Tag Archives: lawns

traditional with a twist

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Here’s another house nearby that warrants a second look and always brings a smile.

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It’s the traditional front lawn setup with a bit of a twist. All the supporting plants are exclusively dry garden plants, some rare like the cycads.

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Every plant in the landscape is a “specimen,” like the dasylirion, cycads, potted ponytail palms.
There’s definitely a collector at work here, but a restrained collector with a conservative streak.
That’s my Sherlockian take, anyway, to explain leaving the lawn in place.
(And I mean conservative in temperament, not in a political sense.)
The front porch is given that bristly moustache from horsetail reeds grown in an unseen container.

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Potted tree aloe, palm, and more cycads. I have no idea which cycads they are.
I haven’t been bitten by that bug yet, thankfully, since cycad collecting can be an expensive habit.
And/or a habit that requires great patience while these Jurassic-era plants slowly make size.

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Foundation planting on the wild side.
Overcast skies courtesy of our “June gloom,” one of my favorite times of year.
I feel cheated when June doesn’t gloom up but instead marches straight into bright and sunny.

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I love this bungalow, but sorting and choosing these photos, with the pea-green color of the house, green roof, and the lawn, is making me a bit queasy.

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This house in the same neighborhood makes an interesting exercise in compare-and-contrast.
Do you prefer the green lawn or the buff-colored decomposed granite with dry garden plants?

Life Without the Lawn

Driving for work or errands, I can find myself passing by and through endless suburban housing subdivisions which look as though they’ve been dozing through the controversy over whether to keep or lose the front lawn. (This is Los Angeles, Mediterranean climate, roughly 33 degrees latitude, zone 10, winter rain/summer dry, averaging 15 inches of rain a year.)

On my own street, however, the front lines of the controversy are drawn for all to see.

Gilbert has been sifting nutgrass out of his lawn, like we did decades ago when losing the lawn. Gilbert is keeping the lawn.


Nutgrass has the survival savvy of cockroaches, but it can be vanquished. (Raising arms in victory.)


Psst. Across the street, Holly’s away for a couple weeks, and while I’m checking up on the temporary caretaker’s diligence with watering duties, let’s take a quick tour, shall we?


Holly commenced life without the lawn last August and has done the majority of the work herself. I believe initially she had some day help with removing the grass.
I’ve given her some plants, and she’s bought some shrubs in gallon sizes, but the biggest expense has been the pavers and gravel, about $1,000. The bark is temporary while Holly saves for more gravel, but her instinct to mulch has paid off in beautifully thriving plants. With the lawn gone, Holly putters and plays in her front garden, instead of just passing through to get to the front door. Small stones are stacked into different configurations every time I visit, new vignettes appear. Bella, the German shepherd, does an amazing job of avoiding stepping on the plants and keeping to the paths.


A city rebate, the Lawn to Garden Incentive Program, offering $2.50 for plants per square foot of lawn removed, maximum of 1,000 square feet, has already blown through the $250,000 dedicated for homeowners replacing grass lawns in front yards and parkways with “California friendly” landscaping. There’s even billboards and buses around town promoting going lawnless. But I don’t underestimate the difficult step this represents for many people, workwise, designwise, and, yes, moneywise. The LA Times ran this piece recently on the dry garden, and the cash outlay was about 10K. One of the most ingenious solutions I have seen was a small bungalow in Venice, California, that turned the front walkway into a bridge to the front door, now spanning a water garden on either side, where the lawn used to be. With much of the housing stock designed to include lawn, it’s not going to be an easy transition.

Sleepy suburbs beware. In arid Los Angeles, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore the lawn v. lawnless controversy.