Grass is Not the Only Option for Your Lawn; a book review for Bookpleasures.com
March 30, 2012
Allan in Book Reviews, Garden Design, Gardening Tips & Advice, Landscaping, Lawns, easy-care lawns, front yards, garden book reviews, grass alternatives, lawn alternatives, no-mow lawns

Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives, Evelyn J. Hadden, Timber Press

There is a controversy about the role of the lawn in our culture. Some cannot imagine having a home or an estate without one, while others can hardly wait to replace theirs with alternative forms of landscaping. Here is a publication that adds realism and practicality to the ongoing dialogue.

On one side of the discussion are those who believe that a green lawn is a sign of refinement, elegance, and that it contributes to the quality of air we breathe. The other side is composed of three sub-groups: first are those who look upon lawn maintenance as a bother- some chore that squanders time, energy, natural resources, and money, and second are those who believe that the excessive nutrients and herbicides, associated with lawn care, harm our environment. The third group reminds us that it is unrealistic to grow green lawns in arid climates.

For homeowners considering alternative forms of landscaping, Ms. Hadden has prepared practical and beautiful options. Some of the ideas she provides are sufficiently attractive to grace the front yards of elegant homes, while others are better suited to a back yard or woodland. Readers who might shudder at the thought of replacing the grass in their front yard with messy and chaotic meadow gardens will be relieved to learn that a meadow is but one of eleven practical, urban-friendly suggestions.

Ms. Hadden’s book is divided into three main sections. In the first, she introduces and discusses in detail the eleven no-mow options. These include groundcover gardens, shade gardens, meadows, rain gardens, patios, play areas, ponds, xerix gardens, edible gardens, stroll gardens, and “smarter” lawns.

Groundcover gardens are low living carpets of plants that never… need mowing, watering, or fertilizer. Shade gardens are soothing woodlands that filter and purify the air and obscure hard walls and floors. Meadow gardens are prairie-like landscapes defined by ornamental grasses and native plants. Rain gardens are living sponges that absorb stormwater, snowmelt, and flood waters into,,, water bodies above and below ground. Patios are places where people can comfortably spend time outdoors.

Play areas refers to natural outdoor environments that supports brain and body development in children. Here, natural spaces are filled with sound, scent, textures, color and movement. A pond garden acts as a way- station for birds, encourages aquatic wildlife, and adds light and movement to the landscape. Xeric gardens are compositions for arid climates where a combination of grasses and succulents create landscapes that can surpass the drama of traditional green landscaping. Edible gardens, while not totally carefree, contain crops that stimulate our sense of taste and smell. Stroll gardens encourage exploring nature throughout the seasons; a smarter lawn, while not as elegant as a traditional one, is an alternative that requires little maintenance.

Part Two of the book is filled with practical and technical advice on how to convert a lawn into one of the above-mentioned options, and on subsequent maintenance of each option. Part Three is rich with information on the various forms of plants that - when combined together - create attractive landscaping for no-mow gardens.

This last section is divided into four classifications of plants: Mounding, Mat-forming, Fill-ins, and Minglers. Carex and Brunnera are two examples of the twenty-six suggested Mounding plants. Among the sixteen Mat-forming plants, we find Lamium and Phlox subulata. Fill-in plants that number twenty-eight include Pachysandra terminalis and Tiarella chordifolia while Callirhoe involucrate and Phlox paniculata are two of the twenty-eight suggested Minglers.

The no-grass lawn is a landscaping alternative that has arisen out of a serious and controversial dialogue. It is to the author's credit that she has graciously avoided wrapping her vision in the ideology and the dogma associated with this subject. Instead, her book makes a practical contribution to the discussion. Enhancing that achievement is an abundance of beautiful and inspiring photos that clearly illustrate all of the author’s suggestions. Readers who are intent on eliminating the traditional lawn will be delighted by the endless possibilities they will find in this timely publication.

Article originally appeared on Garden Design, Montreal, Perennial Flower Gardens, Gardening Tips, Gardening Advice, Gardening Book Reviews (http://allanbecker-gardenguru.squarespace.com/).
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