Monday, August 22, 2011

Garden Designers Roundtable: Lawn Alternatives

Welcome to the Garden Designers Roundtable! This month's subject, "Lawn Alternatives" is near and dear to my heart, as my regular readers know! And a special welcome to our guests from the Lawn Reform Coalition, who are joining us today.

As usual, I'm being quite literal with this topic; drawing heavily from gardens I've designed for myself and others. What ARE the alternatives to a lawn? Got a minute? I'll toss you a few! Each example is a bit of garden that used to be (or could have been) a lawn.

Instead of a lawn, you could have a meditation garden with bamboo and a bubbling water feature. We're not against GRASSES you know!

You could have a vibrant, colorful front garden that the whole neighborhood adores. It's private without a fence, and requires only monthly maintenance to look wonderful.

How about a paved sitting area that nestles right up to the garden? I smile to think how many hours I spent in those chairs, talking into the night with friends and family. Not to mention tiptoeing out to catch the sunrise with my first cup of tea.

If your lawn is on an awkward slope, you could turn it into a terrace for dining or sitting by the fire. Surrounded by garden on all sides, this adds valuable living space, especially on a small lot.

This creekside clearing could have been a patch of lawn, but how much nicer to have a dining room with a huge plank table? No need to worry about too much shade, damage from furniture (or to it).

Instead of a front lawn you could add layers of interest with ornamental AND edible plants (yes, those are artichoke leaves!)

Or a kitchen garden in a sunny spot, with herbs, espaliered fruit trees, and flowers. Raised beds make raising healthy veggies easy when space is limited.

A healthy lawn needs sun. Without a lawn, you can turn a hot, dry corner of your garden into a shady oasis. Think about it! On a hot day I'd like to be sitting in this corner, not mowing it!

On the other hand, make use of the sunny spots you can reclaim: plant a rose garden!

Or a sea of thyme...

Or a sturdy border of hardy shrubs and grasses as a sidewalk buffer. Adding elements like a low wall and a curved fence (taking full advantage of a slight slope) breaks up larger expanses and gives structure and purpose to plantings.

The view from my old front porch. Before it was lawn down to the sidewalk. After it was a private garden centered around this water feature. I never missed the lawn for one moment.

So I guess what I'm saying is that your alternative to a lawn To garden, to live, to dream, to tuck your latest nursery treasures. You aren't limited to a 3' bed against the fence any more. Good design, thoughtfully applied, will give you so much more to work with. Where will you start? Which patch of scruffy green in your life is getting the stink-eye? What could go, right now? That's where you begin.

Thanks for visiting! But don't stop here, oh no. There is sooo much more, as the other Knights and Ladies of the Roundtable AND the Rock Stars from Lawn Reform Coalition have a few things to say as well:

Lawn Reform Coalition
Susan Harris : Garden Rant : Takoma Park, MD
Susan Harris : Gardener Susan’s Blog : Takoma Park, MD
Billy Goodnick : Cool Green Gardens : Santa Barbara, CA
Evelyn Hadden : Lawn Reform.Org : Saint Paul, MN
Saxon Holt : Gardening Gone Wild : Novato, CA
Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA
Ginny Stibolt : Florida Native Plant Society : Green Cove Springs, FL

Garden Designers Roundtable
Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA
Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT
Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA
Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber : Bristol, UK
Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO
Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA
Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN
Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT
Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold: Garden, Life, Home : Atlanta, GA

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In Which Havoc is Wreaked Upon My Balcony Garden

Recently I was told to be careful about describing something as "blooming," because by doing so you must also see it as something ephemeral, destined to fade, sooner than later. So, given that life is ephemeral enough, it should really cease to amaze me when I lose a garden!

Last December, during the darkest days of the year, I moved into a lovely, sunlit apartment, and built a charming little balcony garden that was fun to write about. I love my apartment, and when I saw how bright it was during winter, I also knew how dark it would be in summer. I decided the trade was worth it. 

Sun in winter is a prize beyond measure for me. Total shade in summer is another thing; great for keeping things cool, difficult for plants. Things were starting to suffer a bit, inside and out. But it was still charming, and the ivy that I had twined around the railings was really taking off. And I had recently spotted a praying mantis, so my streak could hit its...12th year? 

Then the notice came that my apartment building was to be painted, and that everything would have to come off of my balcony for 2 weeks.


Everything. Into my dark, dark apartment. For two weeks. Coinciding with a busy, delightful visit from my daughter, who I see way too seldom, AND some new adventures. It was doomed...

To make matters worse, this came precisely at that time of year when I get bored with a garden anyway. I'd much rather think about going somewhere else and getting recharged by the change of scene.

So this garden is REALLY doomed. I'm not being melodramatic; the casualties are pretty severe. I won't even show you. Everything is sitting out there right now, wilting. The love seat is still in the living room. Only the truly stalwart will survive (I'll write about them, next time).

I've gotten pretty good at not getting attached to things or places. It's sad, but that's life. I prefer to focus on the opportunity that loss presents: to try again. Things are changing in interesting ways, please stay tuned!