Wild about grasses

Why have a lawn when you can have a meadow? A passionate grower shares his secrets for using grasses in pots and beds

Kathleen N. Brenzel

Meadow revolutionary

Meadows are ideal replacements for small patches of lawn that serve no purpose. Not to mention they make sense for our climate.

"All good gardening is a way of walking more softly on the planet," Greenlee says. "And relaxed plantings like grasslands and prairies are what the West has always been about."

To get the word out, Greenlee writes books about grasses and travels the globe constantly looking for new species. He's designed grass gardens for Hollywood glitterati and Silicon Valley execs, Disney's Animal Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, among others. Grasses surround the San Francisco-area home he shares with his wife, Leesa, and young son, Sedge, and fill his nursery in Pomona, California.

Back at our headquarters, Greenlee has run out of pots to fill, so he tosses the few remaining plants into his truck and prepares to leave. Two visitors wander by to ogle his grassy combos. "I want that one," says a woman wearing a broad-brimmed hat. She's touching the spongy, undulating mounds of Scotch moss that surround a 'Golden Rocket' rush. "Look at this," says her friend, running her hand across the soft tops of a sea oats grass. "So casual ― even a little bit wild."

Which pretty much describes Greenlee himself. Sliding into his truck, he spots an empty patch of ground near our test garden. "I could plant a meadow there," he calls out, smiling broadly. "We'd love it," we say. But that's another story.

Info: Design: John Greenlee, 

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