Tag Archives: lawn substitutes

Pepper Tree courtyard

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Spotted locally around dusk, a front-house courtyard with Pepper Tree (Schinus molle), stone paving “grouted” with Dymondia margaretae.

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Planting includes euphorbias, agaves, phormiums (or dianella) a small Cercis ‘Forest Pansy,’ and purple irises in bloom near the side gate.
There may possibly be bauhinias as well (pink flowers at roof height).

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Plantings are repeated the length of the entrance garden, including a cercis on either side of the front walkway, another pepper tree at the far end.
Aeonium-filled black urns flank the arched entranceway.

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It struck me as such a vibrant example of reimagining the space from the front door to the sidewalk.
Imagine how dreary and perfunctory the same images would be if replaced with lawn.
Private yet still inviting, full of interest but mindful of an overall quiet balance, showcase and shady retreat in one stroke. Nailed it!

Carex pansa

Somewhere out there in nature, he reasoned, there had to be a grass…that would be naturally low-growing, drought-tolerant, evergreen, and trampleable: a natural lawn grass.” – The New Yorker, August 19, 1996, “The Grassman.”

Carex pansa, the California meadow sedge, as seen in a garden on the recent Mar Vista garden tour, blanketing the backyard of a fairly large property. I’d never seen such an extensive planting of the California meadow sedge before. A pathway of stepping stones on a base of decomposed granite meandered through the sedge.


In The New Yorker article published August 19, 1996, entitled “The Grassman,” Wade Graham traces Greenlee’s early enthusiasm for outsized prairie grasses growing where manicured lawns once held sway, up to his epiphany:

Eventually, it came to Greenlee: Americans have to have some sort of lawn…The botanist in him asked, If grasses can be big and floriferous, why can’t they also be the opposite: low, self-effacing, and well-behaved?”


John Greelee wrote back in December 2001 in “Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape” that “This native Pacific Coast sedge is hands-down one of the finest native sedges for making natural lawns. Largely untested in the East, it has proven durable in Texas and Colorado. Slowly creeping, dark green foliage grows 4 to 6 inches unmowed. California meadow sedge will tolerate varied types of soil conditions and temperatures, from sandy, exposed seacoasts to heavy clays and hot, inland valleys. It is also exceptionally traffic tolerant. Thriving in full sun to partial shade, it will thin out in deep shade. Mowing two to three times per year keeps the foliage low, tight, and lawnlike. Unmowed, it makes an attractive meadow and remains evergreen in all but the coldest climates. California meadow sedge is fast to establish from plugs planted 6 to 12 inches on center.”