Susan Harris
All about gardening the eco-friendly way, by Susan Harris and 22 other garden writers and experts.

The dance of the groundcovers

July 10, 2009 · 13 comments

Voila the Oval Formerly Known as a Lawn.  I’m having loads of fun fussing with this stuff – urging the thymes along, removing just enough Creeping Jenny to keep it from overtaking.  Tweaking – I love it!  Anyhoo, what you see in the foreground are the thymes, and the chartreuse in the background are Creeping Jenny and strawberry.  And below is the opposite view – from the walkway.  The taller bits are red clover, just starting to bloom. 

So I asked a friend what she thought of this mix in a front yard and she thought the tall clover made it look kinda messy, less lawnlike – so I yanked it all out.  I know,  I’m spineless.


1 Pam J. July 11, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Just gorgeous. I know this sounds narrow-minded but I can’t imagine anyone who loves the outdoors, nature, living things, whatever, saying anything different. I don’t think of it as a lawn replacement. I think of it as a lawn substitute.

2 Steph July 12, 2009 at 6:14 am

It’s beautiful! Cool, and interesting…I want to run around barefoot in it and smell the thyme!

3 Alice Joyce July 12, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Susan, always wonderful to hear about another lawn…. gone. And a lovely alternative. I really wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your new post on GardenRant. Hope the idea of edibles in public spaces becomes a vibrant trend in our parts as well as across the pond! Cheers, Alice
aka BayAreaTendrils Garden Travel.

4 Eric H July 13, 2009 at 11:25 am

Lawn “replacement”? How about “upgrade”!
Swapping out your grass for groundcoveres provides benefits like:
-Ditch the mower (save time, energy, maintenance expenses…)
-Smells great (walking becomes a journey of scents)
-Natural pest deterrant (herbs like thyme, oregano, mints keep fleas, ticks, and other garden pests at bay)
-Good ecosystem promoter (draws pollinators as they flower, keeps soil cool and moist for worms, bugs, microbials, fungus…)
I’m really trying hard to swap out our suburban half acre of wire grass and weeds for ground cover herbs. Our problem is the dirt is far from being healthy soil–it’s all construction backfill to two feet deep in some places. We’re amending left and right with any organic material available, first laying thick cardboard as a recycled alternative to weed cloth. Hopefully some day it will support lush plants and look as green as your oval.
Feed your soil and your soil will feed you!

5 chuck b. July 13, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Well, I love it. I want to bring some of the chartreuse into the darker green parts. Is there any kind of purple you can add to the mix–maybe a few bulbs of that purple Eucomis? I don’t know what its hardiness is. Just thinking out loud. Have you considered a few pavers?

6 susan harris July 14, 2009 at 5:44 am

Chuck, it’s hard to see in the photo but there are brick pavers bisecting the oval in two directions. They matches the brick that’s the surface of the front porch and also the walkway from sidewalk to the porch.

7 commonweeder July 14, 2009 at 8:01 am

I love your lawn upgrade. I have lots of thyme and clover, but we do still mow occasionally. I’m working on that, though. After last summer’s foundation construction project I had to replant. Clover was the answer! Yesterday I acquired 2 new daylilies. My husband has decided he’s willing to invest in a mess of daylilies to cover an difficult to mow bank. I’m ready.

8 Pat Hilty July 14, 2009 at 1:51 pm

For high traffic area Dymondia margaretae is great. Mazus reptans has small purple flowers but takes less traffic. For shady areas Ajuga reptans is great.

9 suzq July 22, 2009 at 1:13 pm

I’ve been growing miniature succulents and sempervivum along a low stone wall in my garden. They can stand up to brutal sun and dry conditions. They spread and mix quite nicely. They bloom at odd times of the year– some early spring, some mid summer, some late summer–so there’s always something to look at. And the worm their way in between the rocks and cascade down quite beautifully. They’re a nice addition to the lemon thyme and moss I have growing nearby.

10 Michael July 25, 2009 at 4:27 am

I like the look….you go girl!

11 GAR-DAN August 4, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Just a few minutes ago, thanks to Fine Gardening magazine’s Billy Goodnick, I discovered your most wondrous website, Susan!!! I am delighted to belatedly discover the groundswell (pun intended) of grass roots (ditto) interest among gardeners in downsizing their traditional grass lawns. I live in Charleston, West Virginia and growing grass on my rocky (much sandstone), sloping, mostly clay lot is an exercise in futility. This spring, on a whim, I decided to let the most difficult grassy area (it totally slopes) do its own thing (as we used to say in the sixties). Well, my mini-meadow, as I have dubbed it, is a total delight!!! What used to vex me as annoying, intractable weeds have mostly revealed themselves to be wonderful wildflowers…they seem to be native plants and are quite hardy. I have transplanted several types of wildflowers and grasses, from other parts of my property, into my mini-meadow. My slogan for this part of my yard is “MOO, NOT MOW!!!” Anyone know where I could purchase some reasonably priced bovine figurines to put among my flora friends?!!

12 Nan Ondra May 25, 2010 at 3:19 pm

I bet your groundcover tapestry is going to look ever prettier this summer, with all that thyme in bloom mingling with the golden creeping Jenny. Thanks for sharing this post, and the one about your back yard too, for this month’s Design Workshop, Susan.

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