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A Different Sort of Lawn: Ground Covers and Xeriscaping

by Kate McIntyre, All About Lawns Columnist

Few people would argue that a large, deep green lawn is beautiful. The good looks of these lawns can come at a price, though. It takes lots of water, fertilizers, and pesticides to maintain lawns. Not only does a large lawn take a toll on the environment, its upkeep also can be expensive. Luckily, there are visually interesting, cheap, and environmentally friendly alternatives to grass. If you are not wedded to a standard lawn, you might be delighted by a dense "lawn" of sweet-smelling clover or a large patio ringed with drought-loving cacti and succulents.

How would you like to improve your lawn?
  • Make it greener
  • Eliminate patches
  • Less weeds
  • Make it thicker
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Groundcovers in Place of Lawns

One popular lawn alternative is a perennial groundcover. Most groundcovers are low-growing, so you do not have to worry about mowing them. You can find a groundcover to match your yard's growing conditions, whether they are shady, sunny, damp, or dry. Here are some popular options:

  • Dutch Clover: hardy, improves soil by fixing nitrogen
  • Thyme: pleasant fragrance, requires plenty of sun
  • Lily-of-the-Valley: good for shade, spreads using rhizomes
  • Periwinkle: tolerant of shade, small purple blossoms

Xeriscaping Alternatives for Lawns

Much of the United States is prone to drought. If you live in an area where water is at a premium, you should consider xeriscaping. This landscaping practice matches plants with their ideal climates so that fewer resources are needed to keep them healthy. To xeriscape your yard, you should first learn about plants that are native to your area. These plants tend to be more resistant to pests and diseases than non-native plants. If you do not want to research xeriscaping in your area yourself, you should be able to find landscaping companies that specialize in this low-maintenance style.

As an owner of a vintage home, you know the value of creating a unique living space. If you feel as though traditional lawns do not allow your home's individuality to shine, perhaps it is time to widen the definition of the word "lawn."

About the Author
Kate McIntyre is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Oregon State University.

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