5 ways to create a grass-free garden

  • Xeriscape

    A yard with a carpet of lush, green grass, stereotypically bordered by a white picket fence, has long been part of the dream of homeownership.

    But really, grass is lazy.

    "Most people have too much lawn because they don't know what else to plant there," said Daryl Pulis, a landscape designer and master gardener known throughout the Atlanta area as Mrs. Green Thumb. "A soil covered with lawn or other plants is often required before a builder can sell because it stops erosion, and lawns can be established quickly. Once there's something green, people are often reluctant to get rid of it."

    As any homeowner can attest, that green grass sometimes is more of a pain than it's worth. A nice lawn requires a lot of maintenance: Watering, cutting, weeding and trimming. Throw kids or pets into the mix and the grass is getting destroyed and rebuilt regularly.

    Fortunately there are a number of solutions to either eliminate your lawn or at least significantly reduce it so there's less to maintain and more visual interest played up in your yard.

    Consider the function and design of your yard before picking out replacement plants, said veteran landscape architect Ted Cleary, principal of Charlotte-based Studio Cleary Architecture.

    "Think about what you are going to use it for," Cleary said. "Are you the type of person who's very solitary, happy to live a very quiet life and you don't have a lot of visitors or will you have five to 15 people over all the time."

    That will help you determine the ratio of hard ground cover to soft ground or gardens. Then consider what you want to see -- water features, lush flower gardens, a big patio, green lawns, vegetable gardens -- and how those things will function in your yard.

    "A lot of people are intimidated by the idea of designing their landscape, but if you start with what you want and where the plants will be happy, you have most of the battle won," Pulis said.

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    Ilyce R. Glink is an award-winning, nationally-syndicated columnist, best-selling book author and founder of Best Money Moves, an employee benefit program that helps reduce financial stress. She also owns ThinkGlink.com, where readers can find real estate and personal finance resources.