Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Lawn Without Grass

I doubt if there is any one interested in the landscape who hasn’t considered removing their lawn to put an end to the time consuming tasks of mowing, watering, weeding, and feeding. Coupled with the effects of lawn maintenance frequently being raised in discussions regarding climatic change and the landscape, I can’t help but believe there must be better regional choices than planting grass seeds often where they need to be coddled to grow. I thought I would photos of different examples of lawn-less landscapes that I come across with the hope of discovering an alternative for myself and perhaps inspiring others as well.

Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Garden - Grand Cayman- Display of grass-less lawn.

The white sand allows offers a restful pallet for the eye to examine the landscape.

Grand Cayman neighborhood where many residents plant native and non-native species in their white sand lawn.
The white sand lawn brightly accents the other colors in the garden, of course with the exception of white flowering plants.
Although over 50% of this neighborhood was grass-less some felt the need for a lawn regardless of how much watering would be necessary.

Even the public graveyards on Grand Cayman are grass free.

e of where my lawn meets the woodland but after one short year realize this is a high maintenance replacement for lawn that is often devastated by birds and small animals searching for the grubs that live happily just under the moss. But I will say the velvety green carpet of moss paints a beautiful background that easily allows the eye to rest and peruse the surrounding gardens.

Lichens that grow on soil would make a great grass free lawn.

When dry the stiff lichen would not be as soft or durable as grass but what a great color

Thursday, February 21, 2008


A few Hydrangea Blossoms From My Garden 2007

Snow Envy

Living on an island off the coast of New England that is wrapped in the warm blanket of the Atlantic Gulf Stream insures that I am one of a very few New Englanders that doesn’t own a snow shovel. Yes I realize those of you reading this in snow belt territory are assuming I am bragging but stop for a moment to consider what life might be like without that clean white pallet that much like a grass lawn allows the eye to comfortably set on your evergreens, conifers, grasses, and my favorite winter interest… bark. Without snow the bright reflective qualities of any garden are limited to the sun capturing light in the shinny leaves of evergreens. As beautiful as the “twinkle lights” of evergreen leaves can be they are often lost to me in the clutter of winter without snow. Think what a pallet of brown dirt accented with late decaying plants, leaves, twigs, plant markers, and of course yard art takes on an entirely different meaning. I would also like to point out that although you folks living in areas with large deer populations experience considerable damage I would ask you to ponder how severe the damage would be without a blanket of snow to protect the lower trunk. By far year round the most damaging effects to my garden are caused by “winter burn” I spend a small fortune on anti desiccants twice through out the winter and this of course has limited success. So come on you gardeners in snow territory admit how fortunate you really are.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Gardeners Patriotic Duty

How did we evolve into a country where patriotic duty has become synonymous with shopping? In recent years during times of crisis rather than being encouraged to volunteer, donate, or sacrifice, we Americans are asked to pull out our credit cards and head off to the mall. Our current president told the nation right after 911 that every citizen could contribute to the common good by purchasing stuff, and now that we are in…yes I will say it…and economic recession, the low and middle class will receive tax rebates costing the federal government 170 billion dollars so that we can dash out and buy a new red, white, and blue, flat screen tv. Some answers as to how we got where we are today can be found at Annie Leonard’s site The Story of Stuff , her very thought provoking video brought me to examine my own consumerism which to be honest at this point in my life has slowed down with of course the exception of my horticultural purchasing. All of this leads me to ponder could gardeners and all they consume rescue a failing economy? Consider how well the short life cycle of most plants in my garden fit into the current economic requirement of planned obsolescence, buy plant, nurture plant, kill plant,… buy plant, nurture plant, the length of this cycle can be remarkably short I have been known to loose a young plant over night only to run back to the nursery the next day.
Have you noticed how the frequency of new plant introductions have aided our materials driven economy by perceived obsolescence? Most gardeners love being the first person on their block to be growing the latest and greatest plant. The nursery industry has taken this to such lengths that we now have a long list of inferior Echinacea introductions, and don’t even get me started on the subject of hemerocallis.
In 2007 the Chicago Tribune reported that the nursery industry uses up 320 million pounds of plastic a year making plant containers and pots. Most of which are not recycled primarily due to the lack of uniformity, unlike milk and water bottles. If we could replace the plastic pots for compost friendly pots there would still be a constant need for production of new pots but without toxins. I feel confident that the nursery industry will be unable to ignore this issue for much longer.
So will you be doing your patriotic duty and buying new plants for your garden with your tax rebate check?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Gardeners Six Word Memoir

With the six word memoir craze found all over the blogoshpere I must admit I have been caught up in the challenge, the best of which can be found at "The Brent Park Project". Today I was presented with a few mind numbing minutes when I was void of conversation, books, and technology and created a six word gardening memoir…be warned not a simple task. I share mine with you with the hope you will post and share yours.
Hope you can join us tonight to review Helen Dillon’s “Down To Earth” I wonder what her six word memoir would be…hmm perhaps I’ll email her.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Really Bugging Me

Photo Curtesy of UMass Extension

Recently I have come to realize that my biggest problems are generally self created by ignoring the warning signs when they were small problems. My Pieris japonica var. yakushimanum ‘Prelude’ has been hit hard by the Andromeda Lace Bug Stephanitis takeyai for two years in a row, my treatment plan has been limited to spraying horticultural oil just prior to June 1st in my Massachusetts garden and then to be frank I become lazy, forgetful, and disinterested by midsummer and follow up by doing nothing.
Winter is the time I make promises to my self about better gardening practices with this in mind I decided to learn more about the Andromeda Lace Bug Stephanitis takeyai (not Lace Wing the beneficial insect) with the hopes of creating an aggressive pesticide free plan to save my Pieris japonica, and I thought I would share what I have learned, my plan of action, and update you throughout the 2008 season with the plants condition.
The Andromeda Lace Bug Stephanitis takeyai is a non native insect from Japan that was thought to have been brought over on a plant. Stephanitis takeyai has adapted very well to my zone 7a environment and according to the University of Massachusetts Extension there will be as many as three to four generations of this insect in one season(May though September). One of the things that makes combating this insect so difficult is the mother lays the eggs inside the tissue of the underside of the leaf and then protects the egg further by sealing it with a shellac like substance. Both the nymphs and the adults feed on the Pieris japonica by piercing the leaf and sucking on the plant fluid, this causes the leaves to look yellowed as in my photo. The appearance of damage to the top of the leaf can look similar to damage caused by a mite attack but the underside will be very telling as the Andromeda Lace Bug will reveal the lace bug, nymph, excrement and the shellac like substance. In the photo of my Pieris japonica leaf all of that “bug juice” can be wiped off the leaf leaving only some rather large puncture holes.
My plan of action is to begin spraying the undersides of all leaves but particularly those closest to the ground with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap (undecided which might do a better job) to eliminate as many nymphs as possible and repeat this once every two weeks eliminating new generations of eggs until the end of September.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Save A Tree And A Trip To The Recycling Center

On a morning talk show I watched a piece about a group of fourth graders taught by Ted Wells from the Park School in Brookline, Mass who had cancelled 4175 unwanted catalogs in one month. They were able to contact and cancel such a large number of catalogs with help of a great non profit Catalog Choice Lets face it most of us have limited time to devote to non-urgent chores but this was simplistic and fast, after logging on I was able to select which catalogs I wanted to cancel, and cancelled six catalogs in a period of five minutes. You will want to have the catalog in front of you as it expedites the whole process if you have your customer number from the back label. I can’t tell you how many times I have resented the burden of receiving catalogs I didn’t request and some of the worst offenders seem to send them weekly. I am not much of a shopper but I know that I send three to four shopping bags filled with catalogs to the recycling center every other month and that is not including what I immediately throw in the recycling bin at the Post Office. Many thanks to Ted Wells and his fourth graders.