How do you feel about your lawn? Do you love caring for it, working endlessly and happily to make every last blade of grass the same height and color? If so, check out our lawn care tips and go on your merry way. But if you harbor a little disdain for the oh-so-perfect lawn and wish for an alternative, read on.
First, a quick history lesson on lawns: In medieval Europe, lawns were created for a town’s communal grazing spaces. They were fenced-in areas, usually in the center of town, where cows or sheep could be contained. So they started out as purely functional, but the pretty expanse of green grass soon became fashionable, too — in Europe and here across the pond — and by the time of suburban expansion in the 1950′s, having a lush lawn signified “We’ve made it!” for American homeowners.
Just check out this gorgeous lawn, one of many you might recognize in our 21 Famous Lawns slideshow.
Today, homeowners who are weary of fertilizers and insecticides (like me) — or who have hard-core grass allergies (me) … or are tired of spending their weekends mowing (me! well, my husband …) — are looking for alternatives to a monoculture of grass. It might not be feasible (or good for drainage or my wallet) to completely remove all the grass at our house, but I could replace a few areas with alternative plants to reduce the overall effects.
Groundcovers are typically the best options for lawn alternatives, because they keep a low profile (like turf grass) but don’t require mowing. There are even some edible and medicinal options, like creeping thyme and chamomile.
Replacing an entire lawn with groundcover and landscaping will totally change the look of the space, so it’s definitely worth making a no-lawn landscape design plan. And let’s be honest, the wild-ish look is not for everyone, but I really love it. Here’s a before and after example.
You can see more before and afters and real-life alternative lawns in this gallery.
Not that grasses are all bad. It’s fun to roll down a grassy hill, for instance, or do cartwheels in the front yard. Oh, and there’s croquet. There are also lots of lovely grass varieties that aren’t meant for lawns, ornamental grasses that grow tall and flowy and add color and texture to a landscape. I currently have a bit of an obsession with Japanese forest grass, one of several you can peruse here.
So what do you think? Are you open to lawn alternatives or are you sticking by tradition (i.e. keeping it medieval)?