21 inspiring lawn-free yards
See how to ditch thirsty turf grass in favor of beautiful, easy-care gardens
A sycamore takes center stage in this lawnless California yard. Shade created by the tree keeps the patio cool while permeable paving, potted plants, and other design details keep watering to a minimum.
So the couple (he's a photo editor, she works for a design firm) asked landscape designer Jay Griffith to help them turn a small lawn between their house and the garage into a transitional area, a "decompression chamber" where they can relax after work.
Designer Kendra Berger of Revive Landscape Design used 5 kinds of aloes, two types of aeonium, Bulbine frutescens, Agave attenuata, and lots of blue Senecio mandraliscae to play off the Moroccan blue of the pots.
She added a new set of pilasters along the stairs—perfect perches for more pots—and faced the risers with blue and white Spanish tiles.
More: Care-free garden design
“Character” plants From fluffy mounds to floppy giants: Rusty-hued Carex testacea softens the front path, while green kniphofia, plum Heuchera ‘Obsidian’, Libertia peregrinans ‘Bronze Sword’, and euphorbia surround the ‘Karl Foerster’ grass. Across the path, drifts of Picea sitchensis ‘Papoose’, variegated iris, and Phormium ‘Dusky Chief’ encircle a ginkgo tree.
Design/Build Rebecca Sams and Buell Steelman, Mosaic Gardens, Eugene, OR
Dymondia margaretae, a gray-leafed South African ground cover, has replaced the lawn, and a range of drought-tolerant plants, including New Zealand flax (Phormium), kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos), Leucadendron, and Lomandra add further interest.
Landscape architect Jim Love's solution: Add mostly low-water plants that give the yard all-season appeal.
2. Extend the season Since most California natives bloom in spring, combine them with plants that flower at other times. Blanc added butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), coral fountain (Russelia equisetiformis), and Mexican lobelia (Lobelia laxiflora) for summer color.
3. Go on sustainable-garden tours You'll find ideas as well as designers who can help you realize them. The Zinners discovered garden designer Stephanie Blanc on such a tour.
So one spring, she ripped out much of her lawn and replaced it with a mixture of perennials and shrubs.
After removing the lawn, designer and contractor Greg Rubin ― who specializes in California natives ― installed a meandering path bordered by fragrant 'Bee's Bliss' salvia, wild lilacs, and an existing non-native purple tree mallow ― all pretty, low-water plants.
As in many areas of the West, water is precious ― a limited commodity. Kus needed to manage carefully the available water.