, I didn’t want to write my diploma thesis on a topic that I didn’t understand, so there was practically nothing to choose from. I went to the Small Mechanisation Department at the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague and I asked prof. Krupicka for a suitable topic for the thesis. "Man, almost everything is already taken, you should have come sooner,“ he said. "But wait, someone asked me to make an analysis for golf players. Let’s throw that together." The exact topic was: Analysis of machines for upkeep of golf courses. It was a very attractive topic in 2001, and a very progressive one for the CULS.

Golf player

While working on my thesis, I learned to understand the theory behind the lawn. At the same time, Martin Sindler, then head greenkeeper of the well-known Karlstejn golf course, gave me the idea to create golf-like lawns on people’s gardens. During the final exams, I developed a business plan for a company that would take care of English lawns. Ultimately, after the finals, I went to Sydney to expand my practical knowledge and to work on golf courses while studying. By the time all formalities were resolved and the golf courses that I’d contacted replied, I had already been working somewhere else. I had no choice, my financial reserve was shrinking…

Upon my return, I wanted to work in Mountfield as a lawn mower salesman. I ended up in the pool department. And pools aren’t mowers. I returned to lawns through the Golf Digest publishing house. One year later, I founded my first lawn care company. Finally, the theory was being moulded into practice. I printed out some leaflets and threw them into mailboxes. My first customer, Ms Barbara Chuecos, CEO of Czech Mary Kay, has remained loyal to our services to this day. And she deserves a big thank you for that!

No way without cylinder mower

In the newly founded company I did not have a cylinder mower that would be suitable for the upkeep of home, garden lawns. I discovered the brand Atco in England. In 2010, when Atco was discontinued, I started importing Allett mowers. But I wasn’t happy with the Allett products.

After that, in cooperation with various designers, I developed three different models of cylinder mowers, but it was the fourth one that I was happy with. It was designed by Marek Votroubek. Logically, I wanted to start selling it, but there was nobody who would manufacture it in high quality and for a reasonable price. So, we started buying components and assembling them together. The quality of the suppliers wasn’t uncompromising either. In the end, we bought a small production line near Pilsen and we have been producing our mowers ourselves.

Finally, a mower that I love creating English lawns with

It is called Swardman Edwin. I no longer have time for mowing myself, but I don’t regret it, because our customers’ reactions give me the same euphoric feelings, as when I mow my lawn by myself, with a cylinder mower.

Tomas Sena with lawn cylinder mower

It might be just me, but I’m starting to think that this resembles an obsession with lawns. What do you think? Hopefully, I have done something useful; something that can make hundreds of people happy. A thing that is carefully manufactured and gives people a higher value than what its price is.

One half of my almost 30 years around lawns has been a hobby, and the other half a focused, systematic work. I am curious to find out if things can keep moving forward. As a young boy, I used to be able to influence the quality of our 100m2 lawn; now, along with my colleagues in Swardman, I am influencing over 1 000 000 m2 of lawns. Well, this really might be an obsession. But this type of obsession seems to be quite positive to me…

Tomas Sena, proud and obsessed lawn enthusiast

Photo gallery

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