A sprawling, lush carpet of thick, green grass is as much a part of the American Dream as white picket fences, cul-de-sacs, and minivans with built-in DVD players. When everything is right, lawns look awesome. Check out some of these luxurious lawns:
But the depressing reality for most of us is that maintaining a lawn is a chore– actually, several chores rolled into one. There’s mowing, sometimes more than once a week. Then there’s fertilizing. Aerating. Overseeding. De-thatching. Weeding. Watering.
Lawns eat up a lot of time, money, effort, and resources. And often, it’s fighting a losing battle. There are places that just aren’t meant to support turf, for any number of reasons.
Have you ever considered a lawn-less landscape? If it’s not being used by your kids as a soccer field, there are a surprising number of alternatives to traditional grass that can make your life easier, your wallet heavier, and your landscape prettier.
Try groundcovers as a replacement. When spaced properly during planting, these low-growers fill in the blank spots to create the same natural carpet effect as turf. But most groundcovers are virtually maintenance-free. Here are just a fewere are just a popular choices:
Ajuga: Spreads fast, stays under a foot tall, has great texture, and features flowers in pink, purple, or white. Works well in shade, where some grasses have trouble.
Creeping Jenny: One of my all-time favorites, and not just because the name reminds me of a girl I once knew. (At least that was her stage name when she was dancing.) Lime green, circular leaves that look awesome in shady areas.
Dianthus: Technically not a groundcover, but the spiky bluish-green foliage definitely has that grassy look. Pink blooms set it apart and make it a classic for cottage garden settings.
Green-and-Gold: In a wooded landscape, this wildflower is right at home. It keeps itself under 10 inches tall and explodes with star-shaped yellow flowers that jump out against dark green foliage.
Ivy & Juniper: A lot of people see both of these as nuisances, but few plants work better on slopes, where grass has a hard time growing, and you have a hard time mowing. You can let these blanket a hillside in green and never touch them again.
Liriope: An evergreen with tall, straplike foliage. Some varieties are variegated. You’ll get flower clusters in lavender or white and small berries later in the year. It’s practically indestructible. Hit it with the Weed-Eater once a year, and watch it bounce right back.
Mondo grass: This and its dwarf variety look exactly like turfgrass. You’ll appreciate that fact when you’re spending all of your time not ever mowing it.
Pachysandra: This super-tough evergreen loves shade. It spreads out by sending runners underground and when it fills in, it really fills in. Weeding underneath pachysandra is rarely an issue, as the dense foliage crowds everything else right out.
And some slightly more off-the-wall options…
Clover: Instead of killing yourself to pick these out of your lawn, what if they WERE your lawn? Could be kind of a cool fields-of-Dublin, tap-another-Guinness, get-your-hands-off-me-Lucky-Charms kind of thing.
Moss: (Insert Rolling Stone joke here.) If you have a seriously-shady patch, moss is a funky pinch-hitter for grass. It hugs the contour of the ground, gives your landscape instant character and age, and has amazing texture and detail. Not great in high-traffic areas, though.
Artificial turf: There are some ultra-high-tech fake grasses out there, and they’re not just for sports fields anymore. They usually require fairly expensive prep work and need to be professionally-installed, but they offer the ultimate maintenance-free lawn. Take a look at this one contributed by Renee Crow. Can you tell it’s not real?
There’s nothing quite like a lush lawn of perfect Bermuda or fescue. But it’s not for everyone, nor every landscape. Take a closer look at your own yard. Maybe that trouble spot doesn’t need more TLC from you. Maybe it needs an entirely new approach.