By Alex Matthews
A green-fingered dad has created possibly Britain’s smartest front lawn – in the middle of suburbia.
Groundskeeper Keith Smith, 40, has laboured for three years to make his garden immaculate and has even mowed the Union Flag, the England flag and spectacular diamond patterns into it just to show it off.
He has created such a perfect lawn at his home in Birmingham that passers-by repeatedly stop and stroke it just to make sure it is real.
It is meticulously mowed to a height of 5mm for two hours every day in summer and has won him a top four and top six finish in an international lawn competition.
Keith is so protective of his lawn he does not let any of his family members on it.
He only broke his rule after having surgery on his back earlier this year, when he was forced to let his wife mow it for him four times.
Keith, who works as a green keeper at Edgbaston Golf Club, said: “It really is a labour of love, but it’s what keeps me busy.
“I don’t drink and I don’t go out much, so if I’m not at the football I’m here in my garden. People always know where to find me.
“People always stop and admire it, and they often ask if it’s astro turf. I must be doing something right if I can fool people like that, and I see them stroking it just to check.
“Not many people are allowed to come that close to it though. My kids aren’t allowed on it, and if they do I shout at them ‘get off my lawn’.
“But this year I had to have surgery on my back in when I needed to start mowing a Union Flag design into it.
“I had to let my wife take over for me, under my direction. It was almost as painful as the surgery watching her do it, but she would have murdered me if I went anywhere near the mowers.
“She did a good job in the end and I was proud of her.
“The back garden looks nothing like it though. That’s the girls’ playground.”
Keith and his wife Kirsten, 40, have been together since they were 16 and have lived at the house for 11 years.
Until 2014 the front garden was unremarkable and covered in weeds. Then Keith, who was working as a cavity wall installer, decided to do something about it.
He dug up all of the turf and weeds, levelled it out and reseeded the ground, eventually finishing with a fresh, bright green lawn.
That was when he became inspired to create patterns in the grass, which he began to enter into competitions.
He said: “I just didn’t want my garden to be a mess anymore. That’s what got me started and it’s become an ongoing project ever since.
“It’s really all about the preparation. If you do the groundwork properly, everything else just falls into place.
“It didn’t cost very much as I did it all by hand. The largest expense was my two push lawnmowers which cost £65. After that it’s just seed and fertiliser.
“I like to use them because they have a scissor action so I get a much better cut.
“It is a little sad when I think about it sometimes. I mark all the designs out in string and will spend about two hours a day mowing the pattern in.”
Keith has come in the top four and the top six of the Allett International Creative Lawn Stripes Competition.
His latest design, the Union Flag, was inspired by The Great Get Together, honouring the memory of murdered MP Jo Cox.
He said: “The garden this year was almost scuppered by the flash floods. The lawn was completely underwater.
“But I managed to turn it around with help from Kirsten. In the end I took about 250 photos before I finally got I one I wanted to submit.
“I made it into the top six, so I’m going to go all out to win next year.
“I was inspired by The Great Get Together that honours Jo Cox.
“I was helping my wife, who works in a nursery school, to get some bunting ready for their celebration and it was covered in Union Flags. I thought it would be a nice way for me to join in.”