14 October 2010

How about taking out the lawn?

The current garden design trend is to reduce the amount of lawn we water, fertilize and mow.

The concerns include fertilizer runoff, fuel for and pollution from power mowers and lawn's lack of environmental contribution.

Designers recommend removing the lawn and replacing it in one fell swoop. A more natural approach would be a gradual change, over time.

Ten years ago, Tina and Stanley Logan of Tulsa, had a front and back yard with vegetable and perennial beds plus lawns in the front and back.

One day while shopping, Stanley Logan was browsing through a garden design magazine and discovered do-it-yourself cement bowls that are made by digging a hole in the ground and pouring in cement.

Then he wanted a piece of my garden so he could put in his designs, Tina said. He installed an arrangement of cement balls and gravel and then added some black bamboo.

The Logans said that they would never have the garden they have today without each others’ total support. Every change is discussed and Stanley's next idea was a Japanese gravel garden.

When the leaves fell, the gravel garden lost some of its soothing quality, said Tina. Then the bamboo began to send out runners everywhere. I had to hack away pieces of it so the meter reader could do his job.

As the landscape progressed, more lawn was removed, to be replaced with paths and plants.

If Stanley could redo our yard, he would want everything in straight lines, Tina said. As it is now, we have lots of curving walks and bed lines.

The Logan's front and back yard have become a wonderland of elevated planters planted with succulents, reed grass in a hollowed out log, a fountain that comes out of a wall, a fountain that bubbles from a concrete tower and assorted garden art.

They visit gardens and garden centers on their travels around the country. On each trip, they continue to get ideas for improving their home.

Tina said that a visit to the home of cement artists on the west coast led to a 'cement epiphany'. Cement columns replaced the vegetable garden.

Throughout the process, the Logans were choosing plants.

Tina said, Our greatest influence is our huge desire to see other people’s gardens. We learn from seeing.

Today, their front and back gardens are full of agave, a grandmother's iris, yucca rostrata, Moses in a Basket, vertical yaupon, hardy banana trees, parasol trees, coleus, elephant ears, salvia, and succulents.

I think lawn and non-lawn are like a little black dress and jewelry, Logan said. Without the black dress jewelry is just jewelry. It’s the same with lawn and plants. We grow very few flowers.

They have built a series of decks and rooms with fountains, pergolas, fences, walls, and pools that make their garden the highlight of garden tours and garden parties.

The most recent project was a deck that the Logans invested three seasons in designing and building. It has a back wall, white couch and white curtains.

Tina and Stanley design separate planting areas to suit their individual taste. And they help each other with construction and plant selection.

The cool plants we want are available in Austin, Tina said. I don’t buy plants out of catalogs. I want to see them and touch them before I bring them into the garden.

They shop at Barton Springs Nursery (bartonspringsnursery.net), and The Great Outdoors Nursery (gonursery.com) in Austin TX; and, Sunshine Garden Center and Waters Edge in Lawrence KS.

Tina said, We go on tours and visit designers' gardens and bring ideas home. You have to see fabulous gardens to have one.

Their homework has paid off. The front, side, back - all of it is completely fabulous.

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