While one trend moves people away from lawns toward meadowy expanses that take less care, there is also a trend among grass fans in the other direction — making the front yard look like a golf course.
And just as some people have gravitated to old-fashioned reel mowers, some are using motorized ones for a look that your average self-propelled rotary just can't give.
George McCune of Wichita is one of those people.
"It does a nice job. It cuts it even and smooth," George says of his motorized reel lawnmower. "I like the appearance after I get through, and it operates real easy.... We used to have a rotary type. This cuts better."
Reel lawnmowers use a different cutting action from that of rotary mowers. They clip the grass like a scissors; rotary mowers tear the grass.
In addition, for those who don't mulch-mow as they go, "reel blades do a better job of collecting the blades in a basket right in front of it. It looks a lot smoother and better."
Larry Beasley of Wichita has a rotary mower and a reel mower and swaps them out.
"There's advantages to both mowers," he says. "The rotary is convenient. It's lighter weight and is a little easier to handle. The reel mower has a better result, but the rotary mower just does about as good a job."
Golf courses often use reel mowers, pulled by a tractor.
Larry had to search around town before he found somebody who could sharpen the blades on his reel mower. There isn't much call for the service, and probably only a couple of people offering it. One is Don Butler of Maize, who apprenticed with the late Leland Chapman of Chapman Brothers Lawnmower Service and inherited his equipment. Another business that does reel-blade sharpening is a father-and-son home business, M&M Sharpening Services.
Don says he sharpens reel blades for about 40 to 50 mowers a year, half non-motorized.
"I just did one the other day from a lady in Derby," he said of the non-motorized kind. "People use those for little yards when they don't want gasoline around."
Reel mowers should also be better for the grass, since they actually cut, not tear, the blades. But for those of us who put off mowing from time to time and who might have some high weeds in the lawn, a reel mower won't cut it.
"A reel mower won't mow high grass," Don said. "So it has to be mowed quite often."
Most people who have rotary mowers just buy new blades rather than have them sharpened. For himself, "I just use a rotary lawnmower," Don said, laughing. "I don't have a reel mower. It's OK. The rotary does fine."
After constant exposure to golf courses and baseball diamonds, sports fans have been re-creating the look at home with a lawn roller attached to the reel mower. Toro now sells a Lawn Striping System that works on a rotary mower. The system, which costs $90, consists of a roller that holds 16 to 20 pounds of dry sand.
The weighted roller simply bends the grass, reflecting the light differently — creating light or dark stripes as you mow. A pattern guide is included. To see how it's all done, see the video at Toro.com/lawnpatterns. The striping system is available at Toro dealers and at ShopToro.com.