Plants not Lawns

Contrary to popular food growing discourse, I’d like to see front lawns replaced with beautiful plants, or replaced with a combination of plants and hardscapes (which, by the way, includes good, crunchy-sounding, permeable gravel). Of course, ornamentals can always be mixed with beautiful edible plants—blueberries, chard, kale, or rhubarb—for the best of both worlds.

I was walking the neighborhood with Barney, my adorable Golden Retriever, when I realized that there were quite a few front gardens where no lawn was visible. Design styles differ significantly though quite a few had an Asian aesthetic. The no-lawn approach works especially well on sloped lots. I hope you enjoy a few of the photos of no-lawn front gardens I’ve collected over the years of touring gardens.

Approximately 50,000 square miles in the US is planted in lawn (this includes golf courses). That’s a little bigger than Mississippi, a little smaller than Louisiana, and about half the size of Oregon. I was expecting it to be much more than that, actually. To put it in perspective, it’s more than the US has planted in corn or wheat.

America’s obsession with perfect lawns can be traced back to the rise of the suburbs in the 1950s when people took great pride in the perfection of the green expanse. I’d like to suggest that people can take great pride in the perfection of lovely plant combinations. I hope one day to replace my paltry, sparse front lawn with a no lawn design that invites neighbors to stop a visit, gives Barney something soft to roll around on and allows me to rake fall leaves from the large silver maple that dominates the space.

Click here to read an insightful—and a bit tongue-in-cheek—article, written in 1998 but which is still relevant today, on the physical and emotional toll of the lawn cult. The article is by Robert Fulford, a Toronto author, journalist, broadcaster, and editor.