Losing the Lawn

– Posted in: Bulbs

My neighbor pulled beside me on my daily walk and rolled down her window. “Sorry,” she said apologetically, “but my lawn mower is on the fritz.” I ask you = Do I look like the type of person who loves a lawn? Do I strike you as the type who goes ballistic at the first hint of a dandelion? So I had to respond, “Have you looked at my lawn lately?” She rolled up her window and went home. Hopefully, she then noticed for the first time that my lawn has disappeared. In its place have sprouted alliums, heucheras, ornamental grasses, herbs and bulbs.

I’m just experimenting with this. But so far, so good. I’ve never been much of a missionary (except perhaps trying to convince everyone on earth to plant a terrarium…and trying to persuade the world to unilaterally adopt houseplants…and encouraging gardeners to loosen up…and etc…). Basically, you do your thing and I’ll do mine. But I would secretly love it if lawns vanished from the face of the earth forever. Before she rolled down her window to tell me that her lawn’s liberation was a terrible mistake, I thought my neighbor’s little lawn mutiny was Right On.

As for my side of the street, I’m lovin’ it. So are the pollinators. What started as a few dots of species tulips and some dwarf narcissus here and there has progressed into a stampede of Allium karataviense. Then the clusters of densely planted Allium moly ‘Jeannine’ took over between Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’. By the way, I stumbled on the clustering idea just because the bulbs of A. ‘Jeannine’ are too small to put in (easily) individually. But I now truly believe the trick to doing the little yellow ‘Jeannine’ effectively is to jumble them together in masses.

In the future, I see sprigs of Allium sphaerocephalon already budded up between Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ as it begins to stretch. Ever notice that panicums don’t really make a statement until late in the season? This is my solution. Okay, I’m a confessed sensationalist. But sprinkling in a herd of drumstick alliums shows promise for pleasing the drive-by crowd. And earlier in spring, Geum ‘Bell Bank’ gave it a perky color boost. I’ll let you know how it shakes down.

You guessed it = The secret to all this insanity is mass. Yes, I’m heavily influenced by Piet Oudolf. Based on his gardens, I snitched the formula for groupings of 9 of this and 13 of that. But in my case, bulbs are intrinsic. And I probably won’t build up the height that he achieves. Instead, I’m going for a bowl effect because I’m planting around some shrubs. And it’s not a large space — my house is only footsteps from the street.

So far, it’s been quite the odyssey and it delights me no end. To keep maintenance low and to keep pollinators humming, and also because I like to eat well but not bland, I’ve infused the configuration with plenty of herbs. Hopefully, those herbs will pick up the beat later in the season. More on that later.

The proof is in the pictures, but this is only my lawn rebellion’s second year. I’m still finessing the look. I’ll keep you posted of progress and check for plant profiles and confessions of things that have run amok. But so far, how am I doing?

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