Working Toward a More Sustainable Yard, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

Here’s my back yard, all texture no mowing — notice I stayed back far enough so you can’t see the weeds (there are several, but weeds are green too so what’s wrong with that).

Back yard with groundcover and perennials.

Back yard ground cover and perennials — the wide angle shot makes it look bigger than it is.

Ajuga spreading in the back yard.

A better view of the ajuga, aka bugleweed. I like the way the black-eyed susans, phlox, and hellebores plant themselves.

There are some beautiful lawns in my neighborhood, and I know a smooth sward of grass is a lovely contrast with the texture of pine a islands’ flowers, shrubs, and trees, but grass is more than I can manage.

Bob tried to teach me to care for the grass, and after his death I soldiered on for a while in his honor. My heart wasn’t in it though. Fertilizing and watering seemed pointless when I knew I had to reseed twice a year because of the shade, plus it’s scary to read the warnings on the packages of lawn treatment chemicals and see what I’m releasing into the environment for the sake of a lawn that I don’t want to mow anyway. A few years of drought taught me that ground covers live when grass doesn’t, and I decided to just let the ajuga have at it. Here’s the back yard in the spring of 2013, with the ajuga blooming, and here’s my first post about it.

Ajuga blooming in the back yard, spring 2013

Ajuga blooming, April 2013

It’s spread quite a bit since then, though there’s still a patch toward the back where it hasn’t filled in yet. As the growth gets tighter there’s a lot less weeding.

I’m trying to attract more insects and pollinators, so was happy to see these guys wander into my viewfinder when I wanted a close up of the black-eyed susan’s seeds for texture.

An ant and a green bee on rudbeckia.

An ant and a bee meet on a black-eyed susan seed head.

As for the front yard, that’s been a less successful transition to a grass-less state, but I’m not giving up. I’ll keep the tale of the galloping ivy (I didn’t plant that) and the lackluster liriope for another post.

 The only downside to eliminating the grass is that my yard-work doesn’t fit well into what lawn maintenance companies do, so if I wanted to hire help, it’d be hard to find. Not to mention we’d probably have conflicting opinions on what’s a weed and what’s a wildflower.

So what’ll it be? Grass or ground cover?

Here’s more on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

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17 thoughts on “Working Toward a More Sustainable Yard, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

  1. Great angle on the first few shots, Sandy. As you mentioned, it does look like a big backyard you have there. Well done with the gardening. Love how you managed to get lots of yellow flowers popping up all over the place. I would go for ground cover…I’m not a huge fan of having plants or grass in my front yard. I like room to run around there 🙂

    • The yellow rudbeckia (black-eyed susans) are wonderful for replanting themselves in odd places. They started with a couple of little plants a few years ago and multiplied themselves ever since. What do you have in your front yard that gives you room to run around? I love pictures of homes with gravel in the front and plants in urns, but I’m on a hill, so that’s out.

      • Maybe the seeds from the black-eyed susans went everywhere, maybe blown around by the wind. Who knows.

        When I lived in the suburbs of Melbourne, my family had a very wide and smooth concrete driveway. Perfect for cycling up and down. We also had a large patch of grass beside that – no flowers, so we could trample on the grass as much as we liked 🙂

        Homes with gravel are interesting. You got to spend quite a bit of time to make sure the gravel is “smooth” so no one will trip over.

      • Darn, and here I thought the gravel would be even lower-maintenance. Trampling is one thing the grass is really good for, there’s really nothing else that makes such a great playground. I do walk on the ajuga, but it would probably object if I did that a lot.

      • Hmm. I always thought gravel was a costly to lay down but doesn’t need much maintenance. Guess it depends on the kind of gravel. I was thinking of those stuck together pebbled ones.

        Haha, we all need a playground or space to stretch and move around a bit at home – we all need exercise 🙂

      • The gravel can look so elegant, like a stately home (obviously not suited for mine I guess), or maybe that’s because of the urns and planters I associate with it. My neighborhood has nice winding streets so I like walking here for exercise, not to mention peeking at the plants in other people’s yards. There are some hydrangeas blooming now that are gorgeous.

      • That is nice to hear your neighbourhood has winding streets – that’s a rarity in Australia. It’s good for a bit of cycling, I suppose, if you want a bit of a tricky path to meander. Haha, whenever I see a house that has lovely flowers or trees, I always have the urge to peep through their windows.

  2. Your garden is magnificent! I’ve never really taken much notice of ground cover before but you’ve sold it to me! It looks really natural and blends into the surrounding background really well. Like you I think grass is over-rated really. It’s hard work and to be honest only really looks good in grand, wide open spaces (if you’re talking strictly landscaping).
    I may be wrong but I doubt that yard needs much maintenance. So hopefully you won’t need to hire anyone. Just let nature do it’s thing. As you said you don’t even need to weed much anymore – bonus! As well as that it’s attracting wildlife which means the balance is completely correct.
    It’s wonderful, really is. 🙂

    • Sophie, “magnificent” from you is an immense complement, since you live in the UK which is, to me, a world of perfect gardens. Here it can be feast or famine on the drought/rainfall scale, so that makes grass harder to maintain. Thanks so much for your comment — Sandy

  3. I’m with Sophie and I’d be firing in seeds of wildflowers to see what happens. The other thing that strikes me is the possibility of a few more pots with hardy shrubs that could lend colour and texture.

    • I do have a few more pots that aren’t in this photo, but I like your idea of some larger ones with shrubs or drought-tolerant flowers. I have some ephemeral wildflowers from plant rescues that are further back in the shade. They bloom in early spring, so I need to find something for this time of year — I love hostas too and have a few but would like more. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Pingback: Backyard Black Eyed Susans | I see beauty all around by rob paine

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