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Grassless Gardens

Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
And now more than ever this statement rings true with horticultural designers.
There is a move by many to completely do away with lawns and to experiment with alternatives.

So why the shift?
Lawn requires a significant about of time and labour to keep it at its best. It is prone to a range of pests and diseases (as are many other garden plants) and must be well watered to achieve the perfect patch of green.

The time required to mow and trim lawns has potentially been the most significant reason either people hire a professional or do away with it altogether.

Leisure time is crucial…lifestyle is paramount.

There are improved varieties of grasses now on the market, however the reality is that people wish to simplify life and reduce maintenance. Lawns are out of fashion, entertainment areas and large gardens are in.

Options for replacements
There are two primary choices available: living plants or non-living materials.

Living plants can include :-

  • grass-like specimens that spread across the ground and take root in the manner normal grass does [such as lippia (Phyla nodiflora), kidney weed (Dichondra repens) and mini mondo grass (Ophiopogon)], or
  • others that have one central root system but spread their branches over a large area [such as native grape (Cissus antarctica), Myoporum parvifolium and Grevillea ‘Bronze Rambler’ ].
     

Non-living materials that are good substitutes for lawn are gravel, woodchip, forest mulch, decomposed granite, recycled construction materials, etc.

Gravel can vary greatly in price, provides good water insulation, does not provide any nutrients to the soil, lasts extremely long. With concerns now raised around the world regarding the pillaging of natural stones care is needed in your selection.

Woodchip and forest mulch are organic mulches that are relatively cheap, are excellent water insulators for soil and plants, can enhance the soil structure, may possibly provide some nutrients to the soil, but does not last long.

Decomposed granite is usually sold as a quarry waste product and therefore can be relatively cheap. Its small granular particles are great for pathways or loosely spread around shrubs. It is extremely long lasting although annoying when caught in the soles of shoes.

Other recycled materials are usually very long lasting, relatively cheap and rarely offer any nutritional benefit to the soil or plants. Care is need with some products as they may be toxic to plants due to surface treatments of the material.

Grass has always been and shall continue to be a standard for the majority of gardens. It can offer a cool expanse to relax on, is soft for children to play on and provides an excellent base pallet for designers to work from. However if you plan to redesign your garden there are alternatives.

 

Written by Paul Plant, freelance landscape writer for Courier Mail, Qld.





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