Early spring is an excellent time to consider just how much turf grass is necessary or wanted in your landscape. I know, I know, a lawn is a Canadian tradition, we have all had lawns since forever it seems. However, consider the amount of maintenance that a verdant greensward actually takes. The amount of potable water that Canadians douse their lawns with would most likely suffice to fill the reservoirs of a developing arid country. A mono culture, or a landscape that consists of simply one kind of plant, typically are the thirstiest of any combination of plants. Therefore, a lawn is by far the largest consumer of potable water.
There are a great many alternatives to single species turf grass and not necessarily requiring you to tear up the lawn wholesale and plant perennial plants. Of course, that is one way of accomplishing a turf alternative however may seem a bit drastic for lawn lovers. In my case, my wife loves to have turf grass and I am really not that keen, so that means a compromise is necessary. Some of the plants that I have used through time compliment our tiny blotch of turf grass and actually, many passersby comment on how great the garden looks. The approach that I adopted was the ‘gentle incorporation’ method so as to keep peace in the family as well, test out some of my concepts for ground covers.
Keep in mind that perennial plants require considerably less overall maintenance than do annual plants. Additionally, if you consider native or near native introductions, they settle into the surroundings of an urban garden beautifully. Please don’t get too hung up on the native plants vs introduced plants or relatives of native plants as it could drive you to distraction. Simply keep a few of the fundamentals in the forefront of your thinking. As an example, the ground phlox or Phlox subulata, offers a great deal of positives when it comes to a ground cover. There nature is to grow low to the ground as a mat and they spread rather quickly., Another very positive attribute is that the arctic phlox gang, as the name may suggest, are extremely hardy, even in the coldest regions of Canada. This group of low growing phlox will burst into bloom rather early in the spring and continue on until the heat of late spring/early summer hit. Actually, I have even mowed over the plants in the summer (by accident) and they grew even better thereafter. What could be better?
Great companions to the Phlox family are the thymes which actually blend remarkably well as a walkable lawn alternative. Select a thyme variety that hugs the soil rather than some of the hybrids and cultivars that tend to be a bit taller. Creeping, Woolly and Elfin Thyme are some excellent candidates for combining together or as singular plantings. The flowering sequence falls nicely with Phlox and an extra bonus is that they all attract bees as pollinators. Naturally, the foliage of thyme is very aromatic and even more so when walked on. I have found also that the aromatic nature of thyme tends to keep some insects at bay, mosquitoes being the most notable. Think about having such an aromatic lawn alternative, bursting into bloom in the early spring and carrying on through to the end of summer.
January 21st, 2019