I was asked about popular gardening trends a week ago for a local newspaper article and I mentioned how gardeners across the nation are replacing turf grass with perennials and how traditional garden beds are partnering with edibles. While that is true in many respects, a few other current trends are emerging here and abroad.
One is reducing some of the most resource-intensive areas due to changing weather patterns. Drought has become a major concern for gardeners and having too many plants to maintain is being taken into consideration. Gardens are facing diminishing water supplies and warming climates. In addition, gardener’s time constraints don’t permit hour upon hour of watering, pruning, dividing or plant pampering.
Gardeners are looking to pare down large gardens in part due to climate and/or hectic lifestyles. Installing native plants has been both a fix for drier climates, but has created a problem for overly ambitious older gardeners as they cut bed after bed to add a bevy of rambunctious native plants.
The other developing trend is older gardeners have begun reducing gardens they have currently down to a more manageable number. Too many gardeners were quick to follow the “eliminate the grass” trend without thinking to all the work that was to follow. I would not be surprised to see many more gardeners backpedaling on all the turf they removed.
While the current trend encourages using native plants to cut back on natural resources, native plants still need water as well. I mentioned that many times on GWGT because if for the only reason to water them in times of drought, is to provide for the pollinators. Having too little water, even native plants go dormant or die. More on this next post.
This current trend on garden bed reduction has shifted to adding trees and shrubs. Both have less maintenance and their water needs are generally met naturally. I am a big fan of trees and shrubs.
Having the garden layers starting with trees, is both esthetically pleasing and very needed for wildlife. See below that all grass does not need to be mowed. Keeping it longer with succession plants within has all the benefits for wildlife and the environment.
Notice too that there is no real downside to having trees within this unmoved area either. Mowing turf between for paths is very appealing to people and wildlife. It is just getting creative with plant materials, even turf grass.
Having a garden alive with birds and insect life which is only occasionally irrigated to sustain plants for wildlife is what a garden should be. If it does not pollute the environment with unnecessary chemicals and will replenish the underground aquifer, that is even much better.
Go Native Grasses
While turf grass is a poor choice for all of the above in many cases, there are native grasses that can be used as lawn alternatives if you select ones that grow well in your area. Most grow tall, but some like Prairie Dropseed stay a bit shorter at 15″ and while in bloom, 36″. It is a soft grass that lays over in nice clumps so it makes an interesting ground cover. I love this grass for estate gardens.
Estate gardens have huge expanses to fill and this grass makes a beautiful application in large areas.
Carex plantaginea is a native sedge on the East coast and will reach only 10 inches high with flowers in May. Carex siderosticha ‘Lemon Zest’ is another low grower at 9 inches.
I grew Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’ on my own property and it would have covered the entire property if I let it, both in sun and shade. It stayed less than one foot high, but spread by runners. I started with three plugs. Carex although nice, has a hard appearance and feel, not one on which you would want to walk. I removed it because it required too much dividing.
Schizachyrium scoparium, little bluestem is a nice native prairie grass that stays upright rather than drooping like other grasses of the prairie. It too is a bit taller at 2-4 feet. I can list many more but you see a pattern forming. These grasses will not meet many city ordinances because of their height and somewhat unorthodox appearance. Coming up, I talk about another grass and garden bed substitute that is trending. Then we look at “less offensive” ways to have turf grass in the garden along with more images using native grasses. I am not going to preach to you like so many others. There is a place in gardens for almost any plant.
Gardens are becoming more and more about reducing maintenance, managing gardens better and conserving resources. It may be less out of choice than necessity in some areas around the country. Next post, we look at gardens that seem effortless, but are anything but. A close look at my own garden through the seasons too.
Would you not want this wonderful summer garden below regardless of the work?
Or this one mid-May? Maybe with a team of gardeners, no?