This month the Garden Designers Roundtable explores the important topic of lawn alternatives, along with our guests, the members of the Lawn Reform Coalition. Since the trend of shrinking the size of your lawn is just starting to take hold here in southwestern Connecticut, I offer a slightly tongue-in-cheek look at why it seems to be taking a bit longer than it should for some of my fellow Nutmegers to embrace the lawn alternative movement…
Here on the Connecticut gold coast, in quaint little towns like Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan, the streets are dotted with modest multi-acre estates. Most are hidden behind stone walls, fences and rows of evergreens. A quick glimpse inside often reveals a meticulously manicured lawn sweeping almost as far as the eye can see. Getting these homeowners to reduce the size of their lawns in any way, shape or form, is, quite frankly, a very difficult proposition.
You see, we’re conservative, some might even call us uptight. And we love our lawns. We certainly don’t grow food in our front yards, like some hippy-dippy southern California gardeners are doing. Really, what would the neighbors say? And a meadow garden? Like the unruly and overgrown mess on the grounds of that new progressive church? Certainly not on my property. We couldn’t possibly cut back our lawn area, after all the kids play out there at least once a week and an acre of grass per child seems to be the gold standard.
We may cling to tradition a little too tightly at times but we are open to new ways of thinking. We like to support local wildlife (after all, many of us are card-carrying members of the Audubon society) and increased biodiversity is a laudable goal. We’re concerned about the environment and increased levels of pollution and pesticides, just like regular people.
But we love our lawns. And the status quo. What’s a humble homeowner with just the ‘right’ amount of lawn to do?
I’d like to suggest an easy and painless way to start embracing the lawn alternative trend. Why not plant something other than grass in that narrow strip of land on the other side of the fence? Since no one really pays any attention to it, it offers the perfect opportunity to throw caution to the wind and do something a little crazy. In fact, some of the neighbors are already leading the way. Goodness, they must not be from around here!
From a maintenance standpoint, this grove of hosta is a better alternative than simply having more lawn area. And it’s much more attractive. But from a biodiversity standpoint, it’s really not offering much.
Adding a few ferns to the mix helps liven things up a bit. And the area still looks manicured and well-kept, important qualities when you’re keeping up with the Joneses. We’re getting there but I know we can do better.
From Baby Steps to a Leisurely Walk
So I offer a few socially acceptable, eco-friendly lawn alternatives that won’t embarrass you in front of the neighbors and also won’t bring down your property values. Not only will these lawn alternatives help support local wildlife since they are all native, they will tolerate winter road salt much better than the grass you’re trying to grow there now.
Go ahead, try one or try them all. Just take that all important first step.
I invite you to continue exploring the topic of lawn alternatives by simply clicking on the links below: